I Offer Two Prices: Retail and Free

Pricing your products and services

My brain is dizzy from reading a gazillion articles on best practices for pricing your products or services and whether or not it’s a good idea to post what you charge on your website.

Is your head spinning, too?

I don’t sell any products so I usually rifle through those article segments — although bits and pieces can also be applied to pricing services.

One of the reasons I procrastinated forever and a day (and then some!) before publishing an offering on my site is because I agonized over what to charge for my copy editing services.

I was afraid to charge too little and afraid to charge too much.

And in case you’re wondering …

No, I didn’t choose to research my competitors to help me through the decision making process though that was what many of my colleagues suggested. I’m guessing some copy editors charge half my rate and some charge twice as much.

Since I work my own kind of magic, I chose not to be concerned with the value someone else places on their talents and skills.

Thing is, I look at myself as having zero competitors.

I don’t mean to come off as smug but there’s only one of me on this planet and I don’t share my brain with another human being. No one else can bring what I bring to the proverbial table — a lifetime of experience, quirky creativity, a unique tone, speed in delivery, workaholic ethics, and final drafts that make my clients smile and earn me referrals.

Some have even called me a “magical unicorn badass”. If you hire me, I’ll let you be the judge.

So I decided to price my services accordingly — I offer retail and free.

For curious minds, here’s the breakdown:

  • My blog content: Free
  • Suggested tools and resources: Free
  • Writing and grammar tips: Free
  • Connecting and networking on social media: Free
  • Email, phone, and Skype communications (a.k.a. listening ear): Free
  • Interviews, guest posts (and occasional poetry): Free
  • Proofreading and editing: Retail (Flat hourly rate – no tricks up my sleeve)

A slice of client attraction advice:

Don’t hesitate to let the [price tag] cat out of the bag.

Post your prices on your websiteDespite strong opinions to the contrary, I think it’s wise to fill your website visitors in on what you charge. Otherwise, I’m apt to think you have something to hide. Or maybe you’re a bashful introvert or you lack confidence in the value you add to your clients’ lives.

Whatever the case, please don’t leave prospective clients guessing.

Tell them what you’re worth and why. Show them you’re the person they should hire and persuade them to click the “Book Me” button. If you’re currently uncomfortable with your prices or they bring on an icky feeling, change them. It’s your business and livelihood at stake.

Service providers, what’s your biggest pricing nemesis? Do you have your fees posted on your website? If not, why?

Next stop:

Sprint over to Mission: Storytelling to catch this month’s Word Carnival posts from my fellow carnies. We’re small business owners on a mission to help you tell your story and rock your message and marketing!

  • Gloria Miele, Ph.D.

    I’m working on this right now! I keep fiddling around with the numbers, but I’m getting ready to publish them. I’ve not done that before, but I’m ready. Thanks for a great post. And I also don’t compare myself to others. Tried. Didn’t help.

    • I’m doin’ the happy dance for you, Gloria! Good for you for publishing your prices. It’s a BIG [dance] step. 🙂

      Playing the comparison game is rarely, if ever, a positive or fruitful experience. It’s interesting knowing what others are charging but what good does that information really do you? You don’t stand in their shoes, you stand in your own. I say stay confident, trust your gut, and set your fee/s accordingly. And for Pete’s sake, don’t sell yourself short.

      Thanks for catching my post, Gloria! It’s wonderful to see you here.

  • Absolutely, I have my prices listed for all services on my site. For the very reasons you gave. Great post. And yes, there’s only one me. I no longer work cheap. Few have been in this industry as long as I have.

    • Well, there you go, Janice! “I no longer work cheap”. Amen to that!! Your years of experience and track record should directly correlate with your fees. I would expect to pay someone of your caliber more than a newbie in your field … period.

  • Melanie you deserve a standing (finance) rock star ovation. This post is excellent. You are owning your price, your approach, and your value. I’m bookmarking this to share with clients who struggle to embrace their profitable price and their undeniable value.

