Are You Charging Enough? Learn from My Mistake

Charging Enough

When I was a kid I used to sell friendship bracelets on the playground. No joke. My entrepreneurial adventures started young. And my friendship bracelets were the fucking best. Obviously. (I don’t do things by halves, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

I did your basic plait, your mermaid beads, the er, zig-zaggy one. Fuck, I don’t know what they’re all called. Anyway, they were awesome.

There was another girl who sold friendship bracelets on the playground too. Her name was Carly. In fact, I stole the idea from her.

I hate to brag, but her bracelets sucked in comparison to mine. That was my game plan. To make better bracelets so I could sell more than her.

She used wool. I used beautiful glossy thread. Her colours were like… beige, brown and shit. I had all the colours of the god damn rainbow, and then some. My bracelets were made to order. Ready at the end of playtime. I’d even tie them on your wrist for no extra charge.

So did I sell more bracelets than Carly? Hell yes, I did. Of course I did.

But there was one fatal error in my business plan. I decided to undercut Carly. For absolutely no reason. I wanted the cool kids to buy from me, and I thought having lower prices would make that happen. Fortunately my costs were zero (thanks Mum!) so all the money I made was profit. But man, I could have made so much more.

See, Carly sold her bracelets for 5p each. Yes. Five pence. And I sold mine for a mere tuppence. I sold my fucking awesome bracelets for 2p each. Less than half of what Carly was successfully charging. I now know that I could easily have charged the same as Carly, and probably more. I could’ve priced my bracelets at 10p, and I bet I still would’ve sold them. Let’s do some maths!

Suppose I sold ten bracelets per day at 2p each. That would’ve been enough to buy me a packet of strawberry Hubba Bubba on the way home. Yet by selling my bracelets at 10p each, I still could have afforded that delicious delicious gum by making just two sales. Do you know how much time you can save when you only have to make two bracelets instead of ten? And how much more material you have left at the end of the day?

If I could go back in time and talk to 9-year-old me, do you know what I’d tell her? Well, I’d probably tell her not to cross the road until the school bus had moved off, because drivers are stupid assholes who like to overtake at inappropriate times and mow little kids down. But then I’d tell her to charge more for her bracelets. She probably wouldn’t listen though, because she’s pretty pig-headed and always thinks she knows best. But I’d try.


Moral of the story: if you’re fucking good at what you do, you can charge more. And you definitely shouldn’t charge less.

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    1. My business at school was selling ‘lemonade’ (sherbet dissolved in tap water in whatever vessel I could find knocking about that day). But I had older cousins at the same school who were well hard, so I had a monopoly. That must be the East End business model.

    2. Another lesson here: you wanted the cool kids to buy your bracelets, and probably would have had more success at that goal if you’d charged more. The sad truth is that cool kids want the expensive bracelet because it’s more expensive.
      As freelancers, our clients like to know they’re getting good content. What’s a great yardstick for that quality? How much it costs, of course. (Okay, actually that’s not a good yardstick at all, but it SEEMS like it is. Especially to people who are too busy to actually suss this stuff out.) Sometimes raising your rates can make you appear more desirable to your target customers.

      1. I like your comment a lot. We all want to know we’re getting our money’s worth.

        I think it’s less about pricing relative to the market, and more about pricing to the value of the service you provide (which is what Karen is talking about).

        So if you focus all of your efforts on ramping up your service, you can charge more and provide more value to your clients at the same time. Your confidence in your skills increases, and you grow professionally.


    3. Nice one Karen. I was charging myself out for peanuts for far too long (I once took on a one page copywriting job for £7), it took me a while to realise that my clients didn’t want cheap copy but rather QUALITY and most accepted the price increase. The ones who complained, well who knows where and what they’re up to now.

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