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Why Your Clients Want To Pay You More

A few years ago, I was prepping to release my most ambitious project to date: Double Your Freelancing Clients.

As a self-made entrepreneur, I was used to doing most things on my own. I code my own site, write my own content, do most of my own designs, and more. (Majoring in graphic design, then switching to computer science, and, finally, the Classics has really paid off.)

But video was something I knew little about.

And like with most things I know little about, I immediately dove in and read up and watched everything I could. I learned about Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, cameras, lenses, and more.

Fortunately, I quickly realized the mistake I was making.

I tell people all the time to delegate out work they either don’t have the time to do, aren’t uniquely qualified to do, or just don’t know. “Spend a lot of time researching and experimenting” isn’t a viable strategy at this point in my business.

So I started reaching out to local videographers.

I met with people, most of whom did freelance filming and editing outside of their day job. Meetings took place at coffee shops, where I led the discussion and the freelancer I was speaking with would ask few questions, nod often, and never once really asked my why I cared about filming five hours of video.

The local who I thought had the best chance of getting this done quoted me $18 an hour, and figured the total budget would be around $1,500.

I thought he was joking.

For the last decade, I’d been doing web programming using Ruby. The going rate of a Ruby developer is often over $100 an hour, and it has been since I started. $18 an hour seemed abnormally low-ball.

Was something wrong with this guy? I actually thought this. I legitimately believed he was either 1) completely new at this, and was offering me a rate that would ensure he won the project or 2) wasn’t serious about the project.

Neither scenario did it for me.

I needed to make sure that this went off without a hitch. I was planning a big launch sequence and knew that I’d be bringing in multiple six-figures of revenue. If this freelancer screws up the project, I’m back at square one.

I had more at risk than just money. I had my time and reputation on the line.

I then reached out to someone from my list, a recent customer of Double Your Freelancing Rate, named David.

When he originally got word that I was working on a video course, he said he’d be happy to help. But he lived a few states away, and the idea of hiring someone to film you seemed like something you should do with a local. I initially passed.

I reached back out to David. Something just didn’t feel right.

The freelancer I had been speaking with was having a hard time staying in touch, and even though I knew he had a full-time job, I was starting to feel a bit iffy about the prospect of working with him.

We started chatting again, and here’s the email that did it for me:


2016-09-23 at 10.52 AM

What set David apart was that he wasn’t just concerned with his craft.

He wasn’t trying to get me to hire him to film and edit my video course. Instead, he was telling me that his chief concern was in helping me to build a better product.

David wasn’t afraid to let me know that he would cut a recording and tell me that I was losing him by going off on some weird tangent.

Nor was he afraid to ask me about who the target customer was of this course, what preconceptions they had about sales and marketing, and what I ultimately wanted them to get from watching my course.

He knew that I was more interested in creating better customers than I was creating better video courses.

By looking at his craft as being a tool that could get me from where I was now (having a list of people, many of whom had zero or half-baked sales funnels) to where I wanted to be.

A great video course was just a means to an end, and David knew that. I knew that.

But everyone else I spoke with didn’t, and were mostly concerned with the technical details of filming and editing.

This is why I paid David 15x more than everyone else wanted.

David was offering me a better product.

He wanted me to create a better, more impactful video course.

Think about the work you do, and how you typically present yourself to clients. Do you think of yourself as a designer of designs, a programmer of machines, a writer of words, or something else?

Do you sometimes forget to step back and look at the big picture, and realize that your value is more than the going rate for freelancers like you — if you would only stop focusing so much on what it is you do and start looking at what effect you have?

I want to pay editors who help me sell more books.

I want to pay designers who help make my brand look more trustworthy and approachable, thus driving more sales.

I want to pay coders who understand that what I want is a better, and more foolproof, user experience.

I want to pay coaches and consultants who help me figure out what needs to happen to get my business to the next level.

And, speaking as a client, I’m not alone. The reason you might not feel that you’re worth charging more is because you aren’t thinking about offering a better product.

