Categories
Make Money Online Never Normal Podcast

How to Make More Money, Have Happier Clients, and Go from Surviving to Thriving as a Freelancer – Never Normal Episode 009 with Jonathan Stark

Jonathan Stark is a former software developer who is on a mission to rid the world of hourly billing. He is the author of Hourly Billing Is Nuts, the host of Ditching Hourly, and he writes a daily newsletter on pricing for independent professionals. That may sound like a a very esoteric topic, but…

If you are a freelance software developer, designer, copywriter, photographer, videographer, editor, or anyone else who works with clients, the ideas in this episode could change your business and your life. That’s what happened to me after I discovered Jonathan’s work.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Jonathan Stark went from working a typical job to becoming coach for independent software developers
  • Why is hourly billing so bad?
  • The problem with growing your business by hiring more people
  • What are the alternatives to billing by the hour?
  • How else can you price project based work?
  • What is value based pricing?
  • How you should create and structure your proposals to maximize your income AND the client’s happiness
  • How to deal with (inevitable) scope creep on a fixed price project
  • Avoiding adversarial client relationships by aligning your incentives with your clients
  • How many options should you offer in a proposal and why?
  • How can you figure out how valuable the work is to the client
  • The importance of uncovering an actual business outcome
  • The exact questions to ask a prospective client before giving a price or writing a proposal
  • How to get a prospective client to sell themselves on working with you
  • The important question that most people are too afraid (or too shy) to ask
  • You have more options than you realize!

Links:

You can find a complete transcript of the episode below. All other episodes of the Never Normal Show are available at NeverNormalShow.com and on YouTube.

Transcript:

Neville Mehra:

Jonathan Stark welcome to Never Normal.

Jonathan Stark:

Thanks for having me.

Neville Mehra:

My pleasure. Your mission is to rid the world of hourly billing. My mission for this show in general, for Never Normal as a whole is to show people that they have more options than they probably realize. And I’d love to do that on a couple of levels in this episode, because I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that “pricing coach for software developers” probably wasn’t one of the options that your high school guidance counselor offered or recommended.

Jonathan Stark:

Correct, that’s right.

Neville Mehra:

So how did you go from freelance software developer or software developer to someone who now coaches software developers and other independent professionals on pricing?

Jonathan Stark:

Sure. So I started… I’ve been coding since I was a little kid, did a detour for about 10 or 15 years with a professional music career, ended up, needing to make more money, went back to computers and got a job at Staples, the office supply store, in their advertising department I was basically an application developer and became dissatisfied there and put my resume out at a couple of big consultancies that use the software that I had learned, which was FileMaker at the time, got a job in a firm and worked my way up there so that I was managing the 10 or 15 developers that we had. I was the VP and reporting directly to the owner. And that was the point where I had an epiphany about hourly billing being nuts and that it was causing basically every problem that we had at that firm.

Jonathan Stark:

So I went solo to try different thing called value pricing and I was fairly well known in the community. So it was news that I was leaving, what was essentially a great job to go solo. And of course, people would ask me why? I would say, because I can’t do hourly billing anymore. I just realized it’s like a disease and I’m just getting rid of it. And so that attracted a lot of attention. And a lot of my colleagues I think, were expecting me to fail and come crawling back. But that’s the opposite of what actually happened. Things went great. And they started saying like, Oh, well, now that you mentioned it, we kind of hit our hourly billing too. How did you figure this out? So then I would kind of help them in an ad hoc way.

Jonathan Stark:

I blogged about it. people shared them, they would ask me to speak at meetups. So I kind of got sucked into this, I guess coaching or teaching role, not about teaching software, but teaching how to run a software business in a way that’s actually profitable instead of just trading time for money and working more and more hours and feeling like you’re just getting farther and farther behind. So that in a nutshell, that’s sort of how I got from there to here so that was about a 25 year span.

Neville Mehra:

Well, we went pretty quickly through it, but I think there’s a lot in those lessons that you’ve learned that you now kind of espouse and teach to the world. And I’d love to kind of dig into those a little bit, just going back to that idea that you have more options than you realize. Again, you as a coach now are sort of showing that, that like, teaching software developers and not even teaching them like the technical skill of software development, but teaching more on the business side of it, like you’ve built a thriving business doing that, but then on a more micro level in your own career, you exposed this idea that like, you don’t have to bill your work the way that everyone else does.

Neville Mehra:

So if you’re a graphic designer or if you’re a programmer or you’re an app developer or anything, I mean a photographer, just because the rest of the industry charges by the hour and in most of those professions, I think that’s still the norm doesn’t mean that you have to let’s dig into that. So first of all, why is hourly billing bad? Why did you hate it while you have this visceral reaction and a mission to rid the world of it? What is it about hourly billing that’s so bad?

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I mean, there are dozens of reasons. The big one is that it misaligns the financial incentives between you and your clients, which, expressed itself in our world as going over budget all the time. So it was hard for me in an hourly model to deliver a high customer satisfaction, that was the main pain. The main pain was it was way too common for people to say, look, we spent $65,000 and we’ve got nothing to show for it. And the finger pointing would start and you didn’t tell me it needed to be localized in Japanese and all of these things. That was the thing that really got me. That was the main stick that was hitting me over the head. But there are a million other ones. I mean, especially for a solo operator or solopreneur, there’s only so many hours in a year that you can work.

Jonathan Stark:

And so it puts this artificial ceiling on your income and your only options are, if you’re going to stick with hourly, your only options are to like charge twice as much per hour. And good luck closing deals if you’re like twice as expensive as the next person. Now, the next thing is to work twice as much, which is obviously not a good idea. People probably already think that we’re not normal wants to do that. You want to work less. And the last thing is a hire a bunch of junior mini me’s that you can bill out by the hour and mark up their time.

Jonathan Stark:

And you can do that. It’s not that that doesn’t work, but you’re not doing what you love anymore. Now you’re a manager. And if you don’t want to be a manager, you’re going to be an awful boss. So I don’t like when people pick that option for leverage and creating leverage in their business, I don’t like it when they defacto switch themselves into agency mode or manager mode when they don’t want employees, because that just is bad for everybody also. So I mean, I could go on literally for hours about all the different things, but those are the big ones for me.

