UPDATE: Be sure to read the follow-up post about being a commodity.
This is one of those questions asked by newbies in the biz that is asked almost as much as “Can I use popular music in my videos?” My general answer to this question is “It depends.”
If you are a lower priced service provider where pricing is one of your selling points, then yes. If you are a higher priced creative that caters to a clientele looking for quality, and your competitive advantage is not tied to price, then in general I say “no.” Understand that there is no right or wrong answer to this.
I am familiar with all the reasons why you may want to put your price if you’re in the high end. The main argument is that you don’t want to waste your time talking with people who can’t afford you. IMHO, it’s worth the extra phone calls or emails with those prospects to get the few of them who decide to hire me after they get to know about me and my work, but who otherwise might not ever pick up the phone or shoot me an email if they saw my rates online. There have been a number of times in my business where clients hired my company and admitted they originally had no (or very little) funds allocated to video. But after seeing my work and getting to know me, changed their mind and ended up investing significantly. This was more of an issue when weddings were my main gig. Since commercial work is the majority of work I do, there are no “packages” or other similar services I can list like a menu on my site.
There are ways you can mitigate the “looky-loos” without wasting too much of your time.
- Email templates. Have an email template with some standard questions that you can send to prospects after they send you that proverbial email, “How much do you cost?” Don’t get mad at them for asking this. Often times, that’s all they know to ask. Use the email template to engage them and learn a little bit more. Get them talking/writing about their event/project. I like to follow up with the question, “I’d love to give you an idea of how much you can expect to invest, but first tell me a little bit about your [project name here].”
- Phone scripts. If you get phone calls from prospects, have a script similar to the email template. Again, you want to engage them and show genuine interest.
- Be confident. When you do get around to divulging your rates, make sure you do it with the utmost level of confidence and assuredness. If you sound wishy-washy, apologetic, or unsure of yourself, you risk losing the sale or not getting what you’re worth. A savvy buyer can smell your uneasiness and use it to negotiate you down to something you’re not happy about.
- Have 2-3 referrals ready. If the prospect does decide to pass on your services due to your rates, have at least two other colleagues you can refer them to. This is good because 1) you ensure they get passed on to someone you know will uphold the quality of standards necessary to maintain a level of respect of your field (this was important in the wedding video world because so many brides get cheap, bad video, the whole industry gets hurt), and 2) helping out a specific colleague(s) builds your network and what goes around comes around.
- Do NOT meet with anyone before they know the minimum investment. I can’t express this enough. Do not have an hour long+ meeting with a prospect only to find out at the end of your meeting they can’t afford you. Make sure anyone who comes to visit you for a lengthy first meeting has an idea of the minimum amount they can expect to invest in your services. After you’ve built a rapport via email and/or phone call, give them the minimum investment amount. By then you can be confident that you’ve established that you’re more than just a price on a website.
I know some of you like to have starting prices on your website. Personally, I think you shouldn’t do that either. All for the same reasons I mentioned about.
If you do decide to exclude your rates from your site, please don’t have a link on your website that says “Rates” or “Prices,” but then don’t show them. That is so frustrating to a prospect. If you don’t have your rates on your site, don’t lead people to believe you do, only to have them find a note that says, “Call for rates.” If they like what they see on your website, trust me, they know to call or email you.
The one time I think there’s an exception to this rule (which isn’t really a “rule” per se) is if your sources for clients is strong enough that you don’t need to entertain prospects that just happen upon your website. If you’re getting more than enough business than you can handle from your networks and/or past clients, then it really may not be worth any of your time to dilly-dally with someone who may or may not hire you just because they get to know you.
What do you do and why?