Price is a myth. Value is everything

When watching The Apprentice Aotearoa last week, which is arguably the worst show on NZ television right now, one of the candidates said that the first rule of business is to negotiate on price. I believe this guy is an auctioneer, so I see where he’s coming from, but I totally disagree with that statement. I am more than happy to pay the going rate for someone or something that adds value.

If someone asks me to do work for them then tries to get it for less than I charge, the answer will be no. Not now, not ever, so please don’t ask.

Sure, I understand that budget is a consideration but if you can’t afford what you need, then don’t expect to get it cheaper. Our rates are our rates, and for the quality you get from me and my team, the cost is more than reasonable.

If you do not see the value in unique, professional, and high-end content creation, project management or copywriting, feel free to look elsewhere. 

In saying that, I have most definitely produced content at a reduced rate. I have done work for people I really like and for a few charities that are close to my heart without sending them a bill at all, but that was my call.

They didn’t ask. I offered.

Don’t be rude

Asking a creative to do something for free or super cheap as “it would be great for their portfolio” is an insult. Yet graphic designers, photographers, artists, and writers hear it all the time, especially when starting out in business.

There are many people who try to lowball or, even worse, don’t want to pay creators for their work at all.

Say you walked into a restaurant and told the manager you wanted to have a meal, but you can only pay them in exposure. Do you think they would invite you to sit down and place your order? Not likely!

Asking someone to work for free or trying to get them to do it cheaper is demeaning. Please don’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with negotiating a contract or the terms of a deal in business but expecting a discount or pressuring someone for it is unacceptable.

I guess the biggest issue can be found in the misunderstanding of the word. Negotiating is not about how good a deal you can get, or how cheap you can buy a product or service for.

“Negotiate” comes from the Latin word “negotiatus” which means to carry on business. This original meaning is critical to understand, as the goal of negotiating is to continue doing business by discussing details with the other party then arrive at an agreement.

While a buyer may shop for the lowest price, it is value that they really want.

You get what you pay for

A conversation I had last week with one of my favourite brand strategists, Mike Dunn from Tribal Brands, was also interesting. He had been approached by a former client who he had done some design work for about ten years ago for a potential new project.

After a meeting or two plus a few hours spent on a comprehensive proposal, Mike was told that it was “too expensive.” This client had conveniently forgotten that Mike’s skillset and the level of work he produces had evolved in a decade. He also expected to be paying the same rate he did back then.

Does a block of butter or a night in a hotel cost the same as it did 10 years ago? Nope!

Although it was a cool project and we could have created some real magic for it in another great collab, this client simply didn’t get it.  Mike has 40 years of experience in design and creates beautiful, high-end work.

I have 25 years’ experience as a professional writer. We are the type of people that are never stagnant and upskill all the time.

If you need a creative and are budget conscious, you could look at hiring a talented beginner or look on an international platform for freelancers such as Fiverr for someone who charges less.

Will it get you the same quality and level of service? You’d be extremely lucky if it did, but nothing is impossible.   

Creatives, take note

By discounting your price, you are not doing yourself or your business any favours. Know your worth and remember that you can’t pay your bills with a mention on social media or a backlink and credit on someone’s website. 

Doing something at no charge to help a friend or a charity you love is perfectly fine. Just do not devaluate your talent and service, charge a fair rate, and never discount what you deliver under pressure.

You’re in business for a reason, and hopefully that is to provide something better than what is already out there. Make sure your price reflects this, and use competitor prices or so called market rates as a benchmark only.

Regardless if you work with an hourly rate or calculate a fixed price for each project, make sure to charge what you’re worth. Don’t discount, be upfront and honest about your pricing, and own it.

In my opinion, the time and effort it takes to try and convince someone who doesn’t understand what you do and the value you deliver is simply not worth it. Move along, as another project for a client that’s a much better fit will come your way.

The value you bring

The creative world has a relatively low entry barrier and qualifications are rarely specified. Almost anyone can call themselves a designer, a copywriter, or a content creator. For customers, it’s harder than ever before to find the right fit.

Social media and a great ranking on Google are awesome, but 90% of our business and that of most creatives comes from referrals and word of mouth.

Hearing positive things about a product or service has a significant impact on a customer’s decision. If you want them to hear how amazing your work and your business is, you’ll need to step up your referral game.

To ace it, you’ve got to be amazing.

If you work hard to cultivate a strong reputation by over delivering, adding value, and providing a professional and friendly service at a fair price, then referrals will come to you naturally.

Be clear about your sense of purpose, have a personal mission from which you create, support, and respond.

Find new ways to delight and surprise your clients and you’ll automatically earn their respect and their business.

~ by Martine Pierhagen, founder of Sweet Orange Copywriting & PR

For quality copy, websites, press campaigns and professional management of your marketing projects, think Sweet Orange!

If you need an amazing brand, let me introduce you to Mike at Tribal Brands or one of the other amazing creatives in my network. I will find you the right fit!

Call 021 492 040, email, or send us a message today!

~ Again, with thanks to the amazing photographers from around the world that generously upload their work for free sharing on