    • ::blushing:: Many thanks, Nicole! My very first standing ovation. 🙂

      Gotta confess, though — I spent some time struggling with the issue of pricing. YOU, more than anyone else I know, understand the worries, fears, and downright apprehensions surrounding what to charge. Figuring it out is part formulaic, part fun, and part frustration. 😉

    • Shared on my Reddit group that I mod. Actually…all Carnie posts go there at some point… 🙂 But this is VERY good!

  • I’ve always posted my prices on my website, because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s searching for that perfect product or service provider only to have to call or email them…just to get their basic prices. I have never—not once—taken the time to do that. It’s like those designer clothes in fashion magazines that say “price upon request.” They might as well say, “Sorry, you can’t afford it.”

    For my clients, I only charge hourly for projects under $100. Usually (for book manuscripts, long papers, manuals, etc.) I charge a project rate based on a per-page fee, which varies depending on how much editing the text requires. That way, clients know what they’re in for before they sign a contract, which is a huge selling point for them (since they don’t ever have to worry about how many hours the piece is going to rack up).

    You are an individual with amazing skills, and there is absolutely no one like you! I’m happy to see your pricing reflect that. 🙂

    • Until this very moment, Molly, I didn’t realize you share some of my personal traits and quirks.

      I’m with you here 100%: ” … if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s searching for that perfect product or service provider only to have to call or email them…just to get their basic prices. I have never—not once—taken the time to do that.” I find it an awkward and uncomfortable proposition, know what I mean? And as I mentioned to Caro Lynn, the last thing I would EVER want to do is take up someone’s precious time … all for naught. I guess that speaks to the “directness” in me. More times than not in life, I operate on a “need to know” basis. If I’m left in the dark, I simply move on.

      I more than understand service providers don’t want to scare people away with their prices. And I’m aware of all the variables and nuances in different service-oriented offerings. So I guess it boils down to personal preference. But I can’t help but wonder if posting prices doesn’t help to increase your odds of securing more business. Let’s just say the jury is still out. 😉

      Your beautiful compliment is making my heart smile. Thank you, Molly. 🙂

  • SandyMcD

    Mel, you have such a gentle, but no nonsense way of tackling the big business questions like value. You are unique and what you offer has nothing to do with proofreading and copy. It is the culmination of your life time’s experience which frames your particular value. Absolutely.

    We have worked hard to ‘productise’ our offer, so that we can say exactly what the right client (the one who genuinely wants what we offer) will get for what outcomes.

    But to some extent there is still a measure of education involved. Like Carol Lynn, especially when it involves a web build, it is difficult to persuade someone who visits your website that they might need to spend $5K and then some, when you have not yet met them and had a chance to work with them in such a way that they understand the value of what you intend to help them with.

    For that reason and one other, we don’t post our fees on our site. We invite people to have a 20 minute free chat. That way, we can assess something of their suitability to work with us or them with us. It is not a panacea, but it helps. Otherwise most of the people who work with us have come through a series of touch points, the website is just one.

    The other is that we have abandoned the hourly rate. It just became such a rod. Trying to justify 10 hours or 12 or 20, when the client thought the value was half that. Now we package up our value and say that is the cost. Period.

    • One thing is for certain, Sandy — the “hourly rate” doesn’t always cut the mustard. That old adage, “Trading time for dollars” comes into play.

      Constantly having to justify your time is frustrating, to say the least, especially when clients choose to argue with you or show signs of having doubts. 🙁 So far, I’ve been lucky in that respect. My clients don’t question the time I’ve invested in their assignments. However, I’m not building websites or training programs and the projects I take on are basically short and sweet. Plus I’ve been truly blessed to work with people who value my value, so to speak.

      “We invite people to have a 20 minute free chat.” Wonderful idea! I’d call you in a heartbeat! (But then, I already know you and love you. That’s why I wouldn’t hesitate to have a chat.) 🙂 The biggest challenge for you, as I see it, is finding ways to encourage/persuade/convince people to pick up the phone. To me, that’s your TOUGHEST assignment. Some people (like Molly and me) shy away from making those calls.