Neville Mehra:

I think, as you said, that’s like sort of the successful freelancer, the default kind of next step is like, well, I’ve got a bunch of work doing this thing. I can only work so many hours as you said. And so they just start hiring people. Which again, just because you’re good at doing the thing, whether it’s photography or coding or copywriting doesn’t mean that you’re good at finding other people who are good at doing that doesn’t mean that you’re good at managing. It doesn’t mean that you’re good at all these other things that now as the agency owner or your job, but there’s also like a weird perverse thing that comes up where if you’re really good, you might be able to bang out the job and let’s say whatever five hours, but all of a sudden you’re hiring junior people and it might take them 20 hours to do the same job. And like, that’s bad for everybody. But somehow you make more money if you’re charging your clients by the hour.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. That’s the misalignment of financial incentives, right? Like it’s better for me as the seller, if I’m slower.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. It makes no sense. Right. And no one wants the job to take longer. Aside from the person, perhaps who’s billing by the hour, right? The client wants the work to be done sooner. No one wants to pay more. What are the alternatives then? If I’m a software developer, let’s say, and I don’t bill my work by the hour, what should I do instead?

Jonathan Stark:

The short answer is if you’re going to change nothing else and just stay doing project work, which is a very… And I do specifically mean a project. So like a project that has a goal, it’s got a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s like a launch. There’s some kind of done state, there’s a completion or something like that. There’s like a goalpost. Then I would recommend looking into value pricing because you can still continue doing the activities that you’re used to doing like coding or shooting a wedding. If you’re a photographer or like doing white papers, if you’re a copywriter and you take that project and you give a fixed price based on the value of the business outcome to the client, and then work backwards from that set three prices in a proposal, and then work backwards from the prices to the scope of work that you would happily do for any one of those three prices.

Jonathan Stark:

So I’d call it do the scope last and start with value and then work your way backwards from there. And you’ll find that if you are attracting good clients. So like clients that have a really important project, a big impact on their business, they need to have it done as quickly as possible. Then the value and the clients are reasonably large, say over a couple a million dollars a year, at least if you’re attracting clients like that, then the value that they will get out of that project that you do will be high enough, that you can set some pretty high prices and give yourself a lot of wiggle room for scope creep and changes, which they always happen, like on a non-trivial project, six months of coding, there’s going to be many surprise.

Jonathan Stark:

But you can, as long as you’ve got a high price, that’s fine you just don’t. And then everybody can start thinking about hours and your prices are high enough that you don’t really care if you have to like redo the login system or something like that, because you’re still doing great. And the thing that is not obvious to people when they hear about this, is that the actual client relationship is so much better. It’s so much more chill because the client is not every day that goes by every week that goes by. They’re not feeling this ticking clock, this, this taxi cab meter clicking, their money just going to sh, sh, sh, sh, out the window. So the relationship is extremely good. It’s, you’re actually partnered with them.

Jonathan Stark:

You both have the same skin in the game, or you want it done as good and fast as it can be possibly done so if you can finish it in… If you can reach the desired outcome in a weekend, instead of six weeks, they’re going to be happy. They’re going to be happier. So it’s just great. And it puts the incentive on you to do a good job fast, to build tools for yourself, to educate yourself, to stay sharp. All of a sudden becoming more of an expert actually makes you more money because you can finish things well in a shorter time. And then all of those hours that you didn’t work or profit were now with an hourly model, it doesn’t make any sense to get better at your job. It makes no sense to get faster. It makes no sense to buy a faster computer. It makes no sense to invest in tools or create starter files. None of that makes any sense. Why would you use any open source if you’re getting paid by the hour, it makes no sense.

Neville Mehra:

And so on the sort of supply side, like the person who’s doing the work, there are clearly some changes that happen when you value price. But I think on the side of like, it almost redefines your business. I think the best way I could say it. Like you can’t overstate for someone who’s been a freelancer. Who’s always sold their work by the hour. When you flip that switch and you stop going from the typical, well, this website that I’m going to make for you is going to take me 50 hours and I charge a $100 an hour. So that’s $5,000, whatever, when you stop thinking that way and you start thinking, okay, value pricing. Well, what does value pricing means? It means that the work that I’m doing has a certain amount of value for the client. And my job before I send a proposal is to figure out what that value is. But then that immediately flips in it.

Jonathan Stark:

It’s not your work though. It’s the outcome. It’s what they believe your work is going to lead to. That is the mind shift that people have a hard time getting.

Neville Mehra:

Exactly. So what happens is you say, well, they asked me for a website, but now Jonathan told me I’ve got a value price at well, I don’t know, what this website is worth to them. And so then you start going through a whole different process, which I think we can come to in a moment, but it forces another question that I think so many freelancers have never even asked themselves. And that is what could I be doing that would be the most valuable? Because if you’re charging a $50 or a $100 an hour regardless, it doesn’t really matter if you’re like, polishing the old widgets that they’ve got lying on the floor that just once a year, you got to polish those widgets. And so just hire some code monkey to do it. Or if you’re building the system, that’s like, going to be amazon.com, that’s going to make them like a trillion dollars.

Neville Mehra:

It doesn’t matter. It’s a $100 in your pocket either way. So you have no incentive to look for better work. You’ve no incentives to look for more exciting projects that are going to have a bigger impact. And unless it’s going to create more billable hours for you, you don’t really care. Like what sort of impact that project is going to have on the client. You’re not sort of incentivized to be like, Oh, you should actually do this. Or you should think this way, there’s the strategy really only matters in as far as it like gets you extra hours of work to do.

Jonathan Stark:

It comes back to the financial incentives. You’re incentivized to just do what they say instead of pushing back and saying, okay, I can do all that stuff and I’d be happy to, but why would we do any of this? What’s the point?

Neville Mehra:

For me going through this process, myself and my own business having been through this and sort of realizing like, Oh yeah, sure everybody does sell by the hour, but when you value price, I really, again, can’t overstate. It just forces you to think completely differently than say, okay, well, what is valuable to the client? And you mentioned this idea of having three different options in a proposal, which if you’re calculating well, it’s going to take me 40 hours. And I’m going to charge whatever numbers of dollars per hour.

Neville Mehra:

The only real options you get into are like, do I give them a discount for paying early? Or can I slap some hosting on it and make some recurring money, but there isn’t really, you don’t really have a way of saying like, okay, well this is a Fortune 500 company. And like their mobile app is probably going to be tied to like billions of dollars of revenue versus like, this is a mom and pop grocery store. Well, I cost a hundred bucks an hour. So this is what it is. How do you delineate between those different options in the proposal? Like why would one be cheaper, why would one be more expensive?

Jonathan Stark:

If you are talking to, I mentioned Staples before you’re talking to Staples and they need a new mobile app for their like rewards program or something. That’s what they think they need. And they know that you do mobile apps and they come to you and say, “Hey, we need you to build this mobile app.” Can you do it? What’s your hourly rate? You say, yeah, I can do it. I don’t have an hourly rate, but I can give you a project price for the entire thing would that be acceptable? If they say yes, then you say, okay, then let’s jump on a phone call.

