On Pricing Your Work

Investing in your writing elevates it from hobby to art.

When you learn to paint, you might use watercolors from the drug store, or a "student" palette. You want to try things out, see if you like the process. When something clicks, you improve the quality of your materials, and your practice becomes art. When you begin writing, you just push all the words on the page, desperate to get them out of your head. Over time, you learn about editing, about form and process, and your writing improves with this investment. Your hobby becomes art, and those scribbles become your message to the world.

It's hard to sell your work online. 

One of the biggest challenges to having an online business that sells services -- as opposed to tangible goods or even digital downloads -- is pricing. Showing potential customers the value of your work is difficult when you're offering them something like editing a manuscript or co-creating a personal ritual practice. These are services that rely on having an experience, and conveying the value of experiences can be a challenge in digital interactions.

We have visceral responses to content, to images, to the tone of everything we encounter online. Cultivating those responses is key to online marketing. But for some of us, myself included, creating those experiences is the foundation of our business -- and so too must it be the foundation of our marketing.

We all feel things

I admit: I've struggled. This isn't a "5 ways to get rich quick" kind of life. Providing services through an online platform has been the biggest risk and the greatest adventure. It's also something I work on every day. And a huge part of that work is pricing. How do I show the true value of my work -- something that often happens in intangible ways -- while meeting my right clients online?

I'm currently offering a 12-week writing intensive. When I created the course, I sat down and built a syllabus and a schedule for the entire experience, to be clear on exactly what I'm offering and how much I am investing in this product. I reached out to my accountability partner Alisha, and to a few other friends and colleagues who have experience with online work. I wanted to run one thing past them: the price. After factoring in all of my time to create the course, and my weekly output, as well as knowing the number of students to include, I came up with a number that barely covers the cost of my time but is on par with other course offerings of this magnitude.

And it felt too high.

Everyone I spoke with asked me how I got the price. I shared my math, and they nodded in agreement. Once they saw how much of my own energy is going into the intensive experience -- including over 20 hours of live group calls -- they felt the price was too low. But when I asked them how to convey this to potential participants, we all shook our heads in uncertainty. Without writing boring, bullet-point sales copy that will drive away even the most interested party, I haven't found a good way to market the workshop and share all the incredible things that are part of the experience.

A few people have come to me and said, "I'd love to take your class, it's just too much." I've had potential editing clients go through the introduction process, have me do a sample edit, and when the quote for a full manuscript arrives, suddenly they're not ready for the project. As writers, we fall into a trap that is all too common: we under-value the importance of an outside perspective and assume we can do all the editing ourselves, and when we sell a piece or a book, we expect the publisher to handle any additional edits in-house.

I believe in personal investment.

When you choose to invest in your art, in the craft of writing and in the quality of your work, your work improves. others begin to see more value in your work. You get published more, and in more reputable places. Your manuscript might win a prize, or be purchased by a publisher. Investing in workshops, cultivating your craft, and hiring a professional to read and edit your work are steps to get you closer to your goals as a writer. Maybe there is a book burning in you, waiting to be released. Maybe you've got a series of poems written and aren't sure how to make them a cohesive manuscript. Maybe you just want to spend your time writing better work, and ready to jump-start that process. 

Wherever you are as a writer, investing in yourself and in your growth is key to success. It's why I spend money on books, on conferences, on resources designed to help me become a better writer and a more skilled editor. It's why I take online workshops with beloved writers -- because I believe in honing our skills and improving our craft.

Some tools I've used to keep my pricing in alignment with my business vision include:
Breaking the Time Barrier
Intentional Pricing 
Creative Legacy Check-In from Esmé Wang
Get Paid for Being You from Laura Simms of Create as Folk

All of these are free or low-cost resources for getting yourself into alignment with what you charge for your work -- whether you're a writer, an editor, or the most bad-ass dog walker around (see Breaking the Time Barrier for this reference). 

So, I'd love to know: how do you decide something is worth the financial investment for yourself? When do you choose to spend versus pass?