Pricing Heartbreak

Lately, I feel like I’ve been serving “hot breakfast” to returning clients.

And no, I don’t mean fresh pancakes or french toast.  “Breakfast” is a Nigerian slang that basically means “heartbreak”. So, in other words, I feel like I’ve been breaking the hearts of returning clients.

Let me explain.

I have always been proud of my very competitive rates (in fact, one could argue that I charged peanuts during my first few years of professional DJ’ing 🫤) But last year, I made the long-overdue decision to raise my DJ prices across the board. In the words of Fat Joe: “Yesterday’s price is not today’s price!” These changes have, understandably, surprised returning clients who were expecting quotes more in line with what they paid the last time they hired me.  In many cases, they have decided to go with another (presumably cheaper) option.

I’ve found my reaction to their surprise to be even more intriguing. It has felt weird, to say the least. I’m sure that I am not alone in this struggle.  The issue here is finding the right balance between providing the best value for customers’ money, as well as setting prices that make business sense but don’t scare potential / returning clients away.  Here are a few things I have considered that informed my decision to adjust my prices, and still confirm that I made the right decision!

Consider where you are: As an event professional, or whatever insert-business-category, you are part of a larger industry within a larger community.  Market forces of demand and supply, inflation, etc in your community drive average costs in your industry.  It is smart to pay attention to these industry averages, and use them as guides for your pricing structure.

It is not smart to charge way below the average, undercutting your industry colleagues. Don’t be that guy / gal!  But also, don’t get me wrong: starting a business with introductory low rates or offering discounts is cool.  Just don’t make it your long-term business model, because it is not sustainable and you’re negatively impacting your industry. Of course, it goes without saying that overcharging makes no sense at all. Even if you’re the Michael Jordan of your insert-business-category.

Evaluate your services: Each time I discuss pricing with fellow DJ’s and other colleagues, they all say the same thing: “Charge whatever you think your service is worth”. I’ve never really liked this piece of advice, because it left more questions that answers. What do you mean by “what I think it is worth? How do I quantify the value of my service?

Being honest, I think the question I was really asking was: “What monetary value can I attribute to my service that will attract customers?”  And that is where we get it mixed up sometimes.

Customers don’t come to us because they want to spend money. They come because they want a service that we provide. Our main goal should be to offer services that customers will want, even need. We must be intentional about the time and resources we put into creating and perfecting these services. These investments (as well as the community / industry averages I explained earlier) ultimately determine the monetary value we place on our services.

 TL;DR – Don’t be afraid to demand what you want for the services you provide, even if you get a few gasps and break a few hearts along the way 😎