How To Raise Prices Without Being a Jerk.

Do you work with clients?

If so, tell me if this sounds familiar…

You work with a single client for a while and you realize you need more money. The problem is, you haven’t raised your prices for quite some time, so asking for more money is a very difficult conversation to approach.

If you’d rather find a new client to supplement your income, that’s perfectly ok.

But what you may not realize is this is the perfect opportunity to shift your business model to give you more time, help more people, and ultimately do less work.

How taking on multiple clients could kill your business.

If you’ve ever simultaneously worked with multiple clients  on a “do it for you” model, you know just how unsustainable that can become.

Long hours, schedules that must be micro-managed, emails, phone calls, executing multiple strategies, speaking in different voices, dealing with the same issues over and over again, explaining what you’re doing, why you need to do it, gaining trust so you know how to sell ideas, and just when you believe in your idea more than anything, being told no.

The moment you take on a second client, two things happen:

  1. Your work load doubles
  2. Your attention span gets split in half

Now if you can handle that, more power to you.

Any time you want to grow on this model, you’ll always be multiplying your work and dividing your attention span.

Imagine yourself now with 10 times the workload and 1/10th of the mental bandwidth. Can you do this by yourself and still have a real life?

Probably not, that’s why you hire someone.

But hiring someone means getting them up to speed with your business, teaching them how to sell your ideas, then trusting they’re going to “do it right.” If their services don’t live up to your standards, ultimately it looks bad on you.

So either you run yourself ragged, or you’re lending your credibility to someone else. Neither one is very appealing.

Ideally, you want to deliver your services to fewer people at once without sacrificing quality.

The problem with your sales technique.

How much of the sales conversation do you spend talking about what you can do?

I’m going to hook you up with an online marketing strategy that will make you king of the internet. It’s going to include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube and several niche social networking sites. I’m then going to get your email marketing going so I can point people in different directions to interact with you on every one of these channels.

I’m then going get you set up with a blog that is so SEOified you’ll take up the first 30 spots in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Metacrawler!

While I doubt you say that exactly, think back to the last sales conversation you had.

Did you have a tendency to talk about everything you have to offer?

It’s understandable, you’ve spent a lot of effort generating that lead, so the prospect of a new deal is exciting.

But if you’re wondering how to sell services at higher prices, jumping on your prospective client like a dog in heat may not be the best approach.

What your prospective client hears when you’re “pitching.”

While it seems like you’re impressing them with all of your extensive knowledge of your field, you’re really scaring them away.

They don’t understand what you do. If they did, they wouldn’t be talking to you.

What they understand is they have a problem, and you might be the solution.

What you can do to make it better.

Spend as much time as you can listening to their problem.

Like Kevin Nations would say, think of yourself as a Dr. or a specialist.

Listen to them describe their symptoms, and probe to learn just how painful those symptoms really are to them.

  • Are they losing sales?
  • Are they not getting feedback? Are they boring?
  • Do their s think they’re one thing, when they’re something entirely different?


Listen to what they’re telling you and use bits of what they’re saying to help them realize their problem is serious. Don’t scare them, but help them realize a serious issue should not go untreated.

And just when you want to tell them everything you do, resist, and listen some more.

Don’t live up to their expectations.

What you may not realize is they’re expecting to be sold.

They’re expecting to hear all the wonderful things you can do for them.

They’re going into the conversation expecting you’ll make them feel dumb. They’re just hoping it’s not by some crazy degree.

So by actually hearing their problems you’re breaking their expectations. You’re allowing them to express their deepest fears about their business in a safe environment.

Remember, not everyone does that.

Yes, at some point you have to make an offer.

The best time for you to make that offer is when they’ve fully experienced the gap between where they are, and where they’d like to be.

But even then, don’t inundate them with everything you do.

Make your offer be defined by them and their specific pain points.

If you’ve been patient and spent the time properly diagnosing the problem, something very interesting happens in their mind.

They’re not thinking about how much it costs to fix the problem, they’re thinking about how it’s costing them to not fix it.

Because they’re getting specific solutions to their problems, not a laundry list of stuff they don’t know how to sell to their superiors,your prospective client will be able to more easily rationalize the higher cost.

Will every new person you talk to convert to a high priced client?

No of course not. Some prospects will scoff at the idea you would charge so high. Chances are likely they’ll go with a lower priced service provider and get lower quality work.

But even so, think of the extremely valuable information you’ve gotten from just listening to them one on one. They might not work with you, but it’s not a total loss.

It really helps you help the client who will work with you to overcome their fears that much easier.

When you take the time to fully understand your prospect, you become more than just some service provider.

You become a life saver. And that my friend is worth paying good money for.

