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Why I Don’t Lower My Prices (and Neither Should You)

My boyfriend told me I should charge less, here’s why I didn’t listen


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Marianna Zelichenko

3 years ago | 5 min read

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to send her a price quote for a gig that would take me roughly 20 hours. I did a quick calculation — what did I think my work worth? Then, I did another calculation — what was the minimum I was willing to do this job for?

My boyfriend, who is my partner in crime and does some of the jobs with me, suggested we’d give her a better price still. I shook my head: “Sorry, I’m not going to do this type of work for less than €60 an hour”. He gave me a look. “What?” I asked. He shrugged: “You’re so spoiled! Plenty of people work for much less than that, and you’re not willing to go any lower.”

We argued.

I stood my ground.

Setting your own standards

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running my business, it’s that I have to set my own standards. I know the quality I deliver, and if I do my research — I know the market, too. Which means that there is no one out there more capable of determining the price for my products or services.

The same goes for you.

Whether you cut hair, dropship, or make wooden sculptures — you know the quality of your work and the value you deliver.

What is it worth, realistically speaking?

When you quote someone below what you believe your work is worth, and the client knows the going rate, you send your prospect a message: I don’t believe my work is up to the industry standards.

More importantly, you send yourself the very same message. And it sticks.

The imposter syndrome

The problem, of course, is when you truly believe your work isn’t up to the standards. When you think everyone else in the field is much better, much more talented, much more experienced and knowledgeable.

The dreaded imposter syndrome: the idea that you’re merely faking it, and you’ll be found out.

That you won’t live up to the expectations other have around you.

So best keep those expectations low, huh?

Let me tell you something. In my experience, people with an imposter syndrome usually deliver top-notch quality. It only makes sense — when you feel like you have big shoes to fill, you’ll go that extra mile.

This wouldn’t be a bad thing if only the imposter syndrome wasn’t based on fear. As it is, people suffering from it often avoid risks, don’t aim for the stars, even though they have a better chance of reaching those far-off galaxies than anyone else.

Meanwhile, others who are confident — sometimes overconfident — in their own abilities charge more and deliver less.

Now, who is served by that? Certainly not the clients. So if you have their best interests at heart, don’t keep your head down.

But you’re doing this for a friend!

Okay, I hear you — you don’t have to make money on everything. What about just helping a friend out with her passion project?

You know what, I agree.

A few weeks back my best friend wondered aloud about some issues with her new webshop and I spent an hour fixing her configuration and showing her the ropes of WooCommerce. I actually do quite a lot of unpaid work: I love sharing my expertise with those who need it, and not all of them can afford it.

So why is this any different?

First of all, this is not my favorite type of project, and it’s a big one, too. Helping out a friend for an hour with their branding is very different from taking on a job that will take me at least half a week.

20 hours I spend on this project I can’t spend elsewhere. If this gig pays less than other projects would, that means I can’t simply subtract these 20 hours from my paid projects. And if I’d still have to do other jobs to make up for the difference, it would mean I’d have less time to work on my personal passion projects.

Read that again.

It means I would say no to my own project, to do someone else’s project. It means I’d value my own passions less than theirs.

If you think that’s altruistic, it’s not. It’s self-deprecating.

Others’ passions matter. But so do yours.

I’d say — consider lowering your prices if you’d do this project anyway, just because you love it so much or because the person you help means that much to you, and they couldn’t afford hiring you otherwise. But for casual projects and casual friends, don’t sell yourself short.

There is a second reason why I don’t lower my prices on this kind of gig, even for friends, and it’s this: when I take the initiative to help someone out, I’m in the lead. I generally decide how much help I can give and what the boundaries are. When a friend hires me, we’re in a very different place.

Unless you draft up a clear agreement, your friend might — without any bad intent — ask much more than you’d normally offer for the price. This is an issue with any client, of course, but it’s even more prevalent with friends, with whom we do not always get all formal with agreements.

You are responsible for the risks you take

A lot of my friends don’t feel comfortable charging a lot for their services, so when they quote, they go with the “best-case scenario”. They’ll take the lowest price they work for, and assume the project will run smoothly. Then, when the client needs adjustments, or an external party screws up and everything is delayed, they find themselves working lots of extra hours (often late hours, too) to keep their part of the agreement.

Listen up — clients care far less about how cheap you are than about how predictable and reliable you are. In your pricing (and in your planning, too), take into account everything that can go wrong. Maybe don’t quote for the worst-case scenario, but find a healthy middle ground that will give you solid rewards for your work.

Barter if it makes sense

Your work helps someone solve very real problems they have, so it’s only natural that you get something of value in return. But something of value doesn’t always have to be money. Barters are awesome and can be a great way for beginning entrepreneurs to help each other out.

Last year, I helped out a friend with his bookkeeping and he shot a portrait I could use for my social media profiles.

The friend whom I helped with WooCommerce? We do things for each other all the time.

The key with barters is to keep an eye on what’s valuable for you. In some communities I see tons of exchanges: “I need someone to build me a website in exchange for a few massages”. If you need (or want) massages — that’s awesome. But if you wouldn’t care about massages otherwise, maybe this is not the best barter for you.

Honor your work and others will, too

My boyfriend and I had a long talk about pricing after that. I appreciate him speaking his mind, and luckily we’re able to find common ground in arguments like these.

We sent the quote later that day.

A few days later, we got a message back:

“Your proposal sounds just fine, and the pricing sounds reasonable. Let’s do this!”

And that’s what I want to close off with:

Just because you doubt your worth, doesn’t mean others do. Dare to set your standards and watch your clients and projects live up to them.

Originally published here.


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Created by

Marianna Zelichenko

Founder of https://www.odderbeing.com


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