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Changing the Pricing Conversation with Clients


I want to tell you a story, though maybe that’s the wrong word since people tend to think of stories as made up. This is a true story, inspired by real events.

I get WooCommerce Questions

If you hang around this site enough, you’ll find that I’ve written some posts about WooCommerce. It’s a solid platform that I’ve used a decent number of times. But since I have a full time job, I don’t often take on work that comes to me via the site.

Instead, what often happens is that I send people over to a WooCommerce consultant I trust. That said, he’s been pretty busy lately (I hope from the traffic I send his way). So when I received this contact form, I read it to see if it was something quick I could solve.

The Question I get Most

The question was interesting so I wrote back. And that’s when the question came in:

“What’s your hourly rate?”

By now you know I don’t use that as a metric for a job (especially if you’ve read this eBook). So I did what I do, and I explained three things:

  1. People often prefer a fixed rate for fixes

  2. The real question is one of value, not time

  3. Value is in the eye of the beholder

That said, I didn’t use those words. If you try to use my approach but use the word “beholder,” trust me, you’re finished.

Finding Value when Talking about Pricing

So the client wrote back and explained that she didn’t know the value because what if it was a quick fix? What if it was only 30 minutes? Should she really spend more than $30, she wondered.

I wrote back and simply asked her to evaluate the condition she was in (their e-commerce store had stopped taking orders) and what it was worth to investigate and see if it could be fixed quickly.

Shut Up & Wait. Learn to Listen.

Now this is the turning point in this kind of conversation. If you cave and just give an hourly rate you’ll never learn what the client really values. You need to stop talking. Get comfy in the stillness of being quiet. And learn.

In this case the client came back and said they valued it at $300. Notice the jump? That’s ten times the original amount. And it was nothing I ever stated.

It was a value she was happy with.

Now this fixed amount was focused on diagnosing the problem and fixing it quickly if it could be fixed, and in this case it could.

Just the Start of Negotiations

In another case this past week, it couldn’t. I had to circle back to the client and tell him what the diagnosis was, and that more work would be required. The new amount? Three times the initial amount he’d established. Again, because without it, he was unable to take in orders.

Now, maybe this is all a function of commerce sites, but I don’t think so.

I think the reality is that people feel better when they can honestly assess their own value and make an offer. After all, nothing says you have to agree to it.

Had someone come back and said they wanted me to look at an issue for $20, I would have gladly offered them an alternative (message boards elsewhere).

My Encouragement to You

The point of my post is to encourage you. Don’t just talk about an hourly rate because that’s the question posed to you. Instead, redirect the discussion to one that focuses on value – both you and your customers will be happier.

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