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The pain of pricing.

November 7, 2013   |   25 Comments


The other day I wrote a blog post called Self-Employed: Three Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me. The response told me that the growing solopreneur subclass shares many concerns and issues. For example, when we look at each other, it seems that everyone else has got it together while we do not. This is often untrue. (But not always.)

It seems there is a need to discuss what really goes on behind the impossibly perfect FB posts (“Sitting on my veranda in Hawaii, exhausted but happy after teaching a sold-out workshop, sipping a glass of wine and loving my life. You?”) and perky-spiritual tweets (“The Dalai Lama promotes absolute compassion and so do I!!!!”).

One thing I see in myself and others are complex and often undeclared feelings about selling. I will be the first to admit, I HATE TO PROMOTE MY STUFF. It is just so embarrassing. First, I have to write about what is so great about me. That just feels weird. Then I have to get it in people’s faces and somehow divert their attention from whatever they were just doing. Then I have to talk about how awesome my offering is and why. Then I have to enlist my solopreneur friends by asking them if they would please, if they feel like it, if it won’t trouble them, if Mercury is not retrograde—tell their peeps about it. Next comes the issue where self-esteem meets bookkeeping: figuring out what to charge and putting it up for sale. Finally, and most difficult: figuring out how to stay cool with myself when people pony up (I’m awesome!!) and when they don’t (no one likes me…), both singularly unhelpful reactions.

There are three sales personalities I’ve noticed.

1. You probably won’t want this. Oh shucks, what I have probably sucks but if you’re not doing anything and won’t expect too much, you might maybe want to consider my paltry offering. I don’t really know anything but maybe if we band together in our not knowing, something will become known. Or at least we can cry and hold each other.

I will charge you the least amount possible.

2. I am King Shizzle from the Land of Shizzle and I come bearing shizzle.  I know the secret. I’ve got what you need and I know how to make you a star, a success, a sex symbol, and rich. Just do these three or seven or twelve things and it’s yours. If you don’t, you’re crazy. My method will take you over the finish line. All killer, no filler.

I will charge you the greatest amount possible.

3. Here is what I know and this is how I can help. I’ve trained in my craft and I’ve vetted what I’m selling you. I know what I know and, more important, I know what I don’t know. I can tell you honestly that this will empower you in the following ways because this is how it’s empowered me and others I’ve taught. I will give you the following tools and stick by you as you figure it out for yourself. You can do it. My customer knows who they are and will self-select.

I will charge you a price that is a combination of fair market value, tempered or expanded by what I believe it is worth.

Personally, I aim for #3 but have been known to fall back into #1. #2 is a complete mystery to me.

Each method has its strengths (and obvious) weaknesses. The first exhibits the highly desirable quality of humility but taken too far becomes redolent of pathos. (PS: pathos does not sell…) The second reeks of confidence but rings hollow and phoney. The third is very measured and pragmatic but may not be sufficiently diverting to cut through the noise.

For each of us, some combination of humility, confidence, and pragmatism is required. Working alone, how do we know what we are projecting? The best source of feedback comes from your fellow solopreneurs, a community of generous, smart, semi-crazy lone rangers who are trying to figure it out just like you. Personally, I’m happy to share what I know. Up to a point… Then I’ve got to get back to being alone because that’s where my art can be found.

When in doubt, consider being guided by the following:

Most important is healthy respect for your own natural inner richness and awareness of the inseparability of giving and taking. As the image above indicates, it may be impossible–and unnecessary–to differentiate.

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  • Posted by:  Angela

    Thanks for this and much love to you, Susan. XO

    • Posted by:  susan

      And to you, wonderful Angela.

  • Posted by:  Karly Pitman

    Oh Susan,

    This made me smile in recognition.

    Yes, the solopreneur lifestyle is such a hoot – both to do your own growth in such a public sphere, and because of all the other threads involved. I’m thinking of all the pieces I’ve had to learn around technology, marketing, pricing, business systems, and more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either wanted to throw my hands up in the air, wished for someone to just run the *(#@^!* business for me, or cried on my keyboard.

