The Art of Raising Your Fees

Money.

Abstractly it seems like a good thing to have.

But talk to most conscious entrepreneur types about doing one of the central things that will open the door to more of it appearing in their lives?

Stunned silence and utter emotional shut down.

Money is fraught for everyone in this culture. We’ve all done things with money we regret. We’ve all had people use money against us in ways that didn’t feel good but… add a social, political and spiritual analysis to this?

My oh my.

You’re about to watch a 26 minute video (it’s worth your time) about this thorny topic of raising your rates. My guess is that you’re walking into it with some level of confusion around not only how to do it but if you should at all.

Of course, this comes often in my workshops and whenever people lift up this topic with all of their halting, “But is it right?” and “What about the federal reserve?” and “But what about class dynamics?” I want to fall on my knees and kiss their feet for being willing to even think about this stuff because most people don’t.

What must be faced is that we who are living in the dominant culture of North America, live in a mad culture. It’s a culture of hyper individualism where village-making is sorely needed. It’s a culture where the gifts we might freely give to each other in a healthy culture (e.g. affection, listening, cleaning) are turned into services that are charged for. That’s how it is. You are unlikely to solve that on your own. And yet you want to. And yet the bills. And yet and yet.

So what do you do?

The first thing that must happen, is to have reality-based conversation about money and what we charge. As Lily Tomlin put it, “I can handle reality in small doses, but as a lifestyle, it’s much too confining.” It’s a good laugh but most of us have also confronted the limitations of illusions too and the ways that refusing to face the truth ends up being an inescapable jail built of everything we refused to consider with bars crafted from everything we’ve banished from view.

We need to talk honestly about money and what it takes to sustain us.

This is a topic I’ve thought about a great deal. I wrote an eBook called Who Am I To Teach and Charge Money For It?

One of my most popular blog posts is entitled Why Charging What You’re Worth Is Bullshit.

My next eBook will be me sharing how I’ve managed to lead almost all of my live daylong and weekend long workshops on a pay what you can basis since 2005 (and done well financially from it).

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 8.20.35 PMBut, having said all of that, this is not an area I have focused on deeply. It’s not a place I feel the most solid in offering advice.

But, as good fortune would have it, life introduced me to a good woman named Tiffany McLain (pictured here) who sent me an email of appreciation about a blog post I’d written and telling me she was planning of writing an article inspired by it. Which she did.

I went and checked out her site and was delighted to see her focus on helping therapists raise their rates.

I dug about a bit and asked her if she might submit herself to an interview for my blog. I was about to hit the road and I sent her the following questions.

  • What’s your story? how did you end up having so much to say about raising fees for therapists?
  • How do you define under-charging and over-charging?
  • Why do so many people feel guilty about charging anything at all?
  • How should we feel about what we charge?
  • Why do so many therapist under charge?
  • A lot of people would say that the politically correct thing is to charge less so that people in lower economic classes could afford to hire you and that charging higher fees is classist or only allowing those with economic privilege to access your services. what’s your take on this?
  • What are the three biggest blunders therapists make in raising their fees?
  • What tips would you give to those who feel nervous to raise their fees? what’s most important here?

She sent me, in response, the video below which was put together with so much care, thought, humour, candour and love that… She’s officially one of my new favourite people.

We would both love to hear your thoughts, reflections and further questions in the comments below.

Maybe I Should Stop Doing PWYC

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 11.20.49 AM

(NOTE TO READER: As you can see, this post has generated quite the commentary below and this from sharing it on social media. If it’s any reassurance, my practice of offering my daylong and weekend workshops on a PWYC basis is not under any imminent danger. I don’t intend to stop it any time soon. I wrote this piece more to reflect to all of us the immense consequence that everything we do and do not do has not only on our lives and the lives of others (intended or not). At this point, the reasons (selfish and selfless) for me to keep offering these workshops on a PWYC basis outweigh the reasons not to. So, I’m not looking for alternatives right now. I think with some adjustments, PWYC will continue to work well for me when I do it).

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Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I led a marketing workshop in Toronto last Summer.

It was a weekend workshop that I offer, as I have for almost 15 years now, on a PWYC basis.

