In July 2015, I celebrated the ten year anniversary of my web design company, Bourn Creative.
The first several years I was in business were hard. I didn’t understand how to effectively run a business, manage projects, or manage my time, and I most definitely didn’t understand how to price my services effectively. I was just a great designer who started my own business so I could spend more time with my family.
I charged too little for my services and as a result I was too successful for my own good. I was overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted.
How was it, that I went from being an optimistic, confident child, who believed that I could charge $1.00 for a small Dixie cup of lemonade at my corner lemonade stand, to an adult who struggled to see my own worth as a designer, and the value of my services? At what point did I stop believing my services were highly valuable?
I don’t know the answer. But do I know that as I grew up, as I dealt with reality, and competition, and judgements, and criticism, and comparison, I started to lose sight of what made me great. I started to lose a little bit of that confidence in myself, and the confidence to price my services according to the value I was delivering.
Kids Aren’t Jaded About Worth Yet
When my daughter, Natalie Bourn, was in kindergarten she taught me a huge lesson in valuing my products and services — and in having the confidence to charge my worth and get it.
It all came to a head toward the end of the school year with the Kindergarten Flea Market.
They had been learning about money in school, earning pennies for good deeds, good citizenship, and good behavior. The end of the unit culminated with a class flea market, where each child brought in a set amount of change and some items to put up for sale.
Natalie carefully went through the house picking out five very different items to sell — things like a book, a toy car, and a large bouncy ball. We put them in a paper grocery bag and sent her off to school.
When we picked her up from school, she ran over to us and was clearly very excited. She stuck out her hand and it was full of money. She had a few dollars in change! She opened up her grocery bag and it was full of toys! Ummm…
As we walked home, she told us all about the flea market. Her desk was her flea market booth. Each student was responsible for pricing their own items and labeling them with prices/signs. When everyone was ready, the students got to shop at the class flea market, spending their change.
All of the kids bright in the same number of items. All of the kids priced their own items. All of the kids had about the same amount of change to work with. So why was Natalie the only one walking out of class with a handful of money and a bag full of toys.
We were confused. How did this happen?
We tried to ask her and she kept telling me the same thing: “I followed the directions. I priced my toys. My friends bought them. I bought what I wanted and I got a present for Carter, and I had this leftover.”
She was quite proud of herself.
When we got home, she went to give Carter his present and show him her spoils, and I went to my computer to email her teacher. Did she accidentally take another students’ money? Did another student not get any toys? Are we going to be in trouble?
Then I got the email back from her teacher.
It began with, “I’ve been doing this for 13 years and I’ve never had this happen in my class before…” All I could think was, “Oh crap!”
But then I read the whole email. I had to read it a few times. Then I made my husband, Brian read it. My entrepreneur-mom heart swelled up inside and I felt so proud of my little five year old.
See The Value And Charge Accordingly
Her teacher shared that most kids price their toys at one cent, and some kids may even price one or two things at five cents, or at the most, ten cents. But Natalie priced her items at 25 cents, after all, she could price them any way she wanted.
I sat down with Natalie and asked her to explain what she priced her items at and what other kids priced their items at. She was honest about the drastic difference in pricing.
- When I asked her why she priced her items so much higher than everyone else, she had one simple answer: “That’s how much they are worth to me.”
- When asked her if she was worried that they wouldn’t sell priced so much higher than other items, she responded, “If I am going to sell it, I should get a lot of money. Otherwise I’ll keep them because I still like them.”
Inside I was cheering. It was a proud mom moment. She killed it.
She completely owned that assignment and earned every one of her spoils because she saw the value in her items, she had the confidence to set the price exactly where she wanted it, and she she stuck to it and didn’t lower her prices.
She effortlessly did in one day exactly what I had been struggling to do with my business — recognize the value in my products and services and price them accordingly.
I was inspired. My five year old was kicking my butt at pricing strategy. She was able to recognize worth and I wasn’t. That day, I knew things needed to change.
- I needed to admit that I was undercharging for my services to get a yes every time because it felt good.
- I needed to raise my rates to align with the scope of work and value that I was delivering.
- I needed to get more confident and comfortable selling and asking for money.
- I needed to stop negotiating with myself and giving discounts without even being asked.
It was a tall order, but if my five year old could do it, I knew I could do it too.
What about you?
Do you or have you ever struggled with your own worth or seeing the value in your products and services? Has pricing your products, programs, or services ever been a challenge?
I’d love to hear from you!