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Lessons in price talk

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Today's guest post is from Stacey Morris, of Focus Copywriter, who specializes in writing web content. She learned a good lesson about how to answer pricing questions that I thought everyone would be able to benefit from.

For anyone who struggles with cold calling…yet another lesson learned last week. In fact, three lessons.

It started well. A web designer responded to my inquiry email about the copywriting for his clients’ sites by asking for my prices, which is pretty common.

And what does Ilise tell us to do when someone emails a question about price?

She says “CALL THEM.” Cockily drowning out my coach’s voice with my own assuredness (after all, this was going well), I wrote back with an estimate for the job and attached a rate sheet.

Two hours later I got a response from this web designer. I can’t write it down verbatim because I don’t want to use profanity, but this guy was pissed! Apparently, my ridiculously low estimate was way above what he had in mind.

Now, I know it’s never personal with these things. But “Troy” didn’t seem to value my profession (copywriting) nearly as much as he valued his (web design). So I emailed back politely explaining that “copywriters help bring qualified motivated visitors to the beautiful sites a designer builds. Copywriters make sure that the business owner is getting the right message across to the right people. And good content leads to happy clients, which leads to more referrals and more work down the line for the designer.”

I didn’t say that there are plenty of gorgeous websites floating around in cyberspace that no one ever sees and plenty of frustrated business owners turning to WordPress in revenge.

He kept up the virtual sparring. Why were my prices so high when he could have the job done at one-third the cost? Why did I think I had any business charging “exorbitant” rates during a recession? “Gee,” he ended, “You must be a REALLY good writer!”

We went on like this – back and forth — for a bit, until I finally decided I had wasted enough time. But in analyzing it all later, I realized I had learned a few lessons.

  • Anytime I get an inquiry regarding price, I will pick up the phone. It’s so easy to email, but voice allows more exploration and feeling out of the prospect. Also, it reminds both parties they are talking to actual human beings.
  • Focus on my target market. Cold calling is scary at first and I think it’s good to practice with some “lower-level” prospects. But at some point you have to fish in deeper waters. Troy was far from my ideal and I knew from his bargain basement site that he probably wouldn’t be interested. So why did I waste the time?
  • It’s never the price. I’ve been chastised repeatedly by mentors and coaches for charging too little. I won’t discount my profession or skills by competing with Indonesia.

Of course, Ilise keeps trying to drill these lessons in, but sometimes the child has to touch the hot burner for herself.

Have you done something like this recently? If so, what have you learned?

  • More in: Guest Mixers, Pricing & Marketing

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