Every time I do the workshop I tell people that it’s not a given that it will go on forever – this PWYC thing. If it stopped working, I’d have to stop doing it. Thankfully, it has worked thus far and people have been remarkably trustworthy in their instalment payments that they agree to.

But of that co-hort from the Toronto workshop (of which there were seven) there were two where payments were late. Two out of seven is a very high ration compared to the past.

It was left to me to follow up.

Over and over again.

It was a kind of ghosting.

Or carelessness. Or forgetfulness. But it all communicates the same sort of thing in the end. “This isn’t that high a priority to me right now.”

To be clear: the issue wasn’t the amount. I offer my workshops on a PWYC basis so that people can afford to attend it no matter where they’re at financially. And I’ve had people promise to pay me large amounts and then, months later, have to re-negotiate that as their financial picture had dramatically changed and I was happy to forgive that amount and let it go. 

I suppose it’s true for most of us: the big issue is communication.

On the personal level, it felt terrible. These were people I’d spent a weekend with. I’d paid all of my expenses up front to be there. I’d worked hard for them all weekend to help them grow their businesses. A certain level of affection grew. And then, after all that, they were treating me like this?

It reminded me of an ex-housemate who would take forever to pay his bills. But that isn’t what bothered me. It was that I was the one who had to follow up with him. He wouldn’t let me know it was going to be late. Then he’d promise to get me the money by Friday. And he wouldn’t. And then I wouldn’t hear from him for a month.

It was the lack of communication that stung the most. 

It reminds me of going to a friend’s house and sitting on her couch with a guitar. It was myself, my friend and two of her friends. 

“Are you going to sing us a song?” asked my friend, sitting on her floor with a bottle of wine. 

I nodded and began to sing a Corin Raymond tune that I love.

They listened for a while but, within sixty seconds, they’d begun talking with each other and weren’t listening at all. I stopped playing and set down the guitar. Besides the personal sting of being ignored, there was the song to think about. A song is a living thing and it was being dishonoured by that kind of behaviour and so, to care for it, I stopped it. It wasn’t fair to the song.

It reminded me of sitting at the Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock. We were in the kitchen. I was doing magic at a table. But people started grabbing at things. They were drunk. They were interrupting me and distracted. I stopped the show. They were shocked. One came up and apologized later. I think they’d all imagined that I would accomodate any level of rudeness they brought. 

It reminded me of one of my first magic mentors, Gazzo Macee who I had seen stop a number of street shows after five minutes because he could feel the tone the audience was setting wasn’t right. 

And so it was with these two people from the Toronto workshop. I would email and there would be long delays in even responding to me. In one of those cases, there were six weeks in which multiple emails were sent and no reply. The payments finally arrived but much good will was lost in the process. Perhaps it will be restored but I’m leaving that in their hands for the moment.

For the first time in years, I found myself thinking, “Maybe it’s time to put this PWYC thing to rest. Maybe people are taking it for granted too much.” I don’t need to lead live workshops. I can make better money online. There are no travel expenses, accommodations, venue fees etc.

I think that we often underestimate the consequentiality of what we do and don’t do.

We assume that what we love will be there regardless of how we treat it. Until the break up. Until we’re fired. Until that local bookstore goes under because we loved the convenience of Amazon.com instead. Until the local farmers shut their farms down because we all decided chain grocery stores were more convenient.

It makes me think of my dear colleague George Kao who brought me in to help his people for 90 minutes the other day and then sent me, thought I’d agreed to do it for free, $200 afterwards as his way of saying thanks.

It makes me think of how many indigenous traditions are based around feeding the holy in Nature with the beauty they make with their language and their hands and how many people go to Church wanting to get fed.

It makes me think of the difference a good and enthusiastic crowd makes when I perform improv with Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton.

It makes me think of the guests at my potlucks who help with the dishes throughout the night.

It makes me think of my dear friend Esther, a Mexican woman, who told me that when women of colour visited her they automatically began to help out with whatever chores they saw needed doing and white men who came to visit would simply sit and wait to be served with an air of entitlement. Helping out never seemed to occur to them at all. It makes me think about how I got up from my chair and began to help her with dishes once she told me that.  

