Price vs Value: How to Set a Rate That Earns You More Money


Pricing is always a big question when it comes to writing for a living. Do you write for free to build a portfolio? Do you set a high rate and post it to your website so visitors can pre-qualify themselves and any who can’t afford the high rate automatically go away, never to bother you with their penny-pinching budgets?

While these are important questions, more consideration goes into pricing than these. You must determine just exactly what it is you offer and whether there is a market for it. Assuming that you have a market for what you offer, then it’s important to determine typical rates. But it’s not necessary to set your rate simply based on the typical rate. The typical rate is there only as a guide, so you know what buyers are paying. Your rate can be vastly different from this, depending on how you position and market what you do.

For instance, let’s take two writers. Both are ghostwriters. One charges $5,000 to write a book. The other charges $50,000. Vast range, right? Surely the $50,000 writer will lose out to the must less costly $5,000, right? Wrong. Here is why.

These writers must look at the prices they charge based on the value their clients attach to the work. Is the client looking simply at paying the least amount of money? Or is the client looking at gaining value from the product? What will the product be used for?

You will find in many instances that a buyer who has attached value to the product will be willing to pay the higher rate, in exchange for better quality and thus, better value.

I’ve seen this myself. We recently signed on to ghostwrite a book for a client who is building a brand. We submitted the highest quote but he went with us because of the value he knew we could bring, though he had several other service providers who had quoted him rates. We focused our conversation on our expertise, ability to understand what he needed, and results. We were able to show him several finished projects we’ve helped clients create that have enabled them to articulate their thoughts, ideas, and research. They have been able to raise awareness, funds, etc., with their books.

When Pricing for Value, It’s Never About the Basic Work You Do

We didn’t talk to this potential client just about interviewing him and transcribing his words and sending them back to him as a so-called manuscript or book. We talked to him about what we would do, which went way beyond simply getting his story down on paper. We would help him craft a message, build a brand, and create a product to reach his target market. This book would be a key piece of the brand he was looking to build. So to him, it wasn’t just about hiring someone to write his story. It was about hiring someone who understood his story and his goals, who could craft the right book. We showed our value. Based on how he executes his marketing and branding efforts, the value he receives from the book we help him create can go well beyond the dollar figure we charged him.

When you price for value, it’s not about whether you can do the same work that everyone else can do. That’s a given. It’s about what makes your work better. It’s about your quality of work.

So when you set your rates or create a quote, consider the full scope of what you do. Many writers have fallen into the trap of believing people will not pay for what they do. They feel they must give it away for free or offer it for ridiculously cheap rates. This simply is not true. But it’s up to you as a professional writer to set yourself apart. Show your potential clients why you are different and why you are worth the higher price. Show the value of what you do.

Pricing for Value Means Taking the Time to Understand Your Client

To show the value you bring, you’ve got to understand your potential client. It’s not enough to know that this person needs you to write a certain piece. What will he or she do with the piece? Why is this piece important? What does the person hope to gain by having this piece written? When you know the answers to these questions, you can price according to value. That is why one writer can price a certain project at $100 and another writer can price it at $1,000.

You don’t have to compete as the lowest-priced option. You can compete as the best option, or the writer who creates value. When you look at your work in this way, it frees you up to focus on doing really great work for clients who understand and appreciate your work, rather than simply hunting around for anyone willing to pay you two nickels.

Are You Willing to Do the Extra Work to Earn the Bigger Dollars?

But before you can make the leap from competing to get the most clients by being the cheapest thing out there, you’ve got to examine what you do and how you do it and see where the value is in what you do. Do you have extensive experience that lets you understand what your clients need? Do you have a process that makes you more efficient, thus saving your clients time? Do you work in a way that allows you to provide more services than others doing similar work? Do you help clients create a product whose mere presence increases the clients’ stature and enables the clients to increase their own earning potential?

Pricing for value requires a higher commitment from you as a service provider. After all, you are asking people to pay you more than they can pay a competitor, and there has to be a reason for that. It’s not enough simply to charge more. You’ve got to be worth more. And finding where you are worth it, is the thing to separate you from the pack of other writers offering similar services, but with no concept of the value they bring.

In our case, our extensive experience, efficient processes, and understanding of the marketability of books to help clients build businesses are all elements that set us apart. We are not merely ghostwriters, helping people tell their stories. We help clients create products that happen to be books, that will help them increase their stature, build brands, increase credibility, and more. We aren’t the most costly option out there, but we certainly aren’t the cheapest. If clients are looking for the cheapest options, then they aren’t looking for us. But if they are looking for the best option to help them produce the business or inspirational books they need on the way to their goals, then there is a good chance we are exactly what they need.

Are you ready to price your work at a rate that helps you make a living as a writer?


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Monica Carter Tagore

Monica Carter Tagore is an author and business strategist. She helps authors, freelancers, solopreneurs, and other small business owners brand and market what they do. A former journalist, she launched her writing business in 2002. Her writing business has grown into a training and education company for business growth and personal development.