  • What comes to mind after reading this is: David already knew what you were about. He was (and probably is) excited by your products and their impact, and had a good idea what your needs were and how to deliver on them.
    The locals just treated it like a commodity.

    • This is definitely true. But that doesn’t mean the locals couldn’t have spent a little time asking me about _why_ I wanted this project done and what it means to me / my business.

      • Therein lies the distinction between a contractor and a consultant.

        • David C. Marshall Jr.

          That’s an “aha” moment for me.

      • Don’t know if the locals did any research, but it wouldn’t take much time to figure who you are and what you’re all about. Even that little thing would have set them apart from the low ballers.

  • Great dissection in the art of client courtship, which is essential to closing large dollar deals. Essential reading.

  • This is great stuff, but… what if you don’t think you CAN “Help make your client’s brand look more trustworthy and approachable, thus driving more sales.”

    BTW I purchased your course but haven’t taken it, because I don’t think I have this kind of “marketing sense.” I used to easily get $100/hr just to be a designer. No more. I’ve been trying to find a different way to earn a decent living, because I don’t feel I have the ability to see how to design a project to help a client be more successful.

    Looking forward to your thoughts!

    • Louise, think about the context that surrounds most design projects. If a client wants to pay you to redesign their website, are they paying for a pretty design or to do something useful, like boost their sales? Most likely, the latter. That’s what clients want, and design in and of itself doesn’t do anything for a client.

      Here’s an article I wrote that talks about a few skills that every freelancer should learn, if not master:

      • Sorry for just seeing this. Your assumption is that every designer can think with a marketing mindset. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve spent the past few years trying to learn how to market my own business… I can’t, and am just not interested in, how to design a website to improve sales, get more leads, whatever. This is the huge problem. Mine, anyway 😉

  • As a fellow video producer this is so great to hear. Thanks for being candid and reminding us that there are clients that are driven by value and not cost.

    Also, those local guys you met with… they’re “videographers”. David on the other hand is a “video producer”. In the industry those terms are very accurate descriptors of what you experienced during your search.

    • See, I didn’t think I needed a producer. I just wanted someone who had good equipment to film and edit. Anyone could have given me that, what set David apart was that he realized it’s not in MY best interest to hire someone to just do that.

    • David C. Marshall Jr.

      Video producer— I’ve never thought of myself like that; it makes a ton of sense. This really helps me to see what I do in a new light. I appreciate your comment.

      • You’re welcome David! Anytime I work for agencies or larger clients, they are looking for a video producer that handles the project like you did here. Anytime I hear that somebody is looking for a videographer nine times out of 10 it’s somebody that either doesn’t have a real budget, or is someone like Brennan in this case that essentially needs to be educated and then up sold on the value of hiring a producer instead.

        In my experience, finding someone like Brennan that initially is searching for a videographer, but then totally buys in on the value of hiring a video producer instead is very few and far between, so great job!

  • Princess Clemente

    Great post, Brennan! This is one of the most important concepts that I have learned from you that has helped me become a better business owner. So much appreciation for the work you do!

  • Isha

    Great article! I’m over the moon happy that I’m in the right place with the right people! Everyone in the Academy is pushing to levels way past their comfort zone and are finding sweet success from it! Thanks Brennan for all that you do!

  • David C. Marshall Jr.

    Brennan, it was super awesome working with you, and hanging out with your stellar family. I really do believe in your work. It changed my life and I want the same for everyone else who has the cajonas to get out there and do amazing work and be successful at it.

  • Marian Edmunds

    Brennan, couldn’t agree more.
    I find this with writing (and editing) too. If someone insists upon an hourly rate quote it will never be a good fit. The basic skills such as correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation come as standard. The value is in listening to the person’s intention, thinking about their audience in telling that story.
    There are some projects (very occasionally 🙂 where I earn thousands for writing 400-600 words. But it’s what required to get to those words and how they bring to that client what they need. Example: This might be words for a beautiful picture book or storyboard that goes toward winning a major project for an architect. The words are selected very precisely with every one having a reason to be there and there will have been collaboration to get there.
    There are times when the complete package is essential to our work.