My offering my live workshops on a pay what you can basis is not inevitable. Its future is not in my hands in the end. It’s in the hands of the people who attend them and how they honour or do not honour their word in what they will pay (and how honourably they act when they realize they are no longer able to honour their original commitments).

In offering the workshops in this pricing I expect more from people in their integrity than perhaps others do and I’m okay with that. I’ve got no plans on changing that. If we’re going to build a new economy, move towards the possibility of village-making, then surely our integrity in our commitments matters a great deal. 

If you love someone or a business, I ask you to imagine that the way you interact with it (or don’t) shapes its future. I ask you to imagine that the future of those you love and businesses you admire is in your hands. It’s too easy to imagine that they are inevitable. That they will always be there no matter what you do or don’t do. It’s easy to see those we admire as sort of bullet proof and not so vulnerable as we are. That they don’t feel the slights as deeply as we would. I can assure you they do. I’m not immune to it and have no plans to try to be intact (a word that means ‘untouched). 

Martha Nussbaum put it so well when she wrote,

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility. Being a human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you. When that is too much to bear, it is always possible to retreat into the thought, “I’ll live for my own comfort, for my own revenge, for my own anger, and I just won’t be a member of society anymore.” That really means, “I won’t be a human being anymore.” You see people doing that today where they feel that society has let them down, and they can’t ask anything of it, and they can’t put their hopes on anything outside themselves. You see them actually retreating to a life in which they think only of their own satisfaction, and maybe the satisfaction of their revenge against society. But the life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer. Tragedy happens only when you are trying to live well, because for a heedless person who doesn’t have deep commitments to others, Agamemnon’s conflict [in which the king-protagonist has to choose between saving his army and saving his daughter] isn’t a tragedy… Now the lesson certainly is not to try to maximize conflict or to romanticize struggle and suffering, but it’s rather that you should care about things in a way that makes it a possibility that tragedy will happen to you. If you hold your commitments lightly, in such a way that you can always divest yourself from one or the other of them if they conflict, then it doesn’t hurt you when things go badly. But you want people to live their lives with a deep seriousness of commitment: not to adjust their desires to the way the world actually goes, but rather to try to wrest from the world the good life that they desire. And sometimes that does lead them into tragedy.”

And so, I’ll be paying attention at the future workshops and how people treat this PWYC offering. If the trend continues or expands, I’ll find some other way of proceeding that sustains me financially, respects my craft and makes my work accessible to those who need it. 

And, perhaps, I’ll need to speak to this more directly in my future workshops. Certainly this will be so. It’s a good reminder to all of us that when patterns of poor behaviour begin to emerge in our clients, it’s time for us to reflect on what systems we need in place to change that. I will need to name this pattern and say something like, “My friends… I trust you will pay an amount that is right for you and post date those payments for dates that work for you. And I understand that things change. It’s how it is. If you need to delay a payment for a while or you realize you’ll never be able to pay me… all I ask is that you tell me as soon as you know. Don’t make me follow up with you about the payments. Don’t make me send multiple emails asking you where things are at. Don’t make me chase you. If you promise a payment on June 1st, don’t wait until June 2nd to tell me it’s not coming. Or June 30th. I ask that you bring the kind of integrity to this you’d want your clients to bring to their financial commitments with you.”

Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I’m not there yet. But I’m no longer where I was a few months ago. I’m not assuming that things will continue to go as they have gone before. I can’t tell yet if this was a one time aberration or a change in the winds. I can tell you that, if this trend continued or worsened, I would pack up my pay what you can pricing and put it back in its case out of respect for it and the good people who are behaving so poorly towards it (why lead them into a situation they can’t handle and cause more shame for them?).

Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I suppose you’ll all let me know after my future workshops. 

Guest Post: Sliding Scale 2.0 – No One Left Out

By Josh Van Vliet, Director of Community, Academy for Coaching Excellence

1000px-Emblem-scales.svgI recently read a guest blog post by Peter Rubin about Privilege-Based Pricing here on the Marketing for Hippies blog (if you didn’t see it, it’s great – go check it out here). In it, Peter shares about this interesting and innovative way that businesses can help address social inequality through pricing structure.

