For 10+ years of my adult life, I didn’t feel like I had much control over the things that happened to me. It felt more like life was happening to me, rather than me being the “director of my own movie.”
(Apparently I’m not alone. According to Shawn Coyne from Story Grid, this is the reason thrillers like Silence of the Lambs are so beloved today — in a world that seems unpredictable and chaotic, these stories remind us that we can take control of our lives. As Shawn puts it in his book: “If Clarice Starling can survive having Hannibal Lecter in her head, all the while chasing a schizophrenic serial killer flaying women to make himself a woman suit, we can certainly make it through another day at work.”)
I didn’t realize it until my thirties, but a big part of why I used to feel this way is that I didn’t have solid strategic frameworks for making good decisions. I just chose whatever path felt right, usually on a whim. It’s a bit like sleepwalking, in that you don’t realize you’re doing it — until you wake up!
For example, take the story I told you last week about the freelancer who had a hard time deciding whether or not to work for hourly pay (btw, there are over 60+ comments on the post, with tons of great insights — you can read them here). This is exactly the type of indecisiveness I used to suffer from when I had no idea how to successfully navigate a decision quickly and efficiently.
My guess is that he read somewhere that you should figure out how much a client will earn from your work and charge them some percentage of that — and followed that advice blindly, without really thinking it through.
That’s OK when you’re just starting out. But experts learn to see the landscape in a more nuanced way. I’ll share a few of my own views on pricing with you, some of which took me years to figure out.
1. Expanding your definition of “value”
Some people talk about hourly pay like it’s the opposite of getting paid for “value” — when it’s really just a different way of measuring value. (Your hourly fee represents the quality of an hour of your work — the better and faster you are, the higher it should be.)
Lawyers, plumbers, consultants, and many other top paid professionals charge for their time when “value based” flat fees aren’t an option.
As you saw in last week’s post, it’s an easy and convenient way to get paid when you don’t know the full scope of what a client needs, or you’re otherwise unable to figure out how much profit they expect to earn from your work.
Next time someone tells you you should never accept hourly pay from a client because you aren’t getting paid “for your value,” ask them what they’d do if someone offered to pay them $500/hr. Then, watch them squirm.
2. What I learned from luxury products
If you book a private jet for a business trip, do you think the airline cares how much monetary “value” you expect to earn as a result of using their service?
Of course not! They just unapologetically charge you $25,000+ because they know they’re worth it.
The same is true for other services, like luxury corporate caterers, limousine companies, corporate gifts, and, YES, even freelance services.
Years ago I noticed that most of my competitors had average skills, produced average quality work, and charged average prices. (I’m not sure why this surprised me, since by definition most everything is average.)
I saw a need for freelancers who offered better service, and I knew in my heart that many clients would be happy to pay extra for someone who knew their craft inside and out, was more attentive to their needs, and went the extra mile to help them win instead of just going through the motions of “doing their job.”
If you’re interested in charging luxury prices, I recommend you start by reading about your industry every day. It’s a simple way to stand out and start charging more than your competitors.
I can’t tell you how many times I read about a new copywriting technique at 9am on a random Wednesday, and talked it up to land a high paying client that same morning — at 5-10x what my less knowledgeable competitors charge. And I can do it without ever having to figure out the “ROI” the client will get from my work.
3. Climb the pay ladder using my Rock Climbing Technique
This is one of my favorite ways to charge more. If you use it wisely you can raise your prices quickly and, in some cases, quite drastically.
The way it works is simple, yet it’s incredibly powerful because it puts you in a position where it’s all upside for you. Watch:
- The first step is to book yourself up at any rate you’re comfortable with. This can be as little as $15/hr if you’re new, or it can be a higher hourly rate, or even a flat fee — it doesn’t matter. The point is to get as much freelance work onto your plate as you can handle, without overbooking yourself. Getting your schedule filled up sets you up for the next step…
- Once you’re fully booked, continue looking for new clients — except quote them DOUBLE whatever your current clients are paying. Notice how you’ve set it up so that you cannot lose. If new clients accept your new price, you’ve successfully doubled your income. (If they say no, it doesn’t matter because you still have plenty of clients in place at your current rate.)
I know these approaches work because I’ve used them personally, and I’ve taught them to thousands of others, many of whom have achieved outstanding success.
Amateurs see black and white.
The seasoned pro looks hard to find shades of grey. And he uses them to get an advantage over the minions who are too focused on going through the motions to stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, there’s an alternative they weren’t aware of.
Who do you want to be? I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question — I mean, who do you really want to be?
The reason I ask is because I’ve used these exact words to increase my income, get into shape, improve my relationships, and much more.
In my experience, most people ask the wrong question. They think, “What do I want to do?”
But that question almost never leads to EXCEPTIONAL results because it’s focused on your comfort, and not on becoming the person you really want to be — which usually takes healthy doses of DISCOMFORT.
Since you’ve read this far, I want to make sure you’re on the right path. So tell me a little bit about who you really want to be.
Seriously, describe this person to me! Have fun with it, but don’t just dream about it either… I’ve seen some amazing personal transformations take place, and it always starts with a single person drawing a line in the sand and stating their intention for who they want to become. I know you can be next, and I’ll be reading every single comment below.