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  1. says

    Tommy, that was very well written…

    and if that video doesn’t “anchor” the lesson for me so that I’ll remember it, nothing would. Thanks for the great laugh!

    • Tommy says


      I was going to try and come up with some wordy way to describe what your clients hear, but thought those 11 seconds would be more powerful :-)

  2. says

    Indeed. You wouldn’t unload your entire life story in the first five minutes of a date, so why would it make sense in a business setting?

    Listening is the key to getting any client, higher paying or not. People will tell you what they need… We just need to be ready to deliver the solution. :)

    Well done. Also, happy birthday to your site!

  3. says

    Excellent points Tommy, especially about what happens when you take on more clients (a problem we all would like to have to endure ; ) ).

    Insightful, especially since I know so many (certainly myself) tend to under charge. Lots of reasons for that.

    • Tommy says

      See, you think you want more clients… but grab more than a handful on the “do it for you” model on a full time basis…

      You’ll never see your kids, your wife, or your family.

      With two or three full time clients, there were literally week long periods where I wouldn’t see my fiancee. I’d get up a little earlier, and go to bed way later. I’d say hi for bathroom breaks and whatnot, but even being only 10 feet away in the other room, it was impossible to divide that attention. Of course, that may just be me, but golly is it hard dealing with multiple clients.

      (have you considered putting yourself on a retainer model with companies, speaking of which?)

  4. says

    Tommy, the challenge, I find, is that, when it comes to digital marketing, the proposal process *itself* involves education. Potential clients think they know what they need, but don’t know what they don’t know. I find even the tightest, shortest, easiest proposal requires a minimum of 20 hours of pro bono.

    • Tommy says


      See I don’t do proposals anymore. What I found was that with people who were saying “well just send me a proposal” were trying to get away from the conversation.

      Further than that, they would take the proposal, then try to do the stuff in it themselves and mess up horribly because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. Then when I would follow up with them, they were mad at me because they said “your proposal didn’t work”

      I stay away from the proposal conversation by very simply and very nicely saying “I don’t do proposals, but if you have any questions about how the process works, I’ll be more than happy to explain not only how, but why it works.”

      If they continue to press it, I kindly let them know again that proposals aren’t part of what I do because it does them two major disservices

      1.) It gives them a false sense of security. What I’m outlining works for me with my specific background. I know how these processes work, and how to know where to adjust if something’s not working the way I want it to. It’s possible that somebody else could take it and see some success, but I have and continue to improve and iterate on this basic process I’ve created, and because of that, this process takes proper training. Anyone can fire a gun, but very few could actually call themselves a skilled marksman.

      2.) There are a million other people in my field that claim to do the same stuff I do. Giving you a proposal that you could potentially shop around to other places could be damaging to my business, and opens yourself up to be undermined by someone who is technically my competitor. It’s along the same lines of having someone who is in house try to do what my proposal outlines, the only difference is the other person can look and sound like they also know what they’re talking about.

      Reality is, this online marketing social media stuff is all so new that my goal right now is to help you try to make some sense of this process. If what we’re talking about makes sense to you, than even if you don’t decide to hire me, I want you to walk away feeling like you have a better grasp on it so you can make an informed decision with the person you do hire. There are a lot of people who will promise a lot of things, but few can actually deliver.

      So… this answer has been long winded… but I hope it was helpful, because the day I stopped doing proposals I stopped losing so many deals.

  5. says

    Hey Tommy! Very well done! I can tell you’re writing from experience and a little bit out of frustration ;).

    I just realized something. Do you own Then you put this on a subdomain?

    • Tommy says

      It’s been a long hard road, but using this I closed my first big deal a few weeks back.

      You know, it’s been a year and nobody’s actually asked me that :-P Yes, I own and this is the subdomain for that.

      At some point, I may open up selling subdomains on but I’m not sure I want to do that yet.

  6. says

    I liked what you said about listening – that is so hard to do because it takes time and effort. We are so busy and you’re right, if we don’t listen, how do we really know what the problems are.

    When it comes to consulting I’ve found that a medium price is the best option because it secures longevity. Too low is never good. Too high means the customer can’t afford to keep you for long, and that means you’re looking for new work sooner rather than later.

    • Tommy says

      The next part to this post was actually going to talk about moving to a teaching model, but I felt it would have been too long of a narrative to keep it’s full impact.

      What I’ve found is that by teaching your new client how to do what you do (the way you do it) is the most beneficial for them in the long run. Granted they may be afraid of that, but I was surprised to find out how many people are actually interested.

      The other option, and this is something I’m experimenting with, so keep that in mind, is something called a “jump start” period. For online marketing it’s almost always going to be more beneficial to have someone in house, but you need to start getting results now. So what I’ll do is work with the client for 3 months at a higher rate to get them off the ground, then help them to hire someone.