Reading this, I got really excited, because at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, my teammates and I have thought a lot about this too.

At the heart of it, our work is about building a community, a world, where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out.

Our contribution to that vision is to provide coaching and coaching skills training to people, so they can bring clarity, focus, ease, and grace to their own life, and empower others to do that as leaders or professional coaches. We offer programs for personal and professional leadership development, as well as for professional coaching certification.

In these times of widening inequality and deep uncertainty, we as a business saw that we have a critical opportunity to be a leader in our profession and our society.

So we’ve been asking ourselves:

How do we price our services to reflect our stand for creating a world where everyone is supported 100%, and no one is left out?

Given the fact that different people have different access to resources, often due to factors outside of their control (such as class, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender), how do we include everyone, as much as possible?

. . . And run a sustainable, profitable business at the same time?

Enter the sliding scale.

So how did you arrive at this sliding scale?

We started by creating a scholarship fund.

It helped, but it took a lot of energy to run, because it relied on us ultimately making a judgment about how much scholarship to offer someone.

On top of that, the application was enough of a barrier to entry that some people wouldn’t bother applying, or felt like they didn’t “deserve” a scholarship.

We also offered folks resources, coaching, and guidance on how to successfully crowdfund some or all of their tuition for the course.

We’ve supported people to collectively raise over $50,000 to cover course tuition, travel, and other costs, and it’s helped make it possible for many people to attend who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend.

And, we know that this is only part of the equation.

So we looked around to see what other people are doing, and discovered a few different organizations using a tiered sliding scale approach (like the Rockwood Leadership Institute).

How does your sliding scale work?

Here’s how we describe it on our website:

We stand for a world where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out, and our pricing reflects that vision. Our sliding scale empowers people to participate who could not otherwise do so, and enables us to offer our life-changing work where it can do the greatest good.

We use an honour system, and don’t require you to disclose your income. We also honour that both expenses and income factor into your situation, so we ask that you discern the price truly right for you — whether that is below or above your suggested tier.

So that our work serves those who could not otherwise afford it, please invest the amount that is a “stretch” but not a hardship, factoring in your access to outside support (i.e. family and/or fundraising). Referring to the scale below, ask yourself:

  1. What investment level would be comfortable for me?
  2. What level would be a “stretch” but not a hardship — truthfully factoring in my access to outside support?
  3. Am I willing to register at that level?

This is an example of our sliding scale, for the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational 4-day course:

Gross Annual

Household Income

. . . OR Organizational Budget

(if your organization funds you)

Suggested

Investment

$90,000+ $10,000,000+ $3,000
$70,000 – $89,999 $4,000,000 – $9,999,999 $2,500
$50,000 – $69,999 $1,000,000 – $3,999,999 $2,000
$25,000 – $49,999 $0 – $999,999 $1,500
$0 – $24,999 Not available $1,000


What’s the response been so far?

Virtually entirely and overwhelmingly very positive. To give you a sense of what we’ve heard, here’s what one person wrote to us in response:

“This helps tremendously – financially, psychologically, spiritually – and actually brought tears to my eyes. Your decision to do this feels within me like a synching in alignment with my intentions and values. Thank you for being the change for social change with your sliding scale offer for The Thriving Changemaker Intensive.”

I think the only issue so far has been that it makes registration a bit more involved, especially for someone who has never experienced a sliding scale like this before.

A big part of the work for us has been to refine the way we communicate this approach, so that it’s as simple and clear as possible.

And, on the other hand, it has made “the money conversation” infinitely more simple, because people understand that A) this is an incredibly valuable program we offer, and B) they are empowered to simply pay at the level that is authentic and appropriate to their situation.

Won’t people just pay the lowest price?

It turns out they don’t. We’ve had people register at every tier — including those who pay at the highest tiers and tell us that they are truly glad to do so, because they are so aligned with our mission of inclusion and accessibility.

What have you learned about effective sliding scales?

