The worst way to price anything ever (from someone who fell into the trap).

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

In my second year of business, I hit on an awesome idea for an offering:

1–1 copywriting intensives over 1, 3, and 5 days.

Just one client and one project a time, with total creative focus on my end, so I could get their project in and out the door quickly.

I’ve had a lot of bad ideas in my day. But this, I was certain, was not one of them.

This style of work would help me get more clients, prevent contracted deliverables from dying a slow death from the professional cholera of endless revision rounds, and help me build up my experience levels with a huge range of projects.

(Another side effect? It would also make me a turbo-speed writer, but that’s another story.)

In a day I could write a landing page and some emails, in 3 days a long-form sales page, and in a week a full website.

Veteran writers out there: I can feel you cringing from here. Stay with me.

The moment I launched the offer I excitedly sent the sales page to my colleagues in a small, trusted writer’s group I was part of.

The first response?

“This is an awesome page… but Hillary, as soon as I saw your prices, my heart sank.”

Ah shit.

My prices?

$400 for the day.

$800 for 3 days.

$1,000 for the week.

But hey. I hadn’t been in the industry long. I didn’t know what I was doing.

So naturally, I jumped into the thread to justify my decision.

I was still pretty green.

I didn’t have a ton of experience.

I wanted a lot of people in and out the door.

I didn’t want to price myself out of the market.

But in reality? I’d priced myself so low because I was afraid.

Terrified actually.

I was afraid of people rejecting me, laughing in my face, and pointing out that I didn’t have anywhere near the experience levels to charge anything even remotely resembling a higher-end price point.

I was afraid of being seen as a fraud, overcharging and under delivering, and generally getting too big for my britches.

All of that was bullshit of course.

But I wasn’t drawing those conclusions because I was stupid or misinformed.

My point of reference was just severely skewed.

At the time my only other professional experience had been waitressing work and $8/hr agency gigs (thanks, U.S. Recession). I’d never made anything close to $400 in a day. I couldn’t afford to pay someone $800 or $1,000 in one fell swoop.

That’s probably why my logic went like this:

“Why would anyone want to give that kind of money to me? I couldn’t afford to pay someone that.”

I didn’t realize it then, but I was making one of the worst errors you can possibly make in sales and pricing:

I was mistaking myself for my ideal client.

Because I couldn’t afford it, because it felt like a huge amount to me, I scared myself stiff.

Because I knew intellectually that higher price points = higher level of clientele, but from where I was standing I couldn’t make myself believe it fully.

And because I was putting my own fears around money-making and pricing in the front seat — instead of my goals for my business.

As a result, I started attracting clients who were… a lot like me in my first year. I found myself working with a lot of low-budget, not-totally-clear-yet, can-you-make-me-sound-like-the-biggest-name-in-my-industry type folks.

And you know what?

None of that changed until I learned to stomach asking for several thousand dollars for a sales page because the types of clients I wanted to work with could afford that.

Not because I could afford it or felt OK with it right off the bat. But because they could.

It took a lot longer than it should have — about 2 years to be exact — but eventually I realized I wanted to be working with elite-level businesses in the 6 and 7 figure range.

So slowly, cautiously, I started to raise my prices.

They didn’t blink when my price for a sales page went up to $1,000.

Or $2,000.

Or and $3,000+.

… Then I started to feel dumb I’d ever waited that long.

Switching my focus away from what I thought I was worth and towards how much I was worth to my client was a muscle that took time to build — but it was a worthy one.

When I took myself out of the equation, it became a lot easier…

… To ask for more money. (I was working like a dog and charging like a mouse, and that benefited everyone but me.)

To hip check clients when they went out of scope.

To fearlessly send those estimates knowing if they couldn’t afford it? They weren’t the right client for me. (Also, when you’re charging $2,000+ per page instead of $400? You just don’t need as many clients.)

So if you’re relatively new to the industry, and asking people for their money gives you the heebie jeebies, I’ll remind you of this:

It doesn’t matter how you’d feel being charged the same amount you’d charge a client.

What matters is being able to pinpoint your price point from the perspective of the results you get, how much experience you have, and what kind of clients you want to be working with.

Put that front and center when you’re pricing your offerings and services and getting ready to ask for the sale, and watch the way you charge change.

You are not your ideal client.

You are not your ideal client.

You are not your ideal client.

(Nor should you be.)

So stop pricing for YOU. And start pricing for THEM.

** And oh hey before I go! This was an excerpt from The Wordshops, my copywriting course for unconventional entrepreneurs launching this September.

Wanna know when it rolls out? Click here to drop a note in my contact form and tell me: “I can’t wait for the Wordshops!” I’ll make sure you’re on the list to hear when I go live.