Why Some Copywriters Get Paid More (Or: The Art And Science Of Pricing)
By Chris Orzechowski
What an absolute clusterfuck.
Before you become a business owner, or a freelancer or a service provider (or all 3)… you look at the whole pricing thing through a different lens.
You go to the store, pick up an item and say “Oh, this is just the price of this thing.”
Unless you’re a psychopath, there probably isn’t much thought into the intricacies of WHY that thing is priced at that level.
Or why this one is 12% more than that one.
But when you enter the world of freelancerpreneurship, you start to realize that pricing is both an art and a science.
And while there is a very concrete process for pricing out your services (the science)… it is also a completely abstract, irrational and a made-up process that has no discernable rhyme or reason (the art).
I went on a mission to figure out this whole pricing thing. Here’s what I’ve learned so far along the way…
What Really Determines The Price Of Something?
I read a book last week.
It was called All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin.
It’s an incredible read and really gets into the abstract part about the lies we tell ourselves to justify why we buy anything.
Case in point, below is an excerpt where Seth is talking about the magic behind Coldstone Creamery:
Here’s the part that really stuck out to me:
They understand that people pay five or ten times the price of supermarket ice cream because of the way the experience makes them feel, not the ice cream itself.
Of course, this is just one example… but if the ONLY reason we bought things were because of utility or price… we’d all be driving Toyotas, using single ply toilet paper and shopping at Walmart.
And we know that that’s simply not the case.
There’s something else going on here in our brains when we decide we want something.
Price is never usually the first thing on people’s minds.
In fact, we will rationalize all day until we can come up with enough reasons for why the price of something was “worth” whatever it was.
And therein lies the secret.
When you’re pricing something out… are you providing enough reasons/rationalizations to back up what you’re asking for?
At the end of the day, that’s all it really comes down to…
The Day I Finally Understood How To Win The Pricing Game
A while back, I joined a program where I learned all about the “process” every copywriter has to go through to work with a client from start to finish.
The goal of this program was to help systematize, automated and streamline “my process” as much as possible so that I could not only earn more money, win more clients, get higher fees… but also so I could work less hours on each project, become more efficient, and remove myself from some of the day-to-day so I could finally wear the “entrepreneur” hat instead of spending all my available time being the “technician” (or the guy who “does the thing”).
The program I’m referring to is Abbey Woodcock’s The Business Of Copy (It’s completely changed the way I work… and she’s helped me to raise my prices, a LOT).
Soon after joining, I tried a little experiment with an upcoming client.
Instead of just going back and forth over email trying to nail down a time and then just hopping on the phone with him… I decided to change things up a bit.
I always knew that “people want what they can’t have.” And I knew that the guys at the highest levels (guys like Frank Kern, Dan Kennedy, Jeff Walker) all have serious hoops you have to jump through if you want to get their time and attention.
I look at my own process and realized that there are NO hoops anyone had to jump through. I was very easily accessible.
In fact, early on in my career, if you showed the promise of copywriting work to me… I’d drop everything I was doing to try to get you on the phone and spend an hour talking to you.
No wonder why I wasn’t able to charge much. Clients didn’t see me as someone who was in-demand, or important, or whatever.
They just saw me as another shmucko freelancer who was a dime-a-dozen.
So anyway, back to my little experiment…
This time, I made this client jump through a few hoops.
The first thing I did was I made him “apply” to speak with me.
All great service providers had an application, but I didn’t. So I corrected this issue. After he filled out the application, he automatically received a link to schedule a spot on my calendar – but ONLY during my available times.
What this did was it completely flipped the power dynamic back in my favor.
No longer was I seen as another “needy” freelancer.
Now, I was a PRO. And the only reason I say that is because PROfessionals have PROcesses.
So… did it work?
I knew that when I was on the phone, I was going to test out my newly raised fee schedule. And to me, it didn’t really matter whether the client said yes or no to this particular offer. I just wanted to see how the phone call went and his reaction when I dropped the price at the end of the call.
I wanted to see if the power really was in my favor.
As soon as I got on the call I told him our call would last 30 minutes.
(That’s what I do with all my new clients. I set the expectations right from the start. I control the flow and the frame. I set the pace and the tone of the conversation. These are ALL things you need to do if you’re going to be successful at closing deals over the phone with people you’ve never shaken hands with).