      Having said that …

      I happen to know your greatest asset is “relationship building”. Yep. You’re an ace, Sandy! You work your best magic by guiding people through those “touch points” you mentioned. Yes, developing relationships with people takes a lot of time and many small business owners are impatient. Too bad for them. You know better and you’re willing wait it out to glean the rewards.

      Thanks for your kind words, Sandy. I only wish we could clone people like you. 🙂

  • What a great topic and post! You ARE magical for sure and inspirational at the same time! No, I dont have my prices posted and you are absolutely correct..I should. All of your reasoning and logic just made me think why the hell not! Sometimes it just takes that one bit of information that makes all the difference in the world. Thank you!

    • Hey, hey, Michelle!

      Do it, girl! Be proud and post your prices. 🙂

      Or at least do what Carol Lynn and Ralph did — experiment and see how it goes. I tend to believe you’ll secure more business when website visitors know exactly what to budget for. There is a caveat, however. If you’re like Katherine here and the details surrounding your pricing vary a great deal, maybe think about posting some ballpark figures, some starting points for prospective customers/clients. Give them some numbers to mull over and to work with.

      Thank you for your sweet sentiments, Michelle. Means a lot to me. 🙂

  • Katherine Kotaw

    I LOVED this, Melanie! Smart AND Fun — what could be better? I struggle with this issue because KOTAW offers a variety of services, and the price of each varies considerably. (Price was more straightforward when I was a solopreneur.) And sometimes my actual price comes down to how much I like a client. 🙂 Currently, we keep sample prices on the website. I should probably change them, but it’s sort of far down on my to-do list. One thing I do know is that potential clients NEVER have trouble asking you to lower your prices, so don’t rush to do it for them! And you’re absolutely right, Melanie, about ignoring your competitors’ pricing, particularly in a service industry. There is only one of YOU! Thank YOU for sharing your wisdom and brightening my day!

    • Hey everyone, look who dropped in! Hi Katherine! #KOTAWesome to have you join the conversation. xoxo

      When your list of services (or products) is miles long or the variables are numerous, I can see where posting your prices online might look like a Chinese takeout menu. LOL!

      I absolutely positively LOVE THIS:
      “And sometimes my actual price comes down to how much I like a client.” Seems to be the case with a few other small biz owners I know (who will remain nameless). 😉

      Makes me happy to know you go along with ignoring your competitors’ pricing. Without a doubt, Katherine, there is only one YOU and the way you spin your unique kind of content marketing magic! <3

      • Katherine Kotaw

        Ha, ha! I definitely didn’t remain anonymous about the if-I-like-you issue, but I really never have. More important, I don’t enter client relationships if I expect things to go poorly and bow out of them as quickly as possible when they do. Because I’m really only at my best when I ENJOY what I’m doing, and I owe it to my clients (and myself) to go all-in or all-out.

        Keep on being your magical, badass unicorn self, Melanie! You make the world a much happier place!!

        • DITTO for what you bring to the world, Katherine! Ditto, big time. 🙂

          I definitely share your philosophy and conviction to “go all in or all out”. For me, there’s just NO other way!

  • Melanie, you ARE a magical (and badass) unicorn! And I have certainly been the very fortunate recipient of many of your free poems. Although I don’t think I would call them “free”…. PRICELESS is more like it.

    We also went through a should we/shouldn’t we phase with putting pricing on our website. We didn’t before – and don’t now – but there was a brief period when we did experiment by including pricing. Here are a couple of thoughts on it…

    I think it depends on part on what you’re selling, even as a service. If it’s a pretty finite thing (“an hour of my time”) then I think it can be a good idea. To Téa’s point, you do want to weed out the tire kickers who are just price shopping. The problem we faced (and I’m sure this is true of anybody) is that the dollar amount attached to what we do does not necessarily reflect the value. Take a website for example. If I posted on our site that we charge $5,000 for a website (making this up right now), someone may look at that and go, HOLY CRAP! And walk away. But if I had a chance to speak with that person before the conversation of price tag came up, and let them know what that means and the value they will get (and of course warn them of all the horrors of “buying cheap”) then I may persuade them otherwise. So it’s not a question of hiding it, but reserving the opportunity to demonstrate value before we get to cost.

