Is Your Work Priceless?

Is Your Work Priceless?

Imagine a world where the whole game has changed. Some powerful authority swoops down and decides that by law, everyone can only charge one standard price across the board. All writers are paid the same, all web designers are paid the same, and all web developers are paid the same too.

You can’t compete with your peers on price anymore – you all cost the same.

That means there’s one rate to rule them all and one rate to bind them. No more undercutting the competition with the lowest rate. No more discounts to fill up those lulls in your schedule. No more volume-based tier pricing or charging PITA tax or time-sensitive specials or long-term client deals.

How would you compete? Without a lower price on your side, would you even win the gig?

If clients didn’t have to worry about cost, they could choose anyone they liked to get the job done. They wouldn’t have to worry about who’s more expensive or which person offers the best deal – they’d pay the same rate no matter whom they chose. They could hire anyone!

And with price eliminated from the equation, clients would be able to focus on a far more important selection factor:

The best person for the job.

Clients wouldn’t have to settle for lesser quality because that’s all they could afford. They wouldn’t have to work with someone of lesser skill levels or knowledge. They could skip the amateurs and head straight towards the people who had the most knowledge, the best experience and all the skills in the world.

Would that person be you?

If you were standing shoulder to shoulder with your peers, would you have a fighting chance to win clients? Would you stand proudly knowing you’re just as good as the next guy? And if you’re just as good as the next guy, what other advantages would you talk about to make you an even better choice?

Or would you be silently hoping that by some freak chance, the next guy screws up, you luck out and the potential client picks you for the job?

You know the answer to this. Deep down, you’re already thinking about the potential outcome of that shoulder-to-shoulder scenario. You’re imagining standing in the line-up with a client stroking his chin and pacing slowly back and forth in front of all of you, pondering his options. You can imagine what you’d feel in that moment.

Is it stress? Confidence? Nerves? Pride? A sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach?

If you aren’t imagining the most comforting of feelings, why not change that? You can, you know. You have all the ability in the world to become a skilled, confident person who knows he could win the job over the next guy, even if you cost the same.

You control your knowledge, your learning and your skills – and how much of each you accumulate in life.

Imagine a new feeling. Imagine you’re standing there, rubbing shoulders in that line-up with the competition, waiting for the client to make his choice. Imagine that satisfying feeling of knowing you have a good shot at winning the project – a great shot. You have vast knowledge, top-level experience, and all the ability you need to get the job done.

Imagine winning the project because you’re that great. You didn’t have to haggle on price or bring your rates down or throw a sale or knock the competition to win over the client. You got chosen because you were good at what you do – as good as the next guy, and then some.

In fact, imagine how great it would feel to step forward and invite the client to check out the competition. Imagine knowing no one compares to you.

Why not make that happen right now? Why wait for some rate-setting authority to come along and force you to be better than average? Why wait until your back is against the wall to improve? Why not start working towards being the best, the most experienced, the most capable?

Take a course. Get training. Pick up a used textbook and start reading. Practice. Push yourself. Challenge yourself to do more, and better. Volunteer. Find a mentor. Sign up for a course. Go back to school. Whatever it is you have to do to push yourself to improve, do it.

And imagine what clients would say then. You’d never hear, “Is that the lowest you can go?” You’d hear something like this:

“Everyone else was cheaper – but you were the best. We can’t afford you, but we’ll find a way to make it happen. You’re hired.”

It’ll be music to your ears. Promise.

Want some inspired reading on how to price yourself properly so you don’t leave money on the table?

Check out Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Price Strategy: The Ultimate No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners Guide to Profits, Power, and Prosperity. You’ll be on your way to making bank in no time.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. I’ve raised my rates regularly over the past couple of years and I’ve done everything I could to improve my services. I don’t actually remember the last time a prospective client tried to negotiate my rates at this point: I can make great guarantees and fulfill them, so I’m worth the prices I charge — and my clients know it.

  2. If anyone has a lingering bit of yes-but after reading this, here’s a personal note: I run from cheap. Far and fast. I’m by no means rolling in cash, but I know the difference between “cost” and “investment.”

    Often clients claim they can’t afford to hire someone great, but the real reason is priorities. They’re willing to settle. Those aren’t good clients. They expect you to settle, too.

    It’s tough, always learning new things, improving skills, keeping up with trends and technology.

