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People aren't paying for your time. They're paying for theirs.

A phone call where someone’s paying for my time

Today I got on a call using Clarity – the service where people schedule a call to talk to me and get answers and advice.

I had an idea of what the guy was going to ask me about because he had put some notes in our call details.

Since people pay by the minute, and I’m not the cheapest of all Clarity folks, I like to get right into things.

“Tell me what’s going on. How can I help?”

He took two minutes to describe his challenges – dealing with a particular eCommerce issue requiring both a subscription service and physical shipments, but with multiple shipment destinations.

I listed and asked him what eCommerce plugin he was using, because I already knew he was working with WordPress and a plugin.

When he gave me his answer, I knew right away where his challenges were likely to be.

The real issue, according to him, was that he wasn’t sure if there were any solutions out there at all that would do what he wanted.

In the next minute and a half, I answered him, directed him to some solutions and highlighted what he needed to build out his site.

The entire call, my shortest ever, lasted a few seconds more than three and a half minutes.

But they weren’t really paying for my time

The reality is that my 3:35 minute phone call cost the caller $25.

But he wasn’t really paying me for my three and a half minutes.

He was paying for something else.

Some people like to say he was paying for my experience. I think they’re mostly right.

But I think it goes further than that. Because while he did appreciate all my experience and expertise, he wasn’t motivated to spend time learning all about it.

He wasn’t calling me to chat. He wasn’t calling me to share with him all of my experiences and how they taught me things.

He was calling because he was motivated by something else.

He was really paying for his own time

My take on this whole thing is really pretty simple.

I think he really paid $25 because he was motivated to not pay $500.

Which one of us wouldn’t take that trade-off? $25 instead of $500? Sure!

What he was really paying for wasn’t my time. What he was really paying for was the saving of his own time.

He was motivated to not waste another single minute of his own time (or money), chasing down all the alternatives.

He wanted an answer so that he could skip the entire process and go on with his life.

That’s what he was paying for.

The takeaway for you

I’m telling you all of this for the simple reason that I think it’s easy for you to get confused about why people are paying you.

It’s easy to fall into the trap where you start believing that people are paying for your time.

I don’t think they are.

They’re paying you to help them accelerate their own. 

So when you price your services, especially if you’re in a world where you’re charging by the hour (or minute), make sure your rate reflects the net benefit your customers receive from working with you.

Make sure you’re taking into account how much time you’re saving people by eliminating all the paths they might (or are likely to) take that are incorrect.

You’re likely worth so much more than you currently think you are.

This is why I’m not one of the cheap folks to talk to on Clarity. I know we won’t go long, but even if we did, I know I’m saving people tons of time and cost.

I’m giving them back their time.

And that’s what they’re really paying for.

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