The Key To Getting The Fees You Deserve

Olympic medal gold silver bronze and pricing accordingly

Many copywriters and web designers — both new and experienced — struggle with how much to charge their clients. In fact, it is a problem that many in the service industry face.

The dilemma?

Charge too little, and you risk losing credibility in the eyes of your customers and potential clients. Plus, the quality of your work, even if it is top quality and worth 100 times what they paid for it, will be seen as having diminished perceived value.

Worst still, you may begin to resent the project, the client, even your profession.

In short, charging too little belittles you, your work, and your clients.

On the other hand, charge too much, and you run the risk of being seen as too pricey and losing the potential client. You may lose out on opportunities to work with clients who could open doors and provide you and your business with an abundance of work.

The solution?

Olympic Factor Pricing

Olympic athletes have the opportunity to win one of three awards: bronze for third place, silver for second place, and the coveted gold medal for first place.

That’s how your pricing should work, too.

When a customer requests a quote, don’t just offer them one quote. First, breakdown your quote into multiple components, and price each component. Even though some are included in the final quote, this helps to do three things:

  1. It increases perceived value;
  2. If an element is thrown in or free and accompanied by a dollar value, it makes that item and the overall quote look more appetizing;
  3. And best of all, it reduces haggling and halts the grinding away process, because, if they try to negotiate, you simply remove elements you would have offered and reduce the quote accordingly (i.e., the more they haggle, the less appetizing the package becomes).

But don’t stop there. You present them with a comprehensive package that includes three levels of pricing. Each level will have a different level of offering, either based on the quantity of elements provided in the breakdown, or on their quality.

Here’s an example (change it to fit your skillsets and services):

The Gold Level

This level includes all the bells and whistles. Call it your “premium package,” if you will. You offer everything they’re asking for and more.

If they want a salesletter written from scratch, you write it but also provide them with the optin copy, order form copy, and confirmation page copy. You can also provide design elements, layout suggestions, and formatting, too.

You might also offer two free revisions (worth “X” dollars) before the final draft. You might even include a rush surcharge (i.e., to meet a guaranteed turnaround).

(Again, make sure to denominate all the elements and add estimated values to each one. The object is to make the client understand these add-ons are extras, have intrinsic value on their own, and are included in the Gold level only.)

This Gold Level pricing also includes the highest quoted fee of your three offers.

The Silver Level

This level includes basically what the customer has asked for and generally fits into your “standard copywriting package.” You also charge a bit less than the Gold level pricing but still more than the bronze level quote.

For example, it can be writing the salesletter copy (and only the salesletter), with some formatting and basic design suggestions. You might offer one free revision only but no guaranteed turnaround. In other words, there is no rush.

And just as with the Gold, you denominate each element in this package.

The Bronze Level

This is your barebones and least expensive offer. Perhaps it’s writing just the main copy and that’s it. Perhaps it’s rewriting existing copy. Or perhaps it’s critiquing it and giving the client a list of actionable suggestions to improve it.

No bells. No whistles. No extras.

It’s your rock-bottom, barebone, lowest price offer. However, don’t underquote. There is a possibility that your client will choose this level and you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re resenting the work and the client.

Why Three Levels Of Pricing?

When you educate your client on the value of your work, you give them something to compare to. Something concrete. Something they can chew on.

Instead of just having a dollar amount, she now has a concept of what that value is worth. Because she’s not comparing your price against another copywriter’s price. She’s comparing one of your services against another.

You are your own competition, in other words.

In reality, you are creating not only higher perceived value but also higher intrinsic value. In other words, you’re boosting the perceived value not only of your services but also of the Gold package itself.

A good example is the price of gasoline.

If you tell me to choose which gas to put into my car with the following options (and since I’m Canadian, I’m using metric examples, here):

Premium Gas: $1.10 a liter
Better Gas: $1.03 a liter
Regular: $0.99 a liter

The only logical choice is to choose the cheapest solution because price is my only metric. However, you describe that the pricier gas has higher octane and maybe even some performance additives. I might choose that one instead.

For example, if you tell me I have the choice of:

Premium Gas: $1.10 a liter

Has 94 octane (which means it burns better and more efficiently), cleans the engine as it burns, contains less pollutants, includes gasline antifreeze for the winter months, and perhaps includes a discount on car wash with 25 liters purchased.

Better Gas: $1.03 a liter

Has 89 octane, less pollutants, comes with free coffee at coffee bar with a minimum of 15 liters purchased.

Regular: $0.99 a liter

Has 85 octane. It is also the one (being the lowest price, of course) posted on placards and gas station signs.

This way, I know why the higher one has more value (not just higher price), and why the cheaper one is, well, cheap. You’ve given me more information to appreciate the value, as well as more information to compare each other with.

The same holds true for your copywriting services. Or any service, for that matter.