    Working with sub-par clients is tough, too. I know which way I want to go.

    Thanks, James.

    • Good comment, Stacy.

      I’m with you on running from cheap. In fact, when I see two comparable products/services/businesses, with one cheaper than the other, my first question is always, “Why?” A lower price often raises doubts in my mind, and I tend to opt for the more expensive option every time.

      As for people who say they can’t afford to hire someone great, you’ve hit the nail on the head: Their priorities aren’t really where they claim them to be. Someone who says they’re determined to make it happen and who settles for less is really saying, “Well, I wasn’t really THAT determined…”

      • Love this whole post (very Seth Godin BTW :-)) and these comments are great too. People who are willing to settle due are going to want you to settle too. It can be tough to walk away from potential work that isn’t the best fit, especially when your budget is screaming at you to do otherwise. Helpful perspective here for some of those times.

  3. Your messages are always so full of hope.

    I recently applied for 3 jobs. Now, I am waiting and you described it exactly: “Imagine you’re standing there, rubbing shoulders in that line-up with the competition, waiting for the client to make his choice.” The waiting is dreadful.

    The last paragraph was kick-ass. It would be on everyone’s list to Santa and pasted as a visual reminder to be the BEST.
    “Everyone else was cheaper – but you were the best. We can’t afford you, but we’ll find a way to make it happen. You’re hired.”

  4. G’Day James,
    In my offline, “consulting with major Australian companies” days, I was never cheap. I discovered that if I quoted $100 an hour when McKinseys were quoting $500, that was interpreted as meaning that they were five times better than me.

    But I also learnt that one shouldn’t work for nothing. I always insisted on being paid to submit a proposal.

    I would say something to the effect that preparing the proposal would take,say , five hours. My normal fee was , say, $200 an hour. I’d prepare the proposal for half my normal fee, $100 an hour. If I got the assignment I’d rebtre what they’d paid for the proposal against the final fee.

    I’m sure this meant that I wasn’t considered for some jobs. But what’s interesting is that whenever the client agreed to my terms , I always got the job.

    • Hmm… I can see the foot-in-the-door syndrome effect of having people pay for a proposal, but I know that many businesses wouldn’t get any clients at all if they went that route. It’s pretty interesting that this worked for you!

  5. The quality of your writing is only a small part of what makes you the best person for the job. For example, clients highly value being easy to get along with. It’s often quicker and easier to improve other facets of your total offering rather than the quality of your writing, which most clients are able to judge accurately anyway.

    • Well, anyone can write, so if someone can string a sentence together, it LOOKS like quality writing. The stuff that actually makes it work, deliver a message and sell is very often not visible to most clients. There’s a ton of psychology that goes into GREAT writing, and whether it’s there or not is often something people can discern.

      Which is sort of what you’ve said – once you’ve mastered writing well, then you can work on improving the other facet of great writing… a good perception psychology book goes a long, long way!

  6. Sorry, the last part of the last sentence should be: “Which most clients are NOT able to judge accurately anyway.”
    (The quality of my writing could have been better there!)

  7. Hi James,

    Good message for all.

    Yet, a hard one for many biz owners to internalize because most compulsory schooling around the world homogenizes the uniqueness out. Children showcase their differences, they feel very alive. Visit that same child as an adult after college graduation and you’ll probably encounter a shell of that former person, someone who can only seem his/herself as a commodity.

    It then usually takes something out of the ordinary – some circumstance changing event – to get back in touch with that alive child who can see his or her own glory.



    • Interesting thoughts! I have a very different view – I firmly believe that those who pursue education tend to round themselves out as mature adults who’ve faced all sorts of different experiences and adversities.

      But I know some people feel differently about it, and that’s all good 🙂

  8. Thanks for the inspiring post, James!

    I’m a huge advocate in investing in oneself – I’m always taking classes, reading books on my areas of interest and pushing myself to constantly improve.

    Though I’m relatively new to the writing game, I’m convinced that if I continue in this self-improvement mindset, in the future I will be confident and proud of the skills I’ve developed.

    • I read a *ton* of books on all sorts of subjects. The only downside is that these days, I’m often disappointed that I know 80%+ of the material within certain subject areas, so the books become more of a luxury than a need. But I always find something new I didn’t know or a different opinion worth contemplating in each one, so it’s still good value.

      An old coach of mine said, “You never stop learning. And the day you think you know it all is the day you should admit you know nothing.” Wise words!

      • @ Krista – I’m definitely on board with you on that. I used to read tons of books as well as listen to audio books and they have helped me tremendously in terms of personal success and overall happiness.

        My biggest problem came from reading so much that I either suffered from analysis paralysis or I’d end up feeling like I’m hearing the same exact stuff from a different author.

        The more you read the harder it can become to find those truly inspirational gems, but they are out there.

        A few great books are better than reading tons of the same stuff.

        Now I’ll pick up one here or there, but it has to truly resonate with me and inspire a new perspective.

        It’s increasingly important that it adds true value. As you become more experienced the value can seem to lessen.

        I keep a few on hand that I read over and over because they are truly that great, and I think it’s better than reading to many new books with lower quality and inspiration.

        A good book keeps the mind fresh and focused on the best solutions and helps form new and lasting perspectives.

        @ James – I know how you feel. I’m coming closer to that threshold where I already know most of what I read.

        The best way to keep yourself learning, growing and inspired is to expend your knowledge and delve into fields you aren’t experienced in.

        It keeps you humble, educated, happy and inspired!

        Best of luck to you both J

  9. An interesting thought, taking the price out of the equation – a bit like the job interview scenario. Now imagine if contract law mirrored employment law? Saying to your plumber “yes I will use you to repair this radiator, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll have a meeting, discuss how you can improve things, and then review the situation….”

  10. If that isn’t inspiration I don’t know what is. Great post! Few things feel better than knowing your at the top of your A game, and that comes from lots of deliberate practice and experience.

    Being in a league of your own is not only comforting now a-days, but it’s becoming more and more important in the business world and blogosphere.

    I’d say the main components of success in our field are originality, personality, expertise, simplicity, communication and connections. Did I miss something?

  11. Interesting Article… Thanks James.

    Do you have any recommendations on posts or sites for writers who would like to start finding clients and getting paid to post? What are the best options?



  12. “Challenge yourself”, “push yourself” to do more and better, is great advice. Finally some good sense, today, 🙂 A lot of known faces, your commentators, 🙂

  13. From my experience, the majority of freelancers don’t suffer because of the quality of their skills, even though that’s where they often invest their time and money.

    “I have to get better,” is often the first thought you have when things aren’t working out.

    I just don’t find that to be true. Especially when you look around in your own area of expertise and see that THAT guy or THAT gal got the project. You KNOW those people and frankly, they’re not that good.

    The challenge is to learn how to effectively communicate the value and uniqueness of your skills to the client. THAT is going to set you apart quicker than anything else I can think of.

    The best [insert what you do] doesn’t get the business. The best business person gets the business. The person who can best sell what they do to the prospective client gets the business.

  14. Very nice article. It’s really something to ponder upon, how to face various challenges and changes in a business. Thanks for sharing the insights.

  15. Common sense would dictate that the best would win every time. But, that is not necessarily the case. I work for the State of California and, basically, that is how it is done. You test and take assessments for each classification, including promotionals.

    Let’s use Web Designer as an example:
    Web Designer Trainee: $2,000 – $2,300
    Web Designer Technician: $2,300 – $2,600
    Web Designer Assistant: $2,300 – $2,600
    Web Designer I: $3,000 – $3,200
    Web Designer II: $3,200 – $3,400
    Web Designer III: $3,400 – $3,600
    Web Designer Administrator I: $4,000 – $4,500
    Web Designer Administrator II: $4,500 – $5,000
    Web Designer Administrator III: $5,000 – $5,500
    Web Designer Officer: $6,000 – $7,000

    Each position of Web Desinger has its window pay scale and “Minimum Qualifications” to promote into that level. As the example dictates, you can acquire different level through testing, assessment, and promotions. Because each class has its window pay scale, it’s not necessarily who does the best job.

    It is not always “what you know,” but “who you know.” You have to factor in a person’s ability to market themself, networking, and for some it is knowing how to “work the system.”

    There is just more to your theory. You can be great at what you do, but that isn’t necessarily what gets you ahead.

    Just my thoughts.

  16. Neat article. So often companies’ marketing departments benchmark service and product features against the competition, find the ‘weaknesses’ and fix them – so… you look and behave just like everyone else! Doh.

    Plan to market your differences, not your similarities. Ask Ikea, ask Mini.

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