Jonathan Stark:

We’ll have a sales interview. And it’ll just ask you some questions about the project and once that’s done, then I’ll give you a proposal with some options on it. Okay, great. So you go into the phone call and they’re going to give you a bunch of really specific tactical. We wanted to have this and that and the other and the logo should be here. And the login is going to be this color and all of those things. And you’re like, okay, and you’re taking notes and everything. And then you want to pivot into what I call the why conversation and the point of the why-

Neville Mehra:

Sorry, Jonathan, I have to pause you here for just a second. I have to preface this because I was hoping we were going to do a why conversation and the why conversation, first of all, it’s like your blog posts. I’m going to build it up a little bit. It’s your blog post or your tactic that I’ve told the most people about referred the most people too, probably out of any like business-related device out there. I’ve told more people like you got to check this thing out. And it is the closest thing to a David Blaine blow your mind magic trick that you will ever see in a business setting. I promise you.

Jonathan Stark:

That’s good to know.

Neville Mehra:

It absolutely is. I mean, if you’ve never done something like this before, and you have a why conversation for the first time, the way it changes, what happens next is profound with that said, I’ll let you go back to it. Or if you want to act one out together, I can play either part for you.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay, well, so I credit where credit’s due. It’s inspired by a management consultant, named Alan Weiss, he’s the first person I ever heard talk about this, but his stuff’s from the ‘80s and it’s for management consulting. So I’ve kind of modified it, especially for software developers where the scope can really, really get out of control, you wouldn’t have that kind of a thing in a normal management consulting thing, but I’m glad to hear that though. I’m glad that you found that helpful. So yeah. Let’s role play one, do you have something in mind?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. Who do you want to be? Let’s do a typically-

Jonathan Stark:

I’ll be the consultant.

Neville Mehra:

You’d be the consultant. So let’s do a typical conversation first, not the why conversation. So this is how it goes, I think most of the time. So now you’re, I still do hourly billing. You haven’t read the world of hourly billing yet.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah.

Neville Mehra:

So I going to say, Hey, Jonathan, we scheduled this meeting to talk to you. We got your name from our trusted friend, and I heard you build websites and we need a new website for our company. Is that something you can help us with?

Jonathan Stark:

Oh yeah, absolutely.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. I think, we need probably about five pages, and maybe like a contact form or something like that. So do you charge by the hour?

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I like to charge $150 an hour, but you know, depending on the situation, sometimes it’s lower. If that’s too much.

Neville Mehra:

We normally pay about a $100 an hour for this kind of work, but our usual team is pretty busy. So that’s why we called you.

Jonathan Stark:

I see. And would this probably lead into more work later or do you think it’s just a one-off thing?

Neville Mehra:

It’s probably just a one-off thing, but there’s always a chance if the project goes well, we might call you for some maintenance.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I guess

Neville Mehra:

The copyright data in the footer.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I guess I could work with you a $100 an hour is fine. So tell me about, what do you need for the project?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, so it’s a five-page site, we’ll definitely want to have it in all the languages that the world speaks. I mean, these conversations, I think most people have had one of these hourly billing conversations, and I think you captured the awkwardness perfectly where you just sort of put on the spot and the client’s dictating what’s in the scope, but of course, once you agree to a price or an hourly rate, that’ll just keep changing forever. I’m cringing at the awkwardness of this. As I sit here, let’s go ahead.

Jonathan Stark:

I actually can’t even role play this anymore. I’ve been doing it the other way so long. It’s like, I would be in my mind. Well, I would ask a bunch, I’ll try. So like, what would I ask? Like, okay, how many languages?

Neville Mehra:

112.

Jonathan Stark:

112 language. Okay. 112 languages. Okay, got you. What are the five pages?

Neville Mehra:

I think, the marketing team is still figuring those out it might be seven.

Jonathan Stark:

So is the homepage one of them?

Neville Mehra:

I know we’ll need a homepage also.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. Homepage and you said, I think a contact form.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. We’ll definitely want a contact form.

Jonathan Stark:

Is that right. And do you have-

Neville Mehra:

And a store locator, we need a store locator.

Jonathan Stark:

And does this need to work? What devices do you want this to work on? Is this like, definitely mobile. Okay.

Neville Mehra:

The CEO still uses a Blackberry also, and it’s important that it loads on his Blackberry.

Jonathan Stark:

Brilliant. That’s really great.

Neville Mehra:

This is turning into a therapy session. I think I’m using real ones that are buried somewhere deep in my soul. This is how these conversations typically go. Right? And I think you and I, and most of the people who are listening have been on either both ends of a conversation like this, where it’s just sort of a rambling conversation and you’re being dictated to as the freelancer and you gave an hourly rate. I was going to say a lot of times, if it’s something with a known start and end like a website, you often just get told, like, give us a price for something that you don’t even know what it is or why they need it yet.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. So, and a lot of people, maybe 20% of people I talk to roughly, it’s too many. It’s a lot, but it’s not the majority we’ll do a cost plus or like a time and materials type of not to exceed, which is the absolute worst where you say, I think it will be 20 grand and they’ll say, Oh, well, will you stick to that? And they want the gigs they’re desperate. So they say, yeah, I guess so I’ll stand by that 20 grand price. And they’re like, but if you finish sooner, we’re only pay. You like 10 grand, but it won’t exceed 20 grand. Right. And they’ll say yes, and then they’ll end up getting destroyed. So the problem with this approach is that you’re focusing on the wrong thing as the consultant or the developer.

Jonathan Stark:

You’re focusing on the wrong thing. If you think you have to come up with an estimate, an estimate or a quote, based on a number of hours, it’s going to take you, you’re going to be talking to the client that would be drilling into, okay, exactly what languages do we really have, can it just be like Cyrillic, Icelandic, everything, is there anything that we could leave out? I think, even back then, when I was doing hourly, I would try and find stuff to leave out. I would try and say like, can we push that off to V2? Because it was just the risk of the project getting out of control and me still making a lot of money by the hour, but having a fight every day with the client, I didn’t want that. So I still would’ve been trying to push things off to other phases.

Jonathan Stark:

So I would’ve said, I would have tried to talk them out of like global localization. I guess that’s a oxymoron in a way. Yeah. The Blackberry thing I would have flatly said, no. Well now I would have flatly said no to it, but back then, maybe I wouldn’t have but, okay. So the problem is what I’m not finding out is what they want to achieve. So the business is planning on spending money with you. They’re spending time with you right now because they believe that you’ve got something for them that is a value. And what I need to do is find out what that thing is to make sure that I deliver it. Because if I don’t find, I might not deliver it, I might not deliver satisfaction. And this is what happens when you get to the… I don’t know if it’s happen to everyone, but I know it’s happened to a lot of people.