The Price-Quality Continuum

The Olympic factor gives your customers not only a choice but also a basis for comparison, and it increases the perceived value of your offer overall. Your Gold offer has the highest perceived value, and your Bronze offer, the lowest.

Which offer will your client choose?

When I used to teach marketing at a local college, I taught my students about a concept called the price-quality continuum. Meaning, people will either choose a product based on where it is in this continuum.

Whether it’s the low-end of the continuum (i.e., lowest price), the high-end (i.e., the highest quality), or somewhere in between, people buy according to what they feel is aligned with their values, desires, and goals.

With only one option, you serve only one type of customer at the expense of the other, and open yourself up to hagglers and even abusers. But offer more than one, and you have the ability to cater to a wider spectrum of buying behaviors.

Doing so, you’ll likely find that the majority will go for the Silver (middle) option. These folks want the best of both worlds: good quality at a reasonable price.

However, many will choose the Gold level because a lot of people will want the best there is. Those are the quality seekers on the price-quality continuum.

Yet some people will, without a doubt, go for the cheapest solution. They are the deal seekers. But if they do, they do so with the full knowledge that they are getting less.

And that’s the key!

The real beauty of the Olympic factor pricing strategy is that it also stops the grinding away process after your service has been rendered.

Your customers won’t complain (most won’t, anyway) because, buttressed with the higher one when they made the choice, they know that, if they didn’t get more, they should have chosen the higher one to begin with.

It puts the onus and the responsibility of the decision — and the end result — firmly in their hands. Not yours.

Hitting One Bird With Two Stones. Or Three.

By incorporating this Olympic Factor Pricing strategy into your business, you’ll find a number of clients choose your Silver level package and be quite happy with it because you’ve educated them on the value of your work.

You will sell more of the Silver package, which is your standard offer anyway, because they don’t need to shop around. You’ve done that for them.

Plus, you’ll be able to demand and justify higher fees, and your clients will be more content with their decision and the price they paid for your work.

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11 thoughts on “The Key To Getting The Fees You Deserve

  1. Great post Michel! Offering options is always terrific for giving a buyer context when they consider “worth.” I’m not a proponent of breaking up the pieces of a package (gold, silver, etc) into separately priced components if you mean each “thing” being available a la carte. But if you mean breaking up a project into phases and pricing those as separate components (e.g. phase 1 = research, prep, strategy; phase 2 = execution; phase 3 = advanced execution or assessment or similar), I find that works really well. Especially if you have a hard time getting clients to see the value in the prep stuff. It changes perceptions. Thanks for the great post! My colleagues at http://www.verasage.com will be thrilled to see marketing professionals and copywriters deviating from the hours or words pricing models!

  2. Brilliant Partners

    Hi Michel! Great content!
     
    Quick question on applying this to my situation… I run a motivational youth speaker agency so we get inquiries all the time for our speakers. After we have all the info we need we send them an email with our offer which we give them 2 options.
     
    - Option #1: One speech, 100 copies of SPEAKER’S book, and we pay all travel costs. Investment: $X,XXX
    - Option #2: One speech and we pay all travel costs. Investment: $X,XXX
     
    Internally we call the “first class” option and the “coach” option. Is a 3rd option too much? Does the order matter? Higher price first or lower price first?
     
    Sorry, one more question… their websites do a great job of selling the speaker to get the people to inquire. We don’t put price on the site so they have to contact us to get it. Should we present our offer in an email (which we try to make short) or put it on a one sheet with a bit more copy?
     
    Thanks again for the tips! 
     
    Jason

    • @Brilliant Partners Two options is better than none. Three might be overkill because the service you offer is not an tailored one, like copywriting services where each project is different.
       
      But if you want to test a third option, you might want to try follow-up consulting/coaching session. Some speakers will offer breakout sessions after the speech, or an additional half-hour presentation via video, webinar, or phone, to ensure they implement what they learned during the presentation (say, 30 days later or something like that). That’s up to you.
       
      I wouldn’t put the price on the site. While you may have an stock speech, the audience is different every time, and the keynote might be a half-hour, hour, two hours, etc. So really, every client is different and therefore they should ask for the quote.
       
      Besides, printing the price might confuse if they don’t know what it means. But… I would put the two or three options and explain that pricing has 2-3 levels. Even if you don’t mention the price, they will like the possibility that you offer options beforehand.
       
      Hope this helps.

  3. This is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand, & yea Thanks for sharing the picture it made your post really good and it has great detail in it, i really appreciate your true artistic work!
     
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  4. correct! that’s why I told my friend  Soon Haur – the founder of HAUR Feng Shui Experts and the owner of http://cheongsoonhaur.com/ to commercialize his blog by providing memberships. I asked him to seek advise from you. Hope he’ll contact you soon.

  5. Etienne Juneau

    Good one Michel

  6. Thanks Michel,you really nailed the topic with great tips on pricing.