Price Yourself Into New Business By Amy Lorenzo

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A price sheet – a list of specific projects and their costs – is a handy tool for any writer. Creating one prepares you to give “back of the napkin” estimates. And, any experienced freelancer knows that when a prospect calls about a 400-word blog article, you can often win the business by providing an immediate answer when she asks “What’s it going to cost?”

That’s great when reacting to inquiries, but did you know that a price sheet can be highly effective for proactive marketing? Here’s how.

A Menu of Services

Imagine wandering into Alice’s Restaurant. The d»cor doesn’t hint at the cuisine, and no menu or daily specials are offered. A waiter asks what you’d like. How do you respond?

You may order a burger or lobster bearnaise, but you’ll be left wondering, is your choice a chef’s specialty? Will it resemble fast food or haute cuisine? And how much will the check cost?

The point is, without a menu for guidance, the process is unsettling.

As writers, we often put our prospective clients in a similar position. Let’s face it, many business owners don’t know a marketing copywriter from an online communications specialist, but they do know they need a website that dominates on Google. Presenting a menu of options in the client’s terms makes purchasing creative services less intimidating, especially for individuals unaccustomed to working with writers.

Here’s where a price sheet can work to your advantage by:

+ Making your services ready to order. McDonald’s makes it simple to get a #7 with a large Coke. Although you aren’t a McWriter, a price sheet makes your services just as accessible by presenting attractive, pre-packaged deliverables the client can buy.

+ Communicating areas of expertise. A selection of handmade pastas screams authentic Italian. In the same way, a menu of white papers, case studies, and e-reports positions you as an information-product expert.

+ Setting a price point. Who wants to step into New York’s famous Masa thinking it’s a TGI-Fridays? A similar dynamic applies to freelancers. Clients often screen candidates based on cost, but hourly fees don’t tell the full story. A marketing director who deemed $100/hour outrageous may come knocking after seeing that copy for a tri-fold brochure costs “only” $300.

+ Generating ideas. Do you order the same bagel and coffee at the local cafe? Business relationships can also get in a rut. For a longtime client who sees you as a proposal writer, a price sheet with affordable entryways into social media could spark additional work.

Marketing Your Menu

For freelancers who hate pushy tactics, sending out a price sheet is especially attractive. There’s no self-congratulatory copy or intimidating sales calls. Simply compile some representative projects (maybe current client favorites plus a few areas you’d like to break into), estimate the time required for each, and multiply by your desired hourly to figure a price or price range. Then, send your “menu” to existing contacts via email or snail mail, along with a cover note. Something as simple as “Wanted you to have my updated pricing information…” or “Check out my new blog rates…” is all you need.

If you’re sold on the price sheet idea, how do you maximize effectiveness? Let’s again consult the restaurant menu for guidance.

+ Keep it short. The best restaurants are selective about their dishes. Be equally choosy, and focus on your true specialties.

+ Group like with like. Appetizers, light fare, sandwiches, desserts. Menus have headings to help diners navigate the options. Do the same with your price sheet, perhaps highlighting website development, social media, print collateral, or other subdivisions.

+ List your inclusions. If a side salad is $1 more, a restaurant menu will say so. Define your work products similarly. You may want to cite a maximum word count, number of revisions, or other parameters stating what the client is getting for the money, and when extra charges will apply.

+ Create an attractive layout. The graphics needn’t be complicated, but a clean, easy-to-read layout is best. If emailing, PDF will preserve the format across platforms.

The Next Step

Some writers will protest that it’s impossible to price every iteration of their services. They do websites, blog posts, brochures, direct mail, press releases, and more. Any project could be 200 words or 2,000, with extensive research or without, include graphic direction or not, and so on down the list of variables.

To these skeptics I say: remember your last fine dining experience? How the waiter described a dish’s preparation in tantalizing detail, suggested the perfect wine accompaniments, and happily subbed steamed broccoli when polenta wouldn’t do.

The menu wasn’t the end of the sales process. It was the beginning.

Use your price sheet the same way. Offer an enticing array of creative products that compels a prospect to reach out to you. Then, be your own waiter, consulting and customizing until she can picture a social media strategy as tempting as a dark chocolate torte. Soon, your services will be just as difficult to resist.

Amy Lorenzo has transformed the writing life into full-time paradise. A freelancer with more than 15 years of professional experience in corporate, marketing, political, and technology writing, she’s worked the last decade from a sailing catamaran based in the Bahamas. You can read about her adventures aboard with a husband and several ferrets at tendervittles.net.