      When the new person comes on, I drop my rate to something more middle of the road and stay on from a more overarching strategy standpoint and will leave the offer open to travel once a month. This way, they have someone in house, I’ve gotten them to where they needed to be and can vet the person taking over the reigns and I’ve got a steady monthly coming in.

      Haven’t seen you around here before Ted, so I’m very glad you stopped by!

  7. says

    Hey Tommy,

    Great tips. I’ve been having similar problems lately. But I’m definitely beginning to see the benefit of selling by asking questions. Really works very very well.

    Just made a sale today using this technique.

  8. says

    Oh my gosh, I found this article, and the comments so helpful, I actually took notes on it. In the first section, you defined the problem that I am starting to come up against and I have been wondering how to handle. I mean, I do the sales, create the strategies and outsource most of the work, but even with outsourcing the work, I still have a lot to coordinate — many moving parts to keep track of….and I’m always afraid that my outsourcer will not deliver and make me look bad…but beyond that, I am afraid to take on too many clients because I want to have a life! I am a young widow with two small children. For that, and other reasons, my time is more limited than most. I don’t want my children to grow up only seeing my profile b/c mommy is on the computer all the time!
    I am training someone to be my Project Manager now, in the hopes that it will give me more freedom — but I was wondering if there was another, better alternative…I’ll be tuning into what you post next!

    I’m totally with you about the importance of LISTENING first before offering a solutions or a plan. It works. Period.

    I love how you have gotten away from proposals…but I find that prospects want SOMETHING in writing. Do you give them ANYTHING in writing? Like a order form with a list of prices….

    I spent a long time creating a proposal template so I can cut-and-paste what I need and tweak it for each prospect. But it still takes time, which I hate…maybe I should try what you propose…but I want to know if you do give them anything in writing.

    As to “teaching your clients how to do what you do” — I have always thought that is the best in the long run too. I have a prospect who, once we are done designing her site & getting her set up on social media, wants to hire someone in-house to update her website regularly, send emails to her list, blog and do social media. She wants me to stay on to train and guide this person…so I’m looking at the same model that you outline in the comments. But I agree. Even though I was taught, in my training, to try to get the company to let me manage their social media accounts I think that the best person to manage a companies social media accounts is the business owner or a trusted employee. I’d rather teach them to do it properly– I love to teach.

    Anyway, thank you for this great post. I look forward to future posts. I might consider a consultation with you….

    • Tommy says

      Hi Sarah!

      That makes me so happy you’ve found this useful! I’ve done the many clients thing before and being a new father, I enjoy taking my time to enjoy my family :-) Too many moving parts is what kills anyone who works with moving people and the point of all this stuff is to keep it elegant and clean and easy to manage.

      To you question of providing anything in writing… I try to avoid it at all costs… worst case scenario I’ll point them to this but generally will say in the conversation that a lot of what I’m talking about is based on them trusting I know what I’m talking about. If they need to proof I am knowledgeable they can check out my blog at where I update frequently about topics related to the conversation.

      Truth is though, where we’ve spent a majority of the conversation diagnosing the problem, not talking about all the awesome I offer, when I give suggestions, they are very real and practical solutions for specific issues they are having. Proposals don’t usually come up because of the way I conduct the conversation.

      If they are still adamant about a proposal after all everything I mentioned above, because sometimes it’s just like that, I’ll let them know my hourly rate. My proposals and strategies are specific to the business that I might be working with, and a proposal will require me to conduct considerable research into not only their company, but also those competitors. Because I also run a business, I can not dedicate a minimum of 8 hours of my time without monetary compensation.

      It would be lovely to have a chat with you, I do offer a free strategy session to discuss the issues you’re having, but it does require you an application.

      I’m glad you got a lot out of this, and I hope to talk to you soon :-)

  9. says

    I looked at your “This is my online marketing process.” Very interesting. I like how you are positioning yourself as a consultant… I have been taught to “have conversations for free” and charge on a per project basis. I hate the “conversations for free” part and I’ve been trying to find a way around it….

    Anyway, I cut-and-pasted your post into a text doc for me to read and digest more later. I really appreciate you sharing your processes on your blog. I’ll be watching. I’ll fill in that application when I’m ready :-) (But I like your approach to weed out “tire kickers”…I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that too…

  10. says

    Excellent article with a dash of humour, nice food for the frontal lobe. I’ll definitely remember the points you raised here. I’ve done exactly what you’ve outlined not to do in my past client meetings. I’ll let you know how the techniques you’ve outlined work out for me. Thanks for a great article.


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