This is a guest contribution from author Tom Morkes.
I know what you’re thinking: what’s the catch?
If you’re like me, you’ve read dozens (okay, thousands) of blog headlines that pique your interest, only to find out the headline comes with an asterisk:
Quandruple Your Opt-in Rate!*
*you just need to be featured on a massive blog, first.
Make 6 Figures in 6 Months*
*you just need 5 figures and a subscriber list of thousands to start.
I could go on, but you get the point.
So let me assuage your concerns: there’s no asterisk here.
No need to hustle affiliates, join an MLM, or pepper your site with Google Ads.
When I say you can double your blog revenue by not charging, I mean it. I’ve done it. And I’ve seen dozens of others do it too.
But before I get to the details, I want to tell you the story of a guy who stopped charging clients altogether (and his surprising results)…
The Generous Designer
Meet Adrian Hoppel.
Adrian is a Philidelphia-based web designer. He’s been doing professional web design for years. And while Adrian is incredibly talented and creates amazing websites, what’s truly remarkable about him has less to do with what he does rather than how he does it.
You see, Adrian doesn’t charge for his web design services. He never has and he probably never will.
Instead, he offers everything as a gift to his clients.
If you want to work with Adrian and you both agree it’s a good fit, Adrian will design your website and give it to you. No deposits. No contracts. No strings.
Just a simple gift – here you go.
How Adrian Makes More Money Giving Away his Gifts than He Did by Charging a Fixed-Rate:
Okay, so you might be wondering: how in the world does that work?
How can he make a living if he just gives his work away for free?!
The answer is simple (although certainly not conventional):
While Adrian gives his work away freely as a gift, it doesn’t mean he works for free, nor does it mean his work is valueless.
Adrian built his business on a foundation of trust. You trust him to build you a great website. He trusts you that you will support his gifts and his giving.
In Adrian’s words:
“Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.”
A beautiful premise, but does it work?
Again, from Adrian himself:
“I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift…every single client has supported me in whole.
Every. Single. One.
Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model…” (source)
In other words, by removing a fixed-rate price from the equation, and giving away his talents, skills, and work as a gift, Adrian has made more per client than he ever did before.
I Want More Examples!
Adrian isn’t the only person letting people choose their price and finding incredible success.
Here are just a few examples (of hundreds that I’ve researched) of people using the gift-economy and Pay What You Want pricing to make a killing:
The Vennare brothers of TheHybridAthlete.com have been running a PWYW store for over a year now, and in an interview I did with them last year, they explained that they make hundreds per DAY using this strategy (do the math: we’re talking 6 figures from no set price).
Disconnect.me is a new tech startup that just raised over $3 million in funding and they run their entire operation using Pay What You Want pricing (and have no intentions to change)
Humblebundle.com makes millions for video game producers and charity by releasing limited-time PWYW videogame bundles every few weeks
Joost Van Dongen, a videogame developer I had the opportunity to interview several months ago, released a hobby project (Proun) and let his customers choose their price – and made over $20,000 from it
Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Amanda Palmer all have made millions from their PWYW album offers (in the case of Radiohead, they made more on their PWYW album than all their previous online album releases combined)
Weinerei Perlin is a Berlin-based winery that sells all their wine using PWYW pricing (and has for over 10 years)
Matt Homan is a consultant that offers blank invoices – and has doubled his income in the process
And this is just a small sample.
There are literally hundreds of other people and companies using this pricing technique and finding great success with it…
But there are also a few people I’ve interviewed who tried and failed.
The question is: what is it that separates successful PWYW offers from those that don’t work out?
Let’s get to it:
How to Remove Fixed-Prices from Your Blog and Increase Your Income
Before you go removing prices from everything on your site, you still need to understand a couple things:
#1. This ‘pricing model’ (or lack thereof) doesn’t work for everything.
Adrian is selling a premium service with a credible range of prices. He’s not selling gasoline or In-N-Out Double-Doubles.
Commodities* don’t work in the gift-economy.
*if you find a gas station that lets me choose my price, please let me know.
#2. Letting people choose their price only works if you pitch it the right way.
Just because you slap a ‘Pay What You Want’ sticker onto your recycled beer coasters or set the price for your ‘Rapid Pet Grooming’ eCourse at $0+ doesn’t mean people will be generous.