Jonathan Stark:

You have a meeting like this, and then you with the CEO and everybody, the board, and then you go off and you build a bunch of stuff and you and the project contact are really happy with it. And all the widgets are amazing and cool. And then you like done and you go to the big reveal and then launch and the CEO or the board, or somebody is like this isn’t what we needed at all. And you’re basically at square one after doing three to six months of work, talking to the wrong person. And the problem is you’ve been like shooting baskets on the wrong side of the court. Like you’re just completely shooting in the wrong direction because you didn’t find out what the success criteria was.

Jonathan Stark:

What is the highest ranking person in the room? Whoever the highest ranking person is, what does that person want to achieve? And achieve is not to have an iOS app in the app store. That’s not a business outcome. Why do you want an app in the app store? What do you think that’s going to do for your business? So I don’t know if you want to role play that? I’m like surprised how bad I am at that because I used to do it all the time, but I can’t even get my head back to that space anymore. The old way. Yeah. Just scope. Yeah.

Neville Mehra:

Of doing the hourly way after you’ve spent so much time railing against it. It is painful. It just before we move on to the why conversation, what you just described, I think is the shooting baskets on the wrong side of the court is I think the absolute worst case scenario. And I know it does happen, but even if you do end up with something, that’s sort of what they were looking for. Like we talked about the languages. I mean, I was being a bit extreme with the number of languages and things like that. The Blackberry one is a totally realistic one though, where there’s just some important person. And it’s like, okay, well, let’s just throw in some vanity thing for that person. But what gets missed as you said, is the idea of like, what’s valuable to the business.

Neville Mehra:

And sometimes it’s not a question of you totally missed that. But rather the thing that’s valuable to the business ends up being like 5% of the project and these little things that just, they surveyed a 100 in the company. And so all these things became requirements. They don’t realize that like, that stuff takes way longer. And the thing that’s actually important, like you’re not spending that much time on because instead you’re spending all the budget on hiring translators for those, like whatever the example is. So that’s definitely everything we just described as how not to do it.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah.

Neville Mehra:

So in a why conversation, I think, we’d start pretty much the same way as you said, I’ll play the client. I’m going to invite you in again and say like, “Hey Jonathan, we were referred to you by so-and-so, I think we need a five page website to replace our corporate homepage.”

Jonathan Stark:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay. Would you like, tell me like everything about that you know is a requirement.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. So, I mean, we want it to look sharp. We want the logo to pop, it needs to have a contact form and we want it to be in a bunch of languages because we have customers all over the world.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. What are you using now for our website?

Neville Mehra:

We have a Wix site that someone built for us a few years ago.

Jonathan Stark:

And how’s that working?

Neville Mehra:

It doesn’t represent, the company today. We’ve grown 5,000% since that site was first built and it just no longer represents the seriousness of our brand.

Jonathan Stark:

And you believe that has some kind of impact?

Neville Mehra:

Well, yeah. We go to a lot of trade shows and whenever people pull up the website on their phones, after we’ve talked to them, we hear them laughing.

Jonathan Stark:

Prospects are literally laughing at your current website. I mean, I am sure you invest a lot of money in going to trade shows. Do you think that’s like, risky investment, should you just stop going to trade shows? I don’t think so.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, our sales reps came back from the last show and said the website is causing us to lose deals that they had a client who they thought was going to sign on and do a $100,000 project too, once they saw the website stopped answering our emails.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. So like a home run for you would be if salespeople were at a trade show showing your website to people and they were like impressed and wanted to continue having a sales conversation, or would you want it to close like right there? Is like a long sales process or I don’t know what you sell. So is it possible that-

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, no, it just needs to look impressive.

Jonathan Stark:

To prospects, not to your board of directors needs to look and not to you. It needs to impress your prospects. Right?

Neville Mehra:

That’s right.

Jonathan Stark:

Who are your ideal prospects so that we know who we’re trying to impress?

Neville Mehra:

Wall Street banks and investment banks.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Do you have current customers like this or is this aspirational?

Neville Mehra:

Those are our current customers.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Do you have a couple of really like top customers that you like have a good relationship with?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, of course. Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch use our services.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay, great. Okay. So if we had a website that impressed, people like that would be worthwhile to you. You feel like that would close these a $100,000 deals?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. That’s exactly what we need.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. And do you think occasionally throughout the course of a project would be able to get access to those people for feedback?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. I think we have good relationships with them.

Jonathan Stark:

Invite them to like a beta or like a early release or like a reveal.

Neville Mehra:

Okay.

Jonathan Stark:

And how many of these, let’s see, I guess I would go into… I probably wouldn’t ask this, but I would find out how many salespeople they have. That would be big. And I would say something like, okay, here’s a good one. What languages is it just going to be an English or do you work with clients all over the world?

Neville Mehra:

We work with clients all over the world.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. Would you want it to be localized in their languages or do you want it to be in English?

Neville Mehra:

I think we’d want have it in every language, but it might depend on how that changes the price.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. How many languages are important? What are the three most important languages that you would want it in?

Neville Mehra:

English, French, and Spanish.

Jonathan Stark:

If you had to kind of like do a pie chart, like revenue wise, are those really that important? Do you think that those would be, 30%, 30%, 30%? Or should we start with.

Neville Mehra:

No. English would be 95% of our business.

Jonathan Stark:

So if it quadrupled the price to add French and Spanish, you’d say no.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. Maybe we’d say that for phase two.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. That might be good. I think that’s a good idea. Okay. So who made the Wix site for you? Can you just have them make a new site for you?

Neville Mehra:

Well, we weren’t happy with the work that they did.

Jonathan Stark:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Was it like internal employee or did you find someone on Fiverr or something?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, it was an intern a few years ago.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. So no surprise that it wasn’t that effective? Well, I mean, I wrote the book on this. That’s why you called me, why would you hire someone expensive like me couldn’t you just hire like a web developer and maybe I don’t know, you could probably get someone for a hundred grand a year. Just be in-house just have him work on this all year and then be around to maintain the thing in the future. Do you have any internal or do you have any internal web developers that you could put on this?

Neville Mehra:

We don’t have anyone on staff, but we called you because you wrote the book on this and you were referred to us by another client who was really happy with your work.

Jonathan Stark:

Do you, do you have an internal web developer or would you want one? Because after, let’s say, I build this site for you and your salespeople are super happy with it. Clients love it. You’re not going to keep me around to maintain it, but you do need someone to maintain it, especially if you’re going to have that translated in other languages. So are you planning to hire someone to maintain the website long-term? Or is that something you farm out to an agency or what’s the long-term plan for maintenance?

Neville Mehra:

It’s not something we’ve ever thought about before? Last time we just built a website and left alone for a few years.

Jonathan Stark:

Right? And obviously that didn’t work though.

Neville Mehra:

Is that something you offer?

Jonathan Stark:

No, I don’t. I’m curious in the proposal, I could give you some recommendations for how to maintain it long-term but I don’t offer that. It would be ridiculous to pay me to do that. It would just be too expensive. But that is something that you would want. I’m just curious, would you rather outsource that or do you think you would hire an internal resource?

Neville Mehra:

We wouldn’t hire anyone internal.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. So you’d be looking for recommendations?

Neville Mehra:

Yes.

Jonathan Stark:

And what’s the timeframe here? I know the site’s been in bad shape for a long time. What caused you to start looking now? Is there a particular event that caused that?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. Well, after that last trade show, it became an important priority when we realized not having a great website was costing us deals and we’ve got another trade show coming up in three months. That’s the most important one in our industry.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. And you’d want this new site ready before then presumably?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, that would be great.

Jonathan Stark:

That’s aggressive. We definitely want to do it in French and Spanish before then. Is it in the United States or an English speaking country?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

The show, what is the experience? So what is the situation? Paint me a picture for the salespeople meeting with contacts. How is this happening? Are you going to have like a giant TV screen that has the website playing like some sort of animation in the background, are they sharing it on an iPad, on a desktop, on their phones? What’s the-

Neville Mehra:

No, it’s just being handed out in business cards and things like that. So clients are typically looking at it or prospective clients are looking at it after having a conversation with us, if they haven’t heard of our company before they’re checking the website afterwards.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. And they’re at a conference so most likely on their phones. So we need really solid phone support.

Neville Mehra:

So I want to switch hats here for a second, from my pretending to be a client hat and back to my normal level, the host hat, and just kind of point out what’s going on here. So instead of just kind of taking the requirements as I’ve given them to, you’re asking why? As we called this, the why conversation, and I think the ones that I’ve heard you use a few times that are coming across are first and foremost, you’re asking me, why is this important for the business?

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Which we established.

Neville Mehra:

Which we established, which I never gave you. And the truth is most clients in most projects never give you, or it’s just sort of implied. It’s just kind of like, well, yeah-

Jonathan Stark:

It’s implied usually. Yeah.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. It sounds like some important thing, but they’re not actually telling you what’s going on. Like, Oh yeah, we lost a deal because of this or something like that. But hidden in there was a sense of the value of the project because a five-page website, if you were to just go to a bunch of people on Fiverr or something, they would tell you, oh yeah, five pages. We have a price for that. Or we charge $10 or $20 an hour and they would give you a number that would be something like hundreds or thousands, or maybe like $10,000 if they were really expensive. But if I tell you it’s a $100,000 per deal that I’m losing on this, all of a sudden you have licensed to charge me significantly more.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I mean, if you’re talking about… I would also find out how busy the trade shows were? Like I said, I would find out how many salespeople they have? If they have a team of 20 salespeople and they have like an entire sales organization, this could easily be a million dollar value, which means that you could set your prices at like $100,000, $220,000 and $500,000 and deliver the results that they want. You happen to do it with your web development skills or your web design skills or your copywriting skills or whatever they are. You contribute to that outcome in a way that is going to focus on the outcomes. We know we’re shooting at the right basket. The basket is have these Wall Street banker types be blown away by our website and want to move forward with a deal.

Jonathan Stark:

The reason why I asked would we be able to get access to people like this is a scope management issue. So, because as you know, when you get into a room with 20 people from a company and they want to debate endlessly. Was that blue enough? Or should be bluer? And all of that stuff goes right out the window because nobody in that room, their opinion doesn’t matter. It needs to be good enough. So they’re not embarrassed by it, but that’s a pretty low bar. What you really want is a progress metric. And the progress metric here would be meeting with actual clients and even better. I would also try and get prospects. I worked with the sales team and so get me some prospects I want to do, out of regular basis, do testing with these prospects so that when I do get into the meeting with the board of directors and the C-suite and all of those people, and they’re arguing about the blue is not blue enough, I can point to evidence that the target market wants to buy.

Jonathan Stark:

They like it way better than the existing website. This would be such an easy bar to clear. It’s like, do you think this is better than the old website? Oh yeah it’s 100 times better. So on a scale of one to 10, where the old website is a one and the new website is a 10, and the best website in the world is a 10. Where would you put this on the spectrum or the best website in the industry, let’s say, and they give it a seven or an eight. So you can go into a meeting and people can fight about, I wouldn’t even talk about the design. I just feel like, Hey, the weekly report is in all of our tests subjects as you recall, are these ideal buyers. Our top, top buyers are all rating the design of 10 out of 10. If you can go visit on the demo site, if you want.

Neville Mehra:

And the reason I say that, the why conversation when executed like that is so magical is because a couple of things happen there is that instead of you just being dictated to like, “Hey, make this thing,” which becomes a commodity. When you give it all these kinds of a five page website or whatever. Instead, you’re being given license to create a solution. Like I have a problem. My website has these issues and I need it. I need this problem fixed by a certain date. You got that out and you got out why that’s important and what that problem is costing me. And now you have a chance to propose me solutions that may not be, like I’m not the expert. Right.

Neville Mehra:

We don’t have any technical staff in my example. And so it wasn’t really within the scope of our little mock conversation there, but you might’ve said something like, “Oh, well, what will really impress your clients is actually having like a mobile first, whatever mobile app or something completely different.” Because once you know what the problem is you can propose those kinds of different options. You’re not just stuck in that little tight space of whatever I’ve thought of to ask you for.

Jonathan Stark:

Right, the self-diagnosis.

Neville Mehra:

The self-diagnosis. But I think the most magical part actually happens when, and I’ve done this in real life. And it’s like, you almost have to like bite your cheeks, not to have this stupid grin on your face. If you’re doing this in-person or on like a Zoom or something like that. Because when you ask it feels ridiculous to ask like, well, why not just hire some idiot, nothing for peanuts to do this for you. You wouldn’t phrase it that way why hire? I’m really expensive. I wrote the book on this. I’m an expert why hire me?

Neville Mehra:

And the client literally starts selling you to them to you. They start saying, well, you’re really good. And I read your book and everybody says, you’re the expert on this. And all of a sudden, like they’re telling themselves and you why they should hire you.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. Right.

Neville Mehra:

And that’s the part that’s its to actually watch that. Like, I encourage everyone to really like, do this because when you ask them, well, why hire me? I’ve never had somebody say, “Oh, well, I guess we shouldn’t or something like that.” They really do say because they called you for a reason, or they took the meeting that you offered them for a reason. And so they start to put these reasons out there. You kind of call their bluff on the implied hire a cheap freelance or personnel Fiverr, or do it internally option.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Yeah. And you want it to look. A lot of people have a hard time. I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or a mind shift thing. They have a hard time actually bringing that one up. Like, they’ll say, “Oh, I did the why conversation. It worked okay.” But they ultimately went with someone cheaper and I’ll say, well, what did they say when you ask them? Why hire someone expensive like you? And they’re like, well, I didn’t actually ask that. And yeah, I didn’t ask that one. So it’s like, okay, you’ve got to ask that one because it’s in their mind. Like whether or not you ask it, it’s in their mind. So if you go to all the trouble to write a proposal without finding out why they wouldn’t go with something cheaper, the odds are still probably pretty high that they’re going to just go with something cheaper.

Jonathan Stark:

So you want to find out why they don’t want to go with something cheaper. And they’re going to have specific reasons. If it’s going to be a good fit, they’re going to have specific reasons why they don’t want to go with the cheaper option and you can take exactly what they said and put it in the proposal. So it reminds the person who said it like, Oh yeah, that’s right. These prices are higher than I expected, but he’s right or she’s right. I don’t want to go with one of the cheaper options. But the other thing that’s cool about it is once you send your proposal to them, if they give it to a colleague or their spouse or somebody else that works in the CFO and they review it, that person who wasn’t even on the call is going to be like, is going to think, well, geez, this seems like a lot of money, but I see right here why we can’t go with the cheaper option.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. Or even just a different option. It’s not even always cheapest. Sometimes it’s just, you’re a good fit for a certain reason. And they’re selling that to you. And then you can, as you said, put that in the proposal. And I think for every freelancer I’ve ever met, I don’t know anyone who enjoys writing proposals. And so-

Jonathan Stark:

It’s toward torture. Yeah.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. It’s torture. And maybe even the secret kind of best part about this process is what you just said, that not only do you sell yourselves to them or they sell you to them, or however you want to describe that in the meeting, but you then have ammo that you can, I’m always furiously taking notes during that part, because you’re just going to play all of that right back to them in their proposal as you said.

Jonathan Stark:

They write it like, it’s you just saying their words back to them. And the thing that you come up with, the only part that’s sort of original creative by you or the three options. So it’s like, how could I solve this problem at one of these three price points in a way that I’d be delighted to do, even if there was some scope creep and changes, because there always are so that’s your creative exercise. You don’t need to be creative about why they should hire you or the situation appraisal occurrence, like why there’s value in it because they told you why there’s value in it. And you’ll have a rough idea of how much value there is. So if you want to do value pricing, this is the way to do it. It’s not the only way to price other than hourly, but if you’re going to continue to do project work, it’s the only way I would do it.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. And to kind of go in with the different options. Because we didn’t talk about that as much. You had, an explanation of this that I think for me, for the first time really hit because when you’re like a technical rational thinker, it’s sort of like, well, there’s one right way to do the website. And it’s like, that’s the option I want to give them ensure I could like tack on like some BS news section that they don’t really need to charge more. And sure, I could cut out something to make it a little bit cheaper. And so it just becomes like, X and then X minus 10%, X plus 10% are the three options that you give. And that’s not at all what you’re saying here at the analogy that made it all hit home for me is the idea of like, well, if you’re stuck outside in the rain, do you remember this one?

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. So if you’re cold and wet, you’re out in the rain. There’s like a dozen things you could do to change to your desired future state. So your desired future state is like cozy and dry and warm. So what are your alternatives? Your alternative could be to go into a hotel lobby and like hang out there in the restaurant until you dry off. Another option could be outerwear, you could go into an L.L.Bean and get a change of clothes. You could start a fire. I mean, you could get an umbrella, you could get in a cab.

Neville Mehra:

Hold a newspaper over your head.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. So there are all of these alternatives as a seller that a buyer considers. And if you’re a listener or viewer, when you’re thinking about buying something, especially in non-trivial purchase, I don’t know, maybe a home repair or something like that or whatever, when you’re thinking about it. Notice when you’re thinking through the options that it’s a lot less about which contractor should I hire to replace my roof. You’re not choosing apples and apples. Usually you’re not choosing between apples and apples. You’re usually choosing between apples and oranges. Like, should I do it myself? How much would that cost? Should I have my father-in-law do it? What would that cost me in emotional labor? Or should I have a professional do it. And then there’s like, or do nothing, do nothing as an option. I could just patch it. So when you recognize that there are a lot of ways to skin the cat, the thing to start off with is to understand the transformation that the client thinks you’re going to contribute to. So right now you’re cold in the wet, that stinks wouldn’t you rather be warm and dry.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah, that’d be great. It’s like, okay, I can give you an umbrella or a newspaper. I can give you a warm hotel lobby. I can get you in a car. They all have different costs. They all have different pros and cons. And the other one that I talk about is like getting from the Boston Airport, home to my house, which is about 45 miles away. I could take a helicopter, I can take a cab. I could walk, I could ride a bike. I could take the bus. I could take the train. And the price points range from zero to $2,500.

Jonathan Stark:

But that’s just one consideration. There’s also risk, there’s also scheduled. There’s also as a door-to-door service or not, how many leaps am I going to have to make from one thing to another, can I make stops on the way? Am I going to have to talk to somebody? There’s a million things that you can consider and buyers when they’re considering a transformation, by the time they get to you, they’ve already decided that whatever you do is the solution, but they might be wrong. In other words, I shouldn’t say it like that. There might be a better option that they didn’t think of and you can be in the business of providing those things.

Neville Mehra:

Exactly. So going back to an example, like just to make it more concrete for someone, like, if I say that, I need a website to help me convert more sales. Yeah. You could make me a slick looking single page homepage that would just get rid of the embarrassment. That could be like a really quick project. That’s done fast and costs less. You could redo my entire site and add a bunch of new features or you could create something totally different. That’s like integrated with the CRM system. And so we’re not even handing out business cards anymore. Now, we’re sending these like custom proposals at the conference, or you could create a better looking conference display for me, if that’s something your business can do, because you’re no longer just taking directions, but you’re actually solving a problem. You have totally different like orders of magnitude, different levels of services that you could potentially offer.

