Apr 27, 2016
Should you list your prices online? 3 Reasons not to
I’m a member of a Facebook group in which someone recently posted a question about whether or not to list prices for her calligraphy services on her website. She felt that having to request a quote deterred potential clients.
Most of the responses were from others who had posted prices to their websites. As a designer who dabbles in calligraphy, I appreciate that some calligraphers are willing to share their price lists via their websites. Granted, they intend to share their prices with clients and not with other calligraphers.
I posted a reply to this question with arguments why you shouldn’t post your prices to your website. If you operate a service-based business and wonder whether or not to post your prices, consider the following first.
You don’t want to compete on price
Whenever I shop on Etsy, I can’t help but compare prices for similar items. And if you think Etsy only sells products, think again. Many calligraphers offer their services via Etsy. Likely, the same is true for other makers, artists, and designers on the site.
Given that prices are front and center, they are not easily ignored. Price becomes a selling feature. The danger with posting prices online is that some buyers equate cost with value—or worse see cost instead of value.
It’s not unusual to equate a high price with high quality and a low price with inferior quality. But the price equals quality equation doesn’t always apply.
The cost of a service may not reflect the value that you receive from the service. Sometimes an investment in a service pays for itself several times over—and sometimes not. As a service provider, you don’t want to be in a situation in which a buyer compares your price to another’s price without considering the value that she receives from you.
If you work with a client who doesn’t recognize the value that your business provides to her, she may see only what it costs her to buy from or to hire you. Likely, this isn’t an ideal client for your business.
If you can convince a prospect why she should work with you based on the value that you bring, then price may become less relevant. You can’t eliminate it entirely, but cost doesn’t have to be the only determining factor.
You have more than one customer base
Let’s suppose that you are a designer with two distinct audiences that you serve: commercial clients and personal clients. They each may need the same service, but they may use the service differently.
Consider too that your commercial and personal clients may vary widely in terms of budget. If your business serves two different audiences with the same needs, but different budgets, then you may not want to post your prices online because you have different pricing for different clients types.
Even if you do the same work for both audiences, you may choose to price the work based on the value to the client—otherwise known as value-based pricing. From Wikipedia:
Value-based pricing (also value optimized pricing) is a pricing strategy which sets prices primarily, but not exclusively, on the value, perceived or estimated, to the customer rather than on the cost of the product or historical prices.
For example, as a designer, you may be asked by a client to provide a monogram to appear on a couple’s wedding invitations. You know that the monogram is for the couple’s personal use only. The only ones likely to see it are the couple’s friends and family. After the wedding, the monogram may never be used again.
If you’re asked by a company to provide a monogram that will become its logo, then the work is commercial. The company intends to use the monogram in its branding. It appears on the company website, marketing collateral, business cards, and many other places. The monogram may represent the company for years to come.
The wedding monogram may be seen by a couple hundred people, but the company monogram has the potential to be seen by far more. It’s an integral part of the company’s visual identity.
If you charge $100 for the wedding monogram, would you charge the same for the company monogram?
This is a personal choice, of course, but there’s an argument that because the company monogram provides more value to the company (it’s their branding after all) that you can charge the company more than the couple for the same work.
The company monogram will be use much more extensively both online and offline than the wedding monogram, so the company will derive more value from it.
You could list different prices for different audience types on your website, but why run the risk of confusing your prospects or having your pricing questioned?
The client who contacts you for a quote may be more qualified
In the original Facebook question, the poster was afraid that having to request a quote deterred potential clients. In a way, she may be right, but here’s why that’s OK.
The visitor who comes to your site, looks at your prices, and then leaves is probably not an ideal client. When you completed an ideal client profile for your business, you probably did not list “questioning my prices or cost” among your ideal client qualities.
What you want is a client who sees the value in your work and pays accordingly. Someone who is deterred by your prices may not value your work.
If you don’t list your prices online, then the visitor who contacts you for a quote may be more likely to work with you. Obviously, that visitor likes your work enough to reach out to you for more information. To me, this is similar to the visitor who subscribes to your newsletter. That person wants to hear from you and is a more qualified lead.
If a visitor contacts you, will she convert to a client? Not necessarily. She may admire your work, but that doesn’t mean that the visitor has the budget to hire you.
Not mentioning prices on your website doesn’t eliminate cost as a factor for the buyer. But a client who wants to work with you and who understands how your work can transform her or her business may find the funds to do so.
Should you ever list your prices online?
In the next article, I’ll discuss reasons why you should list your prices on your website. There are several good reasons for doing so, and some of them may apply to your business.