    Then there is the other issue which is that there are options that people can choose or not choose depending on what they need, and to try to put that into a line item on a website would make people’s eyes fall out of their heads.

    So we gave up on putting pricing on the site and we now have a pricing document that we will give people AFTER we’ve spoken with them – and weeded out the people who just want to know the cost. Because the answer to that is…. if you have to ask you can’t afford it 🙂 Seriously, if you’re price shopping, don’t talk to me.

    • I understand, fully, what you’re saying, Carol Lynn, and I can see why posting your fees online might become a detriment. When it concerns the designing and building of websites, if people are going to base their buying/hiring decision solely on price, they’re making a GIGANTIC mistake. To me, things like reputation, track record, transparency, follow up, client testimonials, trust, guarantees, good communication skills, etc., trump the hell out of whatever it’s going to cost.

      Kudos and Oreos to you for experimenting! “Demonstrating value” is where you shine. Yes, I’m biased in saying that. But I’ve seen you in action, I read and listen to your posts, I happily anticipate and devour your podcasts, we’re fellow Word Carnival bloggers, and I’m proud to say, friends. I know what you do best … and you do it very well. 🙂

      I’m curious …

      Do you think you and Ralph could ever live with posting a “Starting at” price? Just a thought. It might help folks like me who would feel horrible wasting a minute of your valuable time if your services were, in fact, out of reach. Might also spare some embarrassment. Don’t get me wrong. Price is just ONE of the many factors to be considered before hiring a marketing agency or website designer. But before someone picks up the phone to give you a jingle, would you be willing to give them a price inkling?

      Better yet, just have them call me first and I’ll tell them their search is over, they’re in the best and most capable of hands. Look no further. Hire these people! 😉

      Thanks for the lovely compliment about my poetry. Pinning podcast rhymes up on Web.Search.Social is one my greatest joys. By the way, how’s the museum build coming along? I’ve already purchased the sparkling champagne for the ribbon cutting. 😉

      • Good question, and yes we do give people a “starting at” or “ballpark” if they ask. Because practically speaking, some people just don’t have the budget. But I’ve found that most people do – they just don’t have the right perspective to understand that yet.

        There are also other factors that come into play. Like relationships. Are you a pain in the ass? You’re getting charged more. I guess this sounds horrible, but if I feel like someone is going to be a pain, I’ll up the price because either A. it will be too costly and they will go away or B. they will accept it and I will be duly compensated for all the babysitting I will be required to do!

        On the flip side, I have done things for very minimal cost for people I like. Not “random person off the street” but people I’ve known for a while who may not have budget.

        And I have to tell you, Melanie, I think you’re the only one worried about wasting my “valuable time” – trust me 🙂 You of all people that have to be LEAST worried about it. The vast majority of people expect at least some time as par for the course.

        I like to start conversations by asking people what their budget is. As you can imagine, the answer is almost always, “I don’t know.” Or, “I don’t have one.” But then when I say ok, your project is $5000, they immediately know THAT’S NOT IT! lol

        Going back to the “starting at” for a moment, another issue we have is that if we say “starting at $1000” then quote someone $5000, what do they ask next? “Well, why can’t I just have the $1000 one?” And THAT is a giant waste of time.

        One last thing…. we have plenty of partners so if we’re not the right fit for someone’s needs or budget, I can refer them to other people I trust who have different pricing and packages. So I’m happy to talk to anyone, even if it only means I can refer the business elsewhere.

        Whew. What a hornets nest! But such a great conversation to have.

        And as for the poetry hall of fame, I HAVE TO GET ON THAT! It’s been nagging at me and bugging me that it’s not done. I’m moving it up the list, darnit!

