Lots of people have opinions on whether to post your rates online. In many businesses it makes a lot of sense to make your rates available. When comparing products, people want to be able to do that comparison themselves. They compare features, prioritize which benefits are most important to them, and then use the pricing to get a sense value amongst the choices. There's a whole bunch more going on in terms other purchasing behaviours, but that's the general process.
Knowledge work is different, though, which means that the vast majority of freelance practices don't benefit from posting that information online. You don't get that benefit because posting rates online short-circuits a more rational evaluation of your services.
Congratulations, Freelancer! You're now a commodity.
As a freelancer, when you post your price online, you're communicating that you want to compete on price.
Price-based comparisons are about commodity. Things that can be cheaply made and traded. Cost becomes the most important factor in determining either fit or profit. So you've just entered the race to the bottom that so many other freelancers get stuck in. Is that what you wanted?
A healthy freelance practice competes on value, not on price. This means that you need to solve specific and important problems for your clients. Problems that they're willing to pay top dollar for. Comparing that kind of work is difficult. There's a few things a client needs to understand before they can evaluate you and other choices.
- The client needs to understand the precise problem they're looking to solve. Often they don't understand their specific problem until they speak with you or another freelancer more.
- You need to work with the client so she understands how you're going to solve the problem. Again, there's some information you can place online for this, but most of the super high-value work is going to require conversations. Yes, plural.
- You need to communicate your particular value to solving this problem. Not in terms of price, but in terms of the financial benefit your client will gain from having the problem solved. The generic copy on your website is not generally going to get into enough detail to do the job on its own.
In all of these points, the common thread is that further conversation must happen in order to complete the deal. Here's how pricing buggers that up.
Quick, now throw in the pricing monkey wrench!
Let's lay down a bit of a scenario. Your prospective client visits your site, and starts to think you might be a good fit for the job. She sees your portfolio, sees you have the experience solving the types of problems she has, and she thinks she's ready to contact you.
And then she notices the RATES link on your site and goes to check that out.
"Oh, dear. That's a lot per hour," she says to herself. "I can hire someone for half that."
Or maybe: "He only charges per day? But what if it only takes him a couple hours. That's expensive."
Once this happens, there's a few things you miss out on telling her.
- Because you have experience solving her exact problem, what would take her 'employee' ten days to fix will take you a couple hours.
- You can't hire an employee to fix just that one problem.
- Daily rates aren't suitable for all jobs.
But the minute you put price up there, psychologically she's already making the decision that the price won't work. You have no way to refute it. A small number of prospects will continue through and contact you, but if you have rates posted on your freelance practice material, then you are leaving thousands of dollars/pounds on the table. That money could be yours, if you just left price to be the last part of the conversation.
So when is posting your price okay?
You're right, you're right. This article was supposed to be about that one time where it is okay to post your rates.
The answer is in situations where you are, in fact competing on price. Where you can make all those other factors visible and let your prospective clients sort through and evaluate equally. Because in the scenarios above, you can guarantee that there's one person your prospect is talking to who is doing it right, saving the money conversation for the end, and getting your business.
So what freelancing situations are price based? Gig-finding sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and others where you don't have an opportunity to sell your value as well in lead-up conversations. In this case, price is one of the differentiators, so you might as well get out in front of it and create advantage from it. RFPs are another potential way, particularly where the initial conversation is limited.
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