Have you ever asked yourself …“How can I get paid what I’m really worth as a writer / proofreader / editor / photographer?

Here’s how someone sold a suit to copywriter/speaker Dan Kennedy

Whoa there, Big Boy. That’s a lot of money

We certainly don’t want to hear that, do we? I imagine most copywriters fear this reaction whenever they quote fees. I did, ever so briefly, many moons ago, but then I learned to take responsibility for it, and for preventing it.

A few years ago, I was wandering the Forum Shops Mall in Las Vegas. A Bernini suit in a store window caught my eye, and I went in to investigate. I quickly discovered there were no price tags on any of the suits. When a salesman glided over, I fingered the suit and asked him its price.

He didn’t answer directly. Instead he asked what I did for a living, and a friend tagging along with me helpfully volunteered that I was a professional speaker. The salesman then asked me a dozen questions about that. What kind of groups did I speak for? How large were the audiences? Did I consider myself a performer? Then his curiosity got serious. What kind of fee is paid to a speaker like me?

On being told my compensation wasn’t just speaking fees but book and CD sales, he said

“It matters monetarily then, how you are perceived by the audience?”

While this give and take went on he managed to get me into the suit coat, in front of a mirror, into the dressing room, into the pants, back in front of the mirror. A tailor was summoned and pins inserted.

At least five times I asked the suit’s price without getting an answer. Along the way, he established and commented on my status, the importance of my appearance to establish my authority, the value of each engagement, and the number of important engagements I did a year. He was establishing a context for the value of the suit.

That context was very, very important when I finally heard the price.

It was still the most money I’d ever paid for a suit, but it didn’t loom as large as it would have if he hadn’t take the time to put the value into context. I’ve very much enjoyed owning and wearing the suit. Reflect on my experience. There was much more than artful salesmanship being demonstrated. There was a sense of ‘place’. After all, you expect obscenely high prices if you’re doing your shopping in the mall attached to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

If you know anything, you’ll know if you walk into that store, you aren’t going to find anything you’d consider a bargain. And so, you’ll already have immunity to ‘price-tag shock’, some definite expectation of a high price. There’s timing – a good many shoppers there were splurging in celebration after winning in the casino, or showing off for a member of the opposite sex. I wasn’t, but many shoppers were.

There’s the environment a buyer sees – opulence. And a casino location means there’s a high likelihood the right potential customer will walk in the door in the first place. These days, I very rarely hear “that’s a lot of money” from any new client. Their expectations are already pre-set. I promote the fact that I command high fees and royalties. But I still take great care with context. There is probing and discussion around the economics of his business, so a framework exists for properly valuing the benefits I’m going to create for him. I also build the value list. Each component part of the Project is identified and listed separately.

By the time I’m done with all this, his reaction to my fee is much the same as mine was to the price of the Bernini suit. It’s still stiff. It may very well be more money than he has ever paid anyone to prepare marketing materials before. But the fee is not entirely unexpected. He is not blind-sided by it. The price comes with context.  

What does Dan Kennedy’s story teach us? Can you justify a high fee for what you do? Are you an expert? Is there local buzz that you are “the best”? Do the people you talk business with expect your fee to be high?

Do you explain the benefits you give in a context meaningful to your buyer?

– Dan Kennedy. Reproduced for Educational Purposes.