Jonathan Stark:

Right? Yeah. Like that example you just gave, like in the earlier role-play, it’s like, well, how about if we just spin up a single landing page and reprint everybody’s business cards that only cost you $10,000 or maybe $20,000, it’ll definitely be done in three months and we can take the time pressure off and do a more thoughtful, full complete redesign. So yeah, I mean, maybe that’s the newspaper over the head option, but if it ticks all the boxes in the situation and if they’ve misdiagnosed or if they’ve given themselves a bad self-diagnosis or not the most effective self-diagnosis, then a good client is going to be extremely interested in hearing what you have to say. And when they recognize that you’re a much bigger thinker and that you’re focused on them getting the most desirable results the most quickly and the most cheaply, they’re going to be very happy.

Jonathan Stark:

The customer satisfaction is extremely high, but it does mean you being a little bit more creative about how you see yourself. If you think of yourself as like I build websites, you need to start thinking instead to think like this, you need to think of yourself as someone who knows how to build websites and sells that know-how perhaps in different ways, like maybe a product I service or an info product, or custom engagements that don’t actually options on a custom engagement or proposal that don’t involve you building anything. It could be that your initial option one is I’ll map out the whole thing that you need to have done. And you can outsource it to someone cheaper. If that intern is still there, they can execute it. I can see that they know HTML and CSS. They just have a bad blueprint. I’ll give him a good blueprint. And they’re perfectly capable of building the house from that. So that could be a really, an option one that’s much lower costs than you doing a six month implementation.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah, just using, I mean, it’s a bit meta, but using you as an example of that, right? Bringing it back to where we started the conversation. You were a person who knew how to do the type of software development. And then you were a person who knew how to better package that type of software development or better prices it or better position yourself for doing it. And that led to other skills. And then you became a coach and teacher of sorts. And now like, I can go to your website and I can read your stuff for free. That’ll teach me. Right. That might be the newspaper over my head. You haven’t done anything for me, but just by reading your website, I’ll know more than I knew when I started about how to price my services as an independent professional. And again, I could read your website.

Neville Mehra:

I could get your daily emails. I could listen to the podcasts. There’s a number of things that are free, but beyond that, I could hire you to coach me. Right. And so now you’re a bit more invested in my outcome. I can ask you questions that are specific to me. I can pay you a relatively small amount of money, right. And I don’t know if you offer a service like this, but in theory, you could write the proposals for me. You could become my sales person. I could hire you every time a person wants me to do a project and say, okay, Jonathan sits in the meeting with me and does the why conversation.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah, I do this?

Neville Mehra:

And I assume you would charge a lot more for something like that than your free website or your coaching service or something like that.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. And it’s based on the size of the project. So it would be like either $5,000 to just do it or 10% of the selected option. So it’s incumbent on people to be… It’s good for people who bring in a high level clients, they’re doing a fair number of proposals and the projects are all going to be pretty big. So they’ve got a good pipeline of large-ish clients. And then they can just decide like, do we want to pay five grand for this? Or do we want to roll the dice on a 10% cut?

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. And the reason I bring all this up and bring this all back to kind of the overall idea of the show here is I often find that again, there’s this typical paradigm within an industry, a way people do things. And for most freelancers that’s hourly billing. It might be a day rate or something like that, but they haven’t necessarily investigated what are all the options for what is it that I’m selling and how am I selling it? And when you start digging in, as we’ve discussed, you have all these different ways that you can package your work and your expertise. And it doesn’t have to just be that you’re selling the obvious thing. Maybe you’re not even selling the website at all. Maybe you’re selling, as you said, the blueprint of how to make a successful website for an industry of this type.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Like people that build websites are in marketing. They don’t want to admit that, unless you’re building like a SaaS, but if you build websites for businesses, you’re in marketing, you do marketing execution. So why not broaden that to other areas of marketing that you have a superpower and it doesn’t have to be writing HTML and CSS.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. And we’re in a period where I think, there are a lot of people who are taking on freelance work, both because the rise of all these marketplaces and it’s possible to find clients, but also some economic difficulties and people maybe are between jobs they’re transitioning. And so they’re just kind of taking on work and it’s very reactive in a sense, they’re not sort of proactively saying, “I’m going to go become the world’s expert in this thing and command a premium rate.” It’s more like, “I had a job doing this and I think I can get some work on the side doing this thing.” And when you’re in that sort of a position, like, basically trying to survive rather than already thriving, I think there is this scarcity mindset that comes in where it’s like, “I’ve got to take any type of project from any type of client that comes up.”

Jonathan Stark:

That’s the hamster wheel, Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Neville Mehra:

That’s the hamster wheel. And so you end up in this feast famine cycle, right, where you’re calling the hamster wheel, where you as a freelancer are either desperately searching for the next project. So you can afford to pay the rent. Or you’ve got this one project now, and 100% of your hours are being billed on that project. And so you spend zero time marketing yourself.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. That’s the trap. There’s another, and hourly encourages that because you make more money, the more hours you work. And then, so any time you spend on your business feels like you’re losing your hourly rate for every hour that you spend. It just completely messes with your head. It’s the worst, but yeah. Sorry to interrupt you. Right.

Neville Mehra:

And you might not even be charging enough to be able to survive. If you’re not billing 100% of your hours when you’re working that. And so the counterintuitive life-changing magic of niching down is part of the fix, right? We talked about changing the way that you sell your work. But one of the other things that I think you are a big proponent of, and that I’ve learned certainly reading your daily emails is this idea of positioning. Because in order to be able to either raise your rate, charge a premium, start to offer these different types of services where it’s like, you don’t just pay me to do the work. You can pay me to tell you how to do the work. You need to have a certain level of expertise or authority or credibility. Like I can hire Jonathan Stark to teach me how to do software pricing, because I believe you’re an expert in software pricing that doesn’t work. If I don’t already believe that about.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. So the thing that I would say to someone who… I feel like the question is, what does somebody do if they’re stuck? So they’re living hand to mouth. They’re trying to bill as many hours as they possibly can to pay their bills. What are they supposed to do to break the cycle? And the answer is create an audience. And how do you do that? The easiest way to do that is to pick a niche, to focus on. And it could be segmented in all sorts of different ways like demographics, psychographic, vertical, whatever. It could be whatever it is. You need to decide who you want to help. Like pick people you like, help people you like, get what they want. So once you know who you like and who you want to serve, find out what they want, not what they need, what they want, find out what they want.

