When you start out, it can be really, really hard knowing how to charge for your work.
Do you pull a number out of thin air? Or do you work out your cost + projections + deductions + profits x headaches produced by lefty-brained logistics = perfect price?
This isn’t just about pricing your work. This is about every time we need to put a number value on our work. You don’t have to be an artist to have this question. Maybe you’re a healer. Or a coach. Or a massage therapist, a babysitter, or a designer. Or any sort of business owner, really.
So let’s circle…. And talk pricing.
Let me tell you how I learned about pricing.
Once upon a time, I didn’t sell my artwork. I gave it away.
Whenever anyone mentioned that they liked my artwork, I gave them some. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone. Even relative strangers!
Why did I do this?
Because I thought it was the nice thing to do. Because I loved making the artwork, and wanted to share it freely. Because I was uncomfortable with putting a price on my gifts.
All of the above is true.
I felt okay about the whole arrangement – but I had little bits of sadness about it.
I felt a little used up by it.
And I was sad when I felt I hadn’t honoured my paintings properly.
I felt like I’d just given away my babies to families that I wasn’t really sure about.
I was starting to feel in my soul that maybe this wasn’t the right way to do it anymore. Like there had to be a better way for me, for my spirit, and for my art.
The words that changed me
As they say – when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. One twilight, I was driving back from a labyrinth. It had been my first outing with my women’s circle, and I was bundled up in the back of a car with my two mentors in the front.
Deb turned to Ellanita and said:
“Leonie’s been having problems charging for her artwork. I told her you would be the right one to speak to about that.”
Ellanita is beautiful – silver white hair, wide blue eyes. She turns to me, and asks me:
“What is the problem Leonie? What are you charging right now?”
I blushed. I stammered. I used to do this when caught off guard by honesty.
“Ummmm…. Nothing. I give my art away.”
“And why do you do that?”
“Because it’s…. easier. I don’t have to think about it then. If people want it, they can just have it.”
Our headlights glowed along the stretch of road. We were driving through a large paddock, kangaroos and farm houses and old trees visible through the soft light. Ellanita began to speak, and I listened.
“You must charge for your art. In everything – everything – there needs to be an exchange of energy. An equal one.
One that fills me up. One that fills you up.
If I give you a massage that nourishes and sustains and relaxes you, I ask you for money to nourish and sustain my life too. We must both be involved in the exchange, otherwise it is one-sided. We must both be invested, so we both receive value.
If I do not allow you to pay money for my service, I do a disservice to myself, but also to you. You must contribute too, in order to be fulfilled. You will value the things you pay for more.
And my life will be better because I have helped your life be better. And your life will be better, because you have helped my life be better too. If you choose to ignore this exchange, you are doing both of you a great disservice.
Everything – everything – must be an equal exchange of energy. It is sacred. Money is the manifestation of energy. Money is sacred too.”
Since Ellanita spoke those words to me years ago, my mindset has been changed about money, and charging for my gifts and services. It is continually being tweaked, changed and evolved, as most things in life are.
As we evolve, so do our attitudes and insights about the things around us and in us.
Pricing practically + joyfully
On a practical level, make sure you include all your costs, then work out whether the profit number sustains you.
Don’t make the mistake I did years ago when I was still selling art prints. I put together a Christmas special where I forgot to include the cost of the tube I was using to send the artwork. In the end, I lost $4 for every print that I sold.
That profit number obviously didn’t sustain me!
Now, running a million dollar company, people think that I don’t have to worry about pricing, or work on myself around that.
Your pricing will change. It will likely need to increase in price over time due to:
- increased demand
- increasing scope of support
- increased experience
- increased running costs
- changes in exchange rate (i.e. buying in US dollars at the moment is a kick to the nuts for Australian businesses).
How I’ve shifted my pricing
When I first started the Academy (originally called Goddess Circle) 5 years ago, it was $99 a year. It had, I believe, about 2 or 3 e-courses (?) in it, and some meditation programs. We started out with 150 members. It was hosted on a cheap Ning template website. I had one part-time assistant at the time.
Five years on, I’ve raised prices twice to be $497 a year. It now has 60+ courses in it, 2500+ members + a dedicated team of 3 full time staff and 6 part time contractors plus me – 10 all up. We’ve custom built an incredibly powerful website from the ground up, with super cool functionality (including being able to tell how far you are through courses!) Back in those days, my monthly running costs were about $500 a month.
I’ve increased prices as I’ve increased courses, infrastructure + support in the Academy (i.e. the base cost of producing the Academy). My monthly running costs now are about $30 000 a month.
And I also increased prices to be more selective with clients. My gut feeling was that someone who was only spending $99 a year on a membership site wasn’t heavily invested in getting the most out of it. I wanted instead to be working with people who were more invested in doing the work, implementing, and making full use out of the Academy.
Sometimes it’s better to have slightly smaller numbers of the right clients, than it is to have higher numbers of a mixed bag of right clients and not-such-a-good-fit clients.
It’s not always easy to raise prices
It can feel incredibly scary. I remember the first time I knew I had to raise prices, I had a panic attack! I was petrified of making that much-needed increase.
Things that help when it comes to raising prices:
- surround yourself with a fantastic mastermind to keep you motivated
- increase your marketing skills (get better at copywriting + communicating the benefits + results of what you offer)
- clear yourself energetically (Hiro + Kerry)
- consider having a low-priced entry product that allows people to begin to access your work
- demonstrate experience + results (with testimonials + case studies)
So there you have it dearest…
A look back at the Leonie who sadly gave artworks away, and how I learned to respect and honour the energy exchange that we all conduct when we buy from each other. I’m so much more able to stay clear on price, and what I will and will not charge – what does and doesn’t feel like a clear energy exchange.
I know pricing can be one of the scariest things we face in business, and yet we must find a way to profit so we can continue to share our gifts sustainably.
P.S. Want more support around pricing, marketing + doing business the smart, savvy + soulful way?
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