        • Wow! I don’t know how you do it, Carol Lynn, but you always post the neatest (and longest) comments. My fingers are getting tired just reading this. 😉

          Kidding aside, I don’t blame you one iota’s worth for tacking on a “babysitting” charge for those pain in the patootie people. You can bet they’re going to monopolize your time, constantly interrupt the flow of your day, and complain to the high hilt about every little thing. Yep. There’s a charge for that (and hopefully a steep one)!

          I love that you’ve mentioned referral “partners”. I would guess you and Ralph have amassed quite a big list by now. High fives to you for steering people in a doable direction! So few businesses are brave enough to send folks off to hire someone in their same industry. Just speaks to the kind of people you and Ralph are. True professionals. 🙂

          No wonder you might hesitate to post a “starting at” price. I can see where the problem lies. Why is that people are always wanting something for nothing or next to nothing? I don’t understand that type of mindset. If they like you, they trust you, and they’re sure you’re going to do a bang up job, why do they push to go the cheapest route?? Makes no sense to me.

          Don’t worry about rushing the poetry hall of fame. All good things take time. Let this project simmer to perfection. Then we’ll open the doors and party hardy! 😉

  • Since I work my own kind of magic, I chose not to be concerned with the value someone else places on their talents and skills.

    Boom. And this is why so many people trip up – they compare value to others versus charging for the value they bring. Here’s to your mindset, miss!

    • Oh, Danny, you’ve made my day. You get it. You understand that we are unique human beings, in and of ourselves, so we’re not being fair or kind or true to ourselves if we become cookie-cutter versions of someone else. And that philosophy stands firm in pricing our products or services. Many thanks for the visit! 🙂

  • One of the best things a website can do for us is act as an “admin assistant.” Someone to handle inquiries and make appointments. And by the same token, to weed out tire kickers. Saves us lots of time and helps make us more money.

    • Yessssss! I love that you’ve mentioned the “tire kickers”, Tea. We’re in the business of running a business, not a used car lot.

      I think my website will always be a work in progress. As new questions arise, I’ll want to make sure my “administrative assistant” can answer them. 🙂

  • Love this, Melanie. I started out not putting prices on my site; now I do, because it’s transparent and it weeds out people who have a different budget. I’m also clear about what’s included in each job.

    • Yeah, “clarity”, Sharon. It’s SO critical your prospective clients know precisely the bang they’re getting for their buck. And the “weeding out” of your wrong people is also important. Why waste someone’s time or your own time if you’re not a good fit? It’s senseless. Of course, price is just one factor in the mix but it’s a biggie. 🙂

      Happy to hear you decided to take the “transparent” route and post your fees. Yay, you!

  • Hi Melanie. I like your style. 🙂 I didn’t always post my fees. I would like to say it was part of some grand master plan. I think procrastination would be closer to the truth.;-) I created a services brochure for marketing so it was easy to take the rate page and post it on my site. My biggest pricing nemesis? A miscalculation of the time needed for a project. But that comes with the territory. You win some. You lose some. I believe it all works out like it should as long as you value your services. Thanks for another great post, Melanie. 🙂

    • Cathy, I’m convinced procrastination is universal and epidemic. My eyes have never set on the statistics or formal studies but I’ll go out on a limb and say 8 out of 10 ten people are procrastination sufferers. Solopreneurs are definitely in the mix. 😉 LOL!

      “A miscalculation of time needed for a project” is something for which there’s no workaround, in my opinion. But you’re right: “You win some. You lose some.” It’s all a guessing game and some client’s needs are greater than others when it comes to things like revisions.

      Happy to learn you made the decision to post your fees on your website. Kudos and cupcakes! It drives me nuts when people won’t even post a price “range” when their fees vary. I must confess I click away from those sites, never to return again. If I’m thinking about making a purchase of any kind, I need to know the dollar amount (for obvious reasons).

      Well, you’ve done it again. You’re the first to comment and that always puts a smile on my face. Thank you for being such a loyal reader. 🙂 xoxo

      • I love being 1st, too – not that I’m competitive or anything. 😉

        • I caught that wink and raised brow as you commented, Cathy. You? Competitive?? NO WAY. LOL!

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