Whenever I visit a shop or stall and see something I like, I ask the price. Usually, the vendor will bring the item down, hold it in a better light, and extol its superior virtues. It’s a good sales tactic, but it makes me nervous. The more the seller praises the item, the more I’m convinced I can’t afford it. It’s almost like he’s justifying its impossible price – before he’s even told me what it costs.
I feel the same way when I bump into a hotel website and would like to sample the services, but I can’t find any estimates. Instead, I find a phone number, and when I call it, I spend endless minutes (and airtime) being told everything but the cost of a room. I suppose the assumption is that if I could afford it, I wouldn’t need to ask.
When you’re working online, you may wonder about whether or not you should have your prices out in the open. Sage salespeople will tell you never to mention money until the buyer is hooked. Make sure your prospective client is so impressed that they will pay whatever price you quote.
I find that doesn’t really work on the web, because there’s so much scope and variety. Unless they like what they see, your client will be looking at your site for mere seconds. It seems unfair not to lay out your terms right from the start. That way, when a client gets in touch with you, you know you have a serious prospect.
The next challenge becomes what exactly you should charge. There’s no sure-fire way to do it. I once sat down to write a quotation for a client. I had a complex system of per-page billing based on word counts and time-shares that had me charging him 5,000/= for a high-end security website. After my complicated calculations, I decided 5K was too little, so I added a 1 before the 5 and sent off the invoice. The client never called back.
Wondering whether I had made a major gaffe, I called some friends who did similar work. They all felt 15,000/= for a website was massive undercharging, claiming that they billed their clients anything from 50,000/= to 200,000/=. I’m not sure what that prospective client ended up doing. He may have written the content himself, or got his high school nephew to do it.
For me, it was a lesson well learned. It’s not about how much or how little you charge – it’s about being transparent and consistent. When you have your rate card plainly listed on your website, your client knows exactly what he’s getting into. He might still think you’re overcharging him, but at least he won’t feel you hiked the price based on his outfit, office space, or mobile phone model.
I’ll tell you what someone told me about choosing your price range. Think of your ideal salary. Figure out how long it will take you to finish that task. Then divide your ideal salary by 22 to figure out how much you should earn in a day. Divide that figure by 8 to average your hourly earning. Then calculate the cost of the task based on how many hours (or minutes) it will take. Of course the downside of this method is that you have to finish the task within the set time, but at least you’ll be a lot more organised.
You could work it out the other way round, multiplying your ideal salary by 12 to get your annual figure, then dividing that by 40 to see how much you should earn in a week. Then you can base your rates on the volume of work you can get done in a week, assuming the task takes 7 days at the very least. But for math haters like myself, it sounds like an awful lot of work. A handy shortcut is to use an online rates guide like this one. You’ll still need some conversions, and it’s a tad generic, but it’s a good place to start.
Anyway, after months of procrastinating, I finally created a rates page on my website. I’ve used it to bill a few clients, but as clients often do, they think I’m overcharging. Meanwhile I’m tempted to review everything and add a 1 before every figure. Or maybe I could multiply the numbers by 5. Either way, I’ll let you know how that goes once the first client pays…
Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.