Jonathan Stark:

And if there’s they want that you can provide, then start helping them with that for free to build an audience, the people that are going through like the pandemic unscathed like in my world, sort of like solopreneurs or small firms, people who are unscathed are the ones that have an audience. Where there’s already a bunch of people, they’re almost probably without exception, they have a mailing list. And the people who are in the audience are 100% clear on what the person’s value proposition is. They know what the person does. They understand what the benefits of those things are, and it’s something they want. So if you don’t know what people want, other than like a pair of hands to code a website, then that’s your homework is to like, figure out who you like, who you want to help, and what do they want? What are the things that they want help with and just start helping them.

Jonathan Stark:

And you can do it for free with a newsletter. You can do it for free with a podcast. You can do it for free going into an online forum where people are asking questions and you can just give them good answers. And then you just collect all that information. And as long as you stay niche down on this, like this is the kind of outcome that I help these kinds of people with you’re going to create a body of work very quickly, and you’ll be able to share that. And it’ll have a gravitational pull at the center. I call it like a content solar system, but you create this little gravitational pull because you have a central theme and it hangs together and you can write or speak all these different things. Whether it’s blogging, email list, podcasting, vlogging, live streams, whatever, and start to build an audience around that thing.

Jonathan Stark:

And then at a certain point, there are going to be people who have been really happy with the free assistance that you gave them and your side hustle that you’ve been doing while freelancing, and some people are going to step forward and say, “I would love to pay you to do that.” Like, people will come to you with money out and say like, “can I just pay you to do this for me? I don’t want to learn it anymore. I’ve got enough money to pay someone to do it. Can I pay you to do it?” And then you can decide like, is this something I want to do? And start building a product ladder, which is a whole other conversation, but yeah.

Neville Mehra:

That was an extremely great and quick rundown of the process. I think, as I said, you write a lot about this. So there’s a lot of stuff we can point listeners to, but just to make it a little bit less abstract before we close, I think because for a lot of technical people, especially there’s a tendency to say, “well, I’m a Python developer.” It doesn’t really matter what they’re using my code for, Python is Python. I can write it for anyone. And that may even be true, but let’s take a different example just to make it more obvious. So if you’re a photographer, because I think we would all agree that if you’re having a wedding, you probably want a wedding photographer who knows how to shoot weddings in a way that they look nice, who knows, how to capture the beauty of the dress and all the magical moments.

Neville Mehra:

And who knows to take pictures of the little kids when they’re bringing the rings and all of these kinds of things that you’ve seen before at a wedding, even though technically what they’re doing is loading film or an SD card in a camera and clicking a shutter button and measuring aperture and like all the technical skills are exactly same. You put a lens on like you have settings on the camera. Like all of that stuff is the same. Just the same as like, Python doesn’t change depending on whether you’re writing it for a Fortune 500 Wall Street company or some other little side project, but the way you approach the project and the various soft skills.

Neville Mehra:

And most importantly, I think the perspective that you have about the work and the way that you’re able to, as you said, build an audience and build like a body of a thinking around the thing that you’re doing is totally different. And so if you tell me, “Hey, I’m having a wedding,” I’m going to say, “Oh yeah, I know this wedding photographer.” I’m not going to say, “Oh, I know this landscape photographer. He shoots mountains normally, but he could probably take pictures for you.”

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. You can go even farther. I have a friend who is a same-sex wedding photographer and there’s like you said, technically, lighting is lighting, but there’s a whole bunch of call them soft skills around the whole thing. The process is going to be a little bit different. You can’t go through your normal wedding photographer playbook, if there is no dress or if it’s two dresses. So it’s different. And in a way that’s meaningful, it needs to be a meaningful difference, but it’s meaningful to the target market. And he’s like slammed, like you’d think, Oh, how could you stay busy with such a specific target market. Now, it’s almost never too small. It’s almost impossible to pick a two small target market.

Neville Mehra:

And that’s why I refer to it as like the counterintuitive magic of niching down in the sense that your first instinct would be, well, if I choose a smaller market, I’ll have less clients because, I don’t know the numbers, but I assume there’s a lot less same-sex weddings than, heterosexual weddings.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. But how many weddings can you shoot in a year… 50? So, that’s not that many. Right? So I just did an email about this, people want to fish in the sea because well, there’s like, I looked it up. There’s estimated that there’s 3.5. I can’t remember now trillion. I think it was 3.5 trillion fish in the sea. So people want to fish in the sea, but guess what? The sea is huge. So it’s really hard to find those trillion fish or however many there are wouldn’t you rather fish in a swimming pool that was so full of fish.

Jonathan Stark:

That they were jumping out onto the ground, trying to get in your boat, even if there’s only 1,000 fish in that pool, you can only eat like 10. So there’s plenty of fish in the pool. Go find the pool that you want to fish in and fish there it’s way easier to catch fish in a pool. That’s an illustration of that counterintuitive nature. Yeah. They’re like, a million times more fish in the ocean, but go try fishing in the ocean and tell me how it goes. It’s hard. It’s way easier to fish in a pool.

Neville Mehra:

Yeah. That was one of your daily emails, which just bringing this to a close. It’s incredible to me, the fact that you can take a topic that seems so narrow, right? Pricing for independent professionals. I get how you could write a book on that maybe, or a couple of books in your case, or having an entire coaching and consulting practice around that. And then still manage on top of that to write an email every single day about that. And it just shows you, there is no niche to small, and that actually the smaller you go, the more stuff there is to explore there. And the more expertise you can build up because you’re building it up on top of this relatively small thing. And so I love your newsletter. I’m consistently impressed with the way that you managed to tie every situation that happens in your life into a lesson about price. Like I went to the gas station yesterday and here’s why you should position your business. X, Y

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah, we got a Christmas ornaments, one coming up.

Neville Mehra:

So for everyone listening and watching, as I said, you’ve got books on the subject, you’ve got a website, you’ve got an email newsletter. Where’s the best place for someone who’s heard this conversation, hey, this sounds like it makes sense, but they need a little bit more to just start applying it. Where should they start?

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I mean, we talk mostly about value pricing, so I would send people to valuepricingbootcamp.com and that’ll redirect you to a six day email course that I have, it’s free and you can go through and drills into each one of these topics more specifically. And it comes from my personal email. So if you’ll reply to any one of those messages, it’ll go in my inbox and we can start a conversation there if you’ve got specific questions about that message so that’s really the best place. The mailing list I think is definitely the best place.

Neville Mehra:

Awesome. I will include links to that and everything else in case people want to start somewhere different in the show notes.

Jonathan Stark:

Cool. Great.

Neville Mehra:

Jonathan, it’s been a pleasure. I think we covered a lot of good ground, so thank you for joining me.

Jonathan Stark:

Thanks for having me.