#178: Command Higher Fees by Putting Value on the Table

Most of us leave a ton of money on the table when quoting client work.

This is no small thing! Commanding 20-40% more per project could have a huge impact on your business and your life.

Think of the freedom it would give you!

So what’s stopping us from asking for more?

Sometimes we fear we’ll price ourselves out of the opportunity.

And sometimes we make incorrect assumptions about how clients make their decisions.

But very often, we fail to frame our value when quoting client work.

We don’t show the value of choosing us over doing the work in-house, choosing someone else or not doing it all.

Here’s how most of us approach the process:

  • The client wants to know how much you’d charge to do XYZ.
  • You quote $X based on a variety of factors.
  • The client decides yes or no.

But with this approach, your quote is just a number. It has little to no context.

Which makes it hard for the client to determine whether it’s worth paying you $X to get XYZ.

In this episode, I’m going to show you how to put your value on the table. Because by providing context for your quote, you can greatly influence the prospect’s response.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

The Hotel Illustration

Let me illustrate with a non-writing example.

Pretend you’re planning a Florida beach vacation. You start shopping for hotels.

Hotel A is $100 a night.

Hotel B is $300 a night.

Which one do you choose?

It’s impossible to say because you know nothing about these hotels. You have no context.

You need to understand what each hotel has to offer. Do they both have a pool? Room service? How recently were they renovated? Where exactly are the located? How highly are they rated?

In other words, how will the two experiences differ?

Because if you go with Hotel A (the cheaper option) you will miss out on the experience of Hotel B. What will you be giving up?

Also, what’s the risk of going with Hotel A? What if the hotel screws up your booking? What if your room isn’t ready when you check in?

If you make the wrong choice, it can negatively impact your vacation experience in a big way.

Price isn’t everything.

And your clients face the same conundrum when deciding whether to hire you.

Stop giving your clients just a dollar number for projects. Give them the right “value context.”

Visualize a Dining Table…

Here’s a different way of presenting your value to prospective clients.

Visualize a table. You’re on one side of the table and the client is on the opposite side.

They need help with a project. So you ask questions to understand:

  • Why the project is important to them
  • What it means to them to get it right
  • What’s at stake
  • What they’re looking for beyond good writing
  • The risk of getting it wrong and having to start all over with someone else (or having to fix it internally).

These questions go way beyond “How many pages?” and “When do you need it?”

Instead, you strive to understand what the project really means to the client.

As the client answers your questions, their answers stack up in a pile on one side of the table.

When they’re done, you address their ideas and concerns. With each response, you create your own imaginary pile, which stacks up next to theirs.

You’re essentially saying, “You need XYZ. You need to get this result. You need the process to go smoothly. You can’t afford to take the risk of missing the mark. Here’s why I’m your guy….”

You finish by taking out a sheet of paper and writing down a number — your fee — and placing that sheet face up on top of your pile.

So you end up with two piles on the table:

  • What they need, why it’s important and the risk (and cost) of getting it wrong.
  • Why you can meet that need, give them the results they want AND drastically reduce the risks. On top of that sits your number.

Then (and only then) can they make a good decision.

You’ve uncovered their true needs and risk aversion …. and then matched your skills, experience and track record to their needs and concerns.

In other words, you’ve put your value on the table.

And that’s a much better approach than having them ask for a price and you giving them a number — with no other context.

Implementing This Idea

Start asking better questions in your discovery calls. Ask questions that help you uncover desired results, value AND the risks of getting its wrong.

This process helps the client!

When you ask good questions during the discovery call, you help your clients crystalize their needs and clarify what they’re looking for.

Plus, asking good questions makes you look good.

Highlight what you have to offer and map it to their needs. Highlight your relevant experience, track record and results. Match this information to what they’re looking for. Show them how everything you say maps out to what they need.

Quote a little higher than feels comfortable. When you do this right, you’ll be able to command higher fees AND land work at those fees.

Propose a pilot project. When the opportunity involves a lot of work, reduce their risk further by starting with a pilot project. This allows them to get to know you better. This isn’t a good strategy for every project, but sometimes it makes sense.

Recognize that clients are under pressure. Clients don’t have time to conduct a massive search for a writer. They’re under as much pressure as you are. They WANT to say yes! Give them a reason to do it!

So don’t just quote a number.

After all, you wouldn’t book a seven-day Florida beach vacation based on price alone.

So don’t ask your clients to do the same with your services.


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