A reader wrote:
"I work with people in the area of self-development and life improvement and [when I think about the right price for it] I feel like I should be doing it for free. I have been a successful and very well paid Graphic Designer and have no problem taking money from Corporations but when it comes to individuals and their hard earned money... boy, that's a different story. I am working on this and I know it comes down to how I value myself and what I have to teach."
Yes, how you value yourself and what you have to offer has a lot to do with price setting. But there is another piece: how you value your customers and their ability to decide for themselves what they need to learn and how much they want to pay for it.
You see, underpricing and undervaluing your work devalues your customers (clients, patrons, etc.). It suggests that they need something (your help) that they cannot afford. Under the guise of care of compassion, under-pricing sets up a co-dependent and manipulative relationship with people you haven't even met and who (if they are not in a position to afford and apply your work) are not in the market for what you are selling.
Imagine having a conversation with someone about your work in which you:
• Are aware of how much you like your chosen work;
• Feel free to talk about what you do from the perspective of what excites you (not from the perspective of persuading someone to buy it);
• Are completely comfortable talking about fees and other charges because what you charge provides you with the "energy inputs" you need to deliver your best work;
• Have such profound respect for the other person that it never occurs to you that they "need" what you offer or that they have expectations of you that they are not able to express for themselves;
• Love that your job is to do what you do and take care of you;
• Love that their job is to do what they do and take care of themselves;
• Ask them to buy as naturally as if you are inviting them to a party because you can see it's such a good fit.
Robert Schuller asked, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
I'm asking you, "What would you charge if you knew you could not fail?" Readers, notice where that question takes you. To grandiose fantasies of sky-high rates? To indignant defense of the right of the poor to enjoy your services? Or?? And then ask yourself why, knowing you could not fail, you would charge anything but the right price or fee?
A good deal of knowing and charging the right price comes down to distinguishing among what Byron Katie calls the three kinds of business:
• my business
• your business
• Reality's business (also known as God's business)
It is easy to tell if you are in your business because you feel grounded, whole, and peaceful.
When you are in someone else's business, you feel isolated, hurt, defensive, afraid (but, to use a Katie-ism, only 100 percent of the time).
Any time you are in someone else's business, you are trying to manage their reality. In the best-case scenario, this leads codependence. In the worst, it leads to war. Most often, it creates an awkward, unbridgeable gap between you and your just-right customers.
When you base your price setting, selling strategies (or lack thereof), or behavior on what you think others think of you, you are in their business. Even if they appear to have invited you to be there, if you hold them to be whole, capable, and competent adults, the appropriate response is to graciously decline and stay in your own business, the business of noticing how much you need to charge to do good work with the people for whom that work (at that price) is a blessing.