I asked him my script of questions that gradually found the pain, threw some salt in the wound, and then got us calculating numbers and potential ROI.
Then, I dropped my price. And his reaction kind of shocked me…
He said: “Chris, as soon as I got on the phone with you I knew I was dealing with a pro. I also knew that you were most likely a lot more expensive than I could afford. Your whole process, well… it’s a lot more professional than any of the other copywriters I’ve ever met…”
I thought to myself:
“Damn, all I did was systematize some stuff I used to do manually.”
And obviously this client said no. But it didn’t matter… I didn’t go hungry that month. I referred him to another writer who was more affordable and they lived happily ever after.
But isn’t this kind of crazy?
If that guy talked to me one week before, BEFORE I placed all these barriers to get to me, would that conversation have went the same way?
Pricing is completely irrational. And that’s a good thing.
We don’t determine price by any rational means. We determine it by the way we feel as we’re going through the buying process.
Do your clients feel like they’re being taken care of?
Do they feel like they’re in the hands of a pro?
Or do they feel like they’re dealing with an amateur?
Seriously, answer that question. This stuff matters.
The Science Of Pricing
There is a “science” to this whole pricing thing.
And I’m not going to go too deep into the weeds, because I will admit – although I am on a mission to become a world-class expert in the field of pricing… I am definitely not there yet.
I’m constantly looking for new ways to understand this science.
One of the big gaps in my knowledge got filled when I invested in Branko Mijatovic’s Learn To Quote course.
The real magic behind Branko’s approach is that he breaks down all the factors that need to be considered when determining a project quote.
Did you build in the cost of taxes?
Did you build in the cost of PayPal fees?
Did you build in a “profit” for yourself into this quote?
Yeah, I’ll admit it.
I never thought about ANY of that stuff.
I just said to myself, “Well… I’ll just charge a little more than last time. I think I’ll be OK to pay my quarterly taxes next month…”
There is a science because as a writer, your time is your money. But you can’t just pay yourself for the time worked. You have overhead and expenses.
And all of these factors come into play when you’re figuring out “the number.”
You’re running a business here. And if you’re flying by the seat of your pants on these things, then the guy or gal who knows their numbers is going to find a way to eat your lunch.
The Art Of Pricing
This is something I WAS aware of for a long time. It just took me a while to really start practicing what I knew.
While you do have to understand the nuts and bolts of arriving at your number for any project, there is another factor.
There’s the art of pricing.
And this is completely subjective and irrational and makes absolutely no sense. But once you understand THIS… you’ll be able to raise your prices to astronomical sums.
The reason I started thinking about the “art” of pricing was when I looked at Dan Kennedy.
I said to myself, “Why does this guy get $100K+ to do a marketing campaign… while I’m struggling to charge even 10% of that for the same amount of work?”
Now as soon as I ask that question, there are a LOT of obvious answers to come to mind.
“Well, Chris – you idiot – he has books and courses and seminars and years of experience and a wait list and products and he does consulting and blah blah blah.”
So I said to myself:
Why don’t I have those things? And what would happen if I DID have some of those things?
Think about it this way.
Let’s say you charge $1,000 to do X.
And you’re struggling to get it.
So you come out with an online course that teaches you how to do X. And you sell it for $600.
Now, all of a sudden hiring you do just “do it for me” for only $1,000 sounds like a steal! And you can very easily raise your prices.
Did anything concrete change in the value that you’re delivering? Not at ALL!
X is still X. But now you’ve placed a price anchor in people’s minds.
Does it make any logical sense? Of course not. But that’s just how our brains work.
I thought to myself… how else can I anchor my fees?
What else can I do to build up Chris Orzechowski so he’s not just another copywriter?
These are the questions you have to ask yourself, too.
Because until you do, you’ll always be stuck charging what you’re charging now.
Why Some Copywriters Get Paid More
The reason why some copywriters get paid more is because they understand that pricing is an art and a science.
It’s both rational and irrational.
It makes perfect sense from a numbers standpoint, but also makes no fricken sense at all.
This is good though.
Because price is malleable.
We all have no idea what anything is really worth.
And we’re just waiting for someone to give us the right reasons so we can rationalize why we just paid X for Y.
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