    At other times, when it flows, when I feel that balance of giving and receiving, I feel grateful for moving myself out of my comfort zone and stretching myself.

    What keeps me going is my passion for what I teach.

    Yes, I’ve been in the #1 camp. #2 just feels icky for me. These past 2 years, I’ve been growing into #3.

    Yes, my fellow solopreneurs – my village – is crucial for normalizing this wacky gig called self employment.

    Thank you for giving me a smile this morning.

    Warmly, Karly

    • Posted by:  susan

      I am with you, point by point. I recognize your experience so clearly. Smiling back, S

  • Posted by:  Victoria Cunningham-Downey

    I loved this, Susan! I totally feel the pain of pricing and most definitely fall into the first sales personality. In fact, in SEVEN years of working for myself I am yet to make a profit and when I speak to my peers online I end up buying their products instead of promoting my own! I think I have to do what you say: “get back to being alone because that’s where my art can be found.”

    • Posted by:  susan

      It’s so complex!

  • Posted by:  Kylie

    Susan! So very grateful for this. Aiming mostly for #3, and, like all of us, doing the best I can. Thanks for being such an honest and frank encourager.

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Elizabeth

    Oh man. I do so hate to promote my stuff. I aim for #3, but usually fall into #1 (I am almost always there in my head, even if my words manage to stay in #3). Appreciating the opportunity to step back a bit, and the reminder that I am not alone.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Definitely not alone.

  • Posted by:  j

    Your honesty here is so refreshing and wonderful. And #2? It’s a mystery to me too, but I want it on a t-shirt. 🙂

    • Posted by:  susan

      HA HA! Me too…

  • Posted by:  Sirena

    Soloprenuers… I love that term. Thank you for bearing the reality. It’s a pretty scary place without much guidance.

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Judy

    I love this Susan! Everything (from the insufferable FB post to strategy #2) resonated so much with me. I am so happy that I am not the only one who struggles to feel comfortable selling myself, even though I know what I sell is very valuable.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Definitely not the only one!

  • Posted by:  Olivia

    Thanks for sharing this. I love all of the areas you touch on. I’m just now starting my own business and am already feeling twinges of anxiety of this aspect of being a solo entrepreneur. The self promotion and pricing, and where to stand. How to make my work accessible and how to make a good living while doing so. Oh the journey! One day at a time. thanks again! olivia.

    • Posted by:  susan

      It is a fascinating journey and I wish you all the success in the world. –S

  • Posted by:  Robert Wall

    Susan, at least for this post you were Queen Shizzle From The Land Of Shizzle Bearing Shizzle. If not in expression, in content. 🙂

    Thanks for the great thoughts!

    • Posted by:  susan

      Ha! Thank you.

  • Posted by:  Jennifer

    I feel a little silly now for having emailed you asking about your upcoming writers’ retreat… essentially my email asked you to make a personal sale. My mistake, and apologies. I suppose as a “solopreneur” I’m fearful of spending money on my work. This sentence questions my fear: “Working alone, how do we know what we are projecting?” Exactly why I need to come to a retreat. much gratitude /Jen

    • Posted by:  susan

      Oh, Jennifer, no worries!! Money and everything around money is so complex and fraught. You should ask any and all questions and expect a fair and honest answer. xo S

  • Posted by:  t.j.

    Thanks for this. I’m getting closer to opening my acupuncture practice in Austin, and #3 is what feels right and natural to me. However, I can see myself doing #1 and charging too low a price because I want to be really nice and make acupuncture available to everyone so I can heal the world! 🙂 But what I hear from my peers is a lot of #3 … after all, we have all those student loans to pay back! (I decided I’ll just be paying on those until the end of time)

    • Posted by:  susan

      It’s so complicated!!

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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance