How Much Do You Charge? The Arbitrariness of Pricing for Services

The best answer to the above question, of course, is how much can you pay?

Is a press release for which a client pays its writer $300 necessarily better than a release written for $50? Is web content for which I pay $10 a month necessarily better than that which I obtain free? Should I have to pay that serviceman who comes to my house the minimum $85 hourly fee if he solves my problem in two minutes? No, no and yes.

When you pay a premium rate (such as for the $300 release), you are not only paying for the current output, you are also paying for training, experience and track record. You are paying for the comfort level you enjoy from knowing you have hired someone whose work is more likely to yield a positive outcome.

Because of their enterprise reporting and overall writing talent, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times can command payment for their online content. But can a person be relatively well informed without paying to access their web work? Yes, certainly.

Can my neighbor Ron help me with water heater pilot light issues? Yes, he can. (And he has done so.) But for more serious problems, I call an experienced pro.

A veteran free-lance writer was recently asked to rewrite an article to be published on The Atlantic’s website. He was told that he would not be paid, but his work would receive good exposure. He chose not to do it and complained publicly.

When services are given away, they are, in my experience, frequently undervalued. My pro bono PR work, for example, extensive in the past, is now limited because some organizations fail to appreciate time spent and results achieved.

Fees are not always determined by market conditions or by an etched-in-stone rate card. As indicated above, the best indicator of a proper fee for services may be a client/customer’s budget. My cousin, who owns a same-day dentures company in Alabama, bases his fees on a patient’s ability to pay. It works well for his patients and for him.

The discussion of pricing for services is one that is likely to be ongoing. But if customer/client and service provider are both happy with the work and the fee, that’s a good indicator that the price is right.

Happy spring break! Next post here on 3/25/13.


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