  • Vilx-

    One one hand, I totally understand what Brendan is saying here. He’s actually repeating the same thing in every blog post, so by now the concept is pretty clear. 🙂 And I agree with it too – you should totally look broader than just the task assigned, and instead of blindly delivering the client what he wants, you should figure out what it is that he needs and convince him about it.

    However, David’s email also nicely illustrates another aspect, something I cannot bring myself over, a shift in mentality I find difficult to accept (and I believe a lot of others too). Perhaps it’s a cultural thing?

    I’d like to apologize to David in advance for anything offensive I might say below. I’m certain you’re a stellar professional and great guy, and are actually doing everything correctly. As I said, this is more about me and my perception, rather than anything you did.

    The thing is, to me, David’s email comes across as very… how to put it… suspicious. Like he’s trying to worm himself into Brendan’s better graces; buttering up to gain trust; etc. There’s a slimy, marketing-y, dishonest feeling to the whole piece.

    And this is because instead of talking about the upcoming project, he’s focusing on how great he is and how awesome everything will be if you hire him. And also about how awesome Brendan is and how great his work is. It’s a bit more veiled than that, but at the core, that’s all I can see there. Not a word is said about the actual project until the very last sentence. Just loads and loads of social grease.

    There has been more than one video I’ve turned off after the first minute, more than one book I’ve put down after the first few pages, because the author just couldn’t stop going on about how awesome HE is (and how stellar his advice will be, presumably after 20 more minutes of boasting), rather than actually getting to the point.

    And yet, from what I’ve read in this blog, I understand that such vague, rosy, marketing-y conversations are exactly the right thing. I do believe they work too – they’re built on some pretty solid psychology there (praise your client, praise their ideas, praise your own work – get them to feel good). But I just can’t shake the feeling that… this… isn’t… honest. You’re not selling your actual product, you’re selling warm feelings and pretty words.

    I like to damper the expectations until the project is completed; start the boasting after it’s done (if there is anything to boast about); etc. Better have results that exceed the initial estimates, rather than ones that fall short. Better come across as too humble than too proud.

    Where is the mistake in my thinking?

    • Peter Konc

      It´s definitely not only you. I have the same feeling from all of these “praising”, marketing-like e-mails. I just dont take it as an honest ones (even thou I believe they sometimes really mean it). It´s like when you calling with sales rep of SAAS start-ups / Ad agencies. They are all pumped and on every question you ask they reply “Awesome question”..even thought “what is you pricing” isn´t the most creative (and first) question they ever recieve.

      Also agree with your last part. It´s great to show client the “big picture” but I also rather keep the low profile at the begining. After you build initial trust, then start with big plans. If you start too soon, it might just look like you want more money and you not even start your first task.

    • Karl N

      I agree with you personally, yet I see these same patterns in the most successful people. Here’s why: David understands this is a sales conversation, not a personal/friendly chat, so he is focused on persuasion and aligning goals. David demonstrates an interest and understanding in what Brennan wants to achieve, shows motivation and determination to succeed, and qualifies himself as the best one to make it happen. With the goal of selling Brennan on his services and making Brennan’s resulting product a success, this strategy makes Brennan so much more at ease that he’s willing to spend more as a result. Again, it’s sales (and persuasion), not a random friendly chat.

      • Vilx-

        Exactly. This is sales and persuasion. So why did something that so obviously looks and feels like a marketing spiel inspire trust in Brendan, when it does the exact opposite for me?

        • Karl N

          My guess is that the amount of money that was on the line (for the success of Brennan’s project) tends to make people less objective about such decisions, and need more reassurance/confidence.

          • Vilx-

            Hmm, perhaps.

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