You need to give them a REASON to contribute.
That’s why I created a simple-to-follow framework for anyone looking to apply the gift-economy (and in particular: Pay What You Want pricing) to their products or services (a framework I’ve used to make thousands in book sales and consulting in the past few months).
So consider this your personal crash course in Pay What You Want pricing:
How to get People to Contribute Generously to Your Work: The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework
Okay, I know the name is corny, but, as you’ll see, it works.
Step #1. Clarify the Offer
Common sense, but not common practice. How can people be generous if they don’t know what you’re offering?
In reality – this same rule is just as important when selling a fixed-price product or service.
For more information on how to present a clear offer, listen to Brian Clark.
Step #2. Show the Customer You’re Human
People don’t give to machines (or corporations).
We give to people.
If you want the gift-economy to work for you, you need to connect with your readers, customers, clients, and guests. You need to show them there’s a person behind the product or service whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into creating it.
Online – that means including pictures and videos of yourself, and writing in an authentic, passionate, and sincere voice. For more practical tools, The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers will help get your writing on track so you come across like you (and not a robot).
Step #3. Appeal to Idealism
When it comes to Pay What You Want and the gift-economy, we still need to give people a good reason to contribute.
Appealing to idealism creates the spark people need to reflect on why they’re contributing. When we make references to generosity, karma, good-will, etc. we are more able to activate the generosity of others (and yes, people are generous – we just need to give them the opportunity).
Step #4. Anchor the Price
Price anchoring is important for anything you’re selling, but it’s especially important for Pay What You Want offers.
When we price-anchor, we get people in the proper frame of mind for contributing larger than usual sums (or at least, larger than they would have had the price anchor not been present).
Two powerful ways to price anchor a PWYW product is by showing:
- the itemized costs of materials or resources, or what equivalent amounts would look like on the high-end (e.g. “similar custom designed websites go for $7,000”)
- the top-tier price points of competing products or services (e.g. “company X charges $20,000 for a new website)
Step #5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice
Alright, so people have a reason to give (you’ve clarified the offer), they are comfortable with giving something (thanks to price-anchoring), and they want to give (because you appealed to their idealism)…now what?
PWYW and gift-economy is confusing stuff for the majority of the population since they’ve never experienced it. A lot of people are immediately turned off by it because it confuses them.
You need to remove these fears by being very clear and helping people to the right choice. You can do this by showing any or all of the above:
1. Total number of contributors (this a form of social proof)
2. Top-tier contributor prices (what did the top 10 people pay for this product? This can be another form of price-anchoring)
3. Average contribution price (although this may lead to more ‘average price’ purchases of your PWYW offer)
Any (or all) of these will help people recognize what’s a fair offer and give them ample opportunity to be generous (if the average is ‘x’ then I will give ‘x+1’)
Step #6. (Bonus Step) Add Charity to the Mix
This is a game changer.
Want to skyrocket your PWYW income? Add charity to the mix.
People don’t pay money for a product or service, they pay money for the story. When we integrate a congruent charity into the mix (something that makes sense in the context of what we’re selling, like teaming up with Kiva.org for The Creative Entrepreneur journal) we multiply the effect of appealing to idealism.
A quick warning: assigning a random charity to support won’t work. You’ve got to make sure it’s consistent with your message and the intent of your product or service.
The beauty of including charity? It’s win-win. You make more income, a worthwhile charity gets a cut, and the customer is happy to contribute.
Call me biased, but this is a strategy I’d like to see every business adopt.
Putting the Gift Economy to Work
This is a basic framework for incorporating the gift-economy (specifically Pay What You Want pricing) into your work.
By no means does it mean you must offer EVERYTHING as a gift, nor as Pay What You Want. I’m also not saying that fixed-pricing doesn’t work better in some cases (it does).
But, as you can tell from the examples above, this stuff works incredibly well when implemented the right way.
I hope you enjoyed the article and if you have any questions – leave them in the comments below! I’d be happy to answer any and all questions. This is an important topic and deserves a good conversation going forward.
Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the gift-economy…
Tom Morkes is an author, publisher, and pricing consultant, and you can get inside his brain at www.tommorkes.com/problogger where he applies what he learned leading troops in combat to entrepreneurship, art and writing.