Branding and positioning

Sidestepping The Gatekeepers

By Brennan Dunn

The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasters talk about some of the differences between podcasting and hosting a traditional radio show.

He was almost giddy at the fact that he was, as he put it, “un-cancelable”. No one, but his listeners, could put him off the (virtual) airwaves. And even they couldn’t do that.

But when he worked in radio, he was subject to the whims and wants of advertisers, producers, station owners, and the rest of the supply line that connection him with his audience.

This made me think of something I’ve been thinking about recently. The other week, I hung out with some business-y friends of mine after a conference, and we were talking about how our culture’s wired us to move through an endless series of gates to get anywhere.

In order for us to get into a great school, we need to first be accepted by an admissions committee. After graduating, we need to appease a hiring manager to get a job. We’re taught that to do just about anything, we need permission to be let in.

I like to call this the Gatekeeper Mentality.

Now that I’ve gotten back into consulting, a lot of people have wondered how on earth I’m able to justify charging upwards of $20,000 a week.

“Who let that guy in?”, is the underlying question. “How did he get his clients to pay him that? What Gatekeeper let him through, and when will it be my turn?

My issue isn’t as much that people are wondering that — I admit, my rate is significantly higher than most of my peers who have, on paper, similar skills (Ruby, Rails, HTML, CSS, copywriting).

The problem is I’m being asked the wrong question.

No one’s asking, “What kind of value is Brennan producing that makes his clients willing to pay him $20k a week?” — this is the right question to ask.

If you want to make more money, figure out how to deliver more value — not, “What’s the market rate for what I do?”

If you want to get more clients, find out where people who have problems that you can solve hang out — not, “What do I need to write on to get clients?”

Don’t live your life and run your business as if you need explicit permission from someone or something. Build an amazing business that’s centered on you providing tremendous amounts of value to your clients. In exchange, you’ll be rewarded with clients who respect you, clients who want to work with you and you alone, and clients who might — just might — be willing to pay you $20k a week (but first, you need to figure out and communicate why they’d be silly not to).