In order to make a sliding scale work, you must:

  • Effectively communicate the value of the offering. A sliding scale sometimes becomes a way to handle the worry “no one is going to pay me for this” (of course, I NEVER did this in my private coaching practice when I was getting started…wink wink). If you’re not enrolled in the value you are going to get from whatever the service or program is, it makes sense that you wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it.
  • Effectively communicate your values. If you share why you’re doing it, and how their choice impacts others, it takes it out of the context of “let me get the best deal” and puts in the context of being a part of a community. It gives meaning to what they are paying, beyond a simple exchange of money for services.
  • Give people a clear and simple way to decide what to pay. When we’re confused, we don’t take action. If you have no idea how to choose what to pay for something, you’re more likely to either a) not sign up, or b) pay whatever’s easiest, which will be related to whatever reference points you’ve got, such as the low end of a sliding scale (or whatever you make up, if you have don’t have any reference point).

How is it fair to “force” some people to pay more than others?

The tiers we offer are simply a suggestion. We ask that each person see for themselves what the authentic rate is. We know that there are more factors than just annual income that determine a person’s ability to pay. The truth is, there’s no way we could determine the authentic price tier for someone. What we can do is give people some simple guidelines for how to make their choice, and empower them to do it.

What have you learned?

Trust people.  One of the principles of our work is that people have their own answers. They really do know what’s authentic for them to pay, what’s aligned with who they are, and what they value. And when you give them the choice, plus the context in which they are making that choice, they will generally choose to pay what they can authentically afford.

An appropriately-priced sliding scale helps flatten the “money conversation.” One of the biggest worries people have when considering joining a course or program is “I don’t have the money.” And for some, that may truly still be the case. We know this system isn’t perfect, and there are some people for whom even our lowest tier is out of reach. But for many, the conversation becomes instead: Is this the right thing for me right now? And if they see that it is, money is much less of a concern. Indeed, some people have been very happy to pay more, knowing that it helps others attend who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It looks like pricing inclusivity is good for business. Over the short time we’ve been experimenting with this (six months now), we’ve increased the number of people we’re serving, AND we’ve seen a slight increase in the average price paid per participant. Time will tell if this continues to hold true, but we’ve been thrilled with the results and the response so far.

How can people learn more about your work?

Visit our website: acecoachtraining.com, where you can find free resources, like our online training Hope in Action: Find Your Center and Empower Your Purpose in Times of Trouble, and learn more about the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational in-person course in Sacramento, California.

JoshVanVlietJosh Van Vliet leads the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs at the Academy for Coaching Excellence. He is a professional coach, dancer, teacher, and musician, as well as social entrepreneurship coach, and trainer for Move The Crowd. Josh has taught swing and blues dancing; worked as a case manager with Gilead Community Services supporting clients with mental illness to live independently; and led movement classes for kids in schools through Recess Rocks. acecoachtraining.com

Guest Post: Privilege Based Pricing

A few months ago, I was connected with Peter Rubin who was experimenting with a new pricing model the likes of which I’d thought of before but of which I’d never heard: privilege-based pricing. As soon as I heard the name of it, I asked if he’d be willing to write a blog post. This isn’t a model I’ve implemented yet, and neither has he, but it’s the kind of thing I imagine I will be moving towards in the coming years for, at least, certain portions of my business.

Peter and I share an understanding that this world is full of institutionalized oppression, meaning that certain people (and it’s predictable who) tend to have it easier than others, get better access to resources etc. Myself being a white, CIS gendered, male in North America? I get a lot.

And I did nothing to earn those privileges.

Women, people of colour, indigenous people are marginalized and oppressed constantly. It’s something I’ve put much thought into over the years, even creating a blog you may not know about called Healing from Whiteness. I’ve also collected an impressive gathering of memes and articles on topics from Institutionalized Oppression and then a second one on that topic, Feminism and Gender, #BlackLivesMatter and White Privilege.

So, it’s been on my mind.

But Peter has taken this all to another level by considering how this could all be woven into our pricing structures.

This post is provocative. It may feel unsettling. I invite you to read it in full and sit with it for a while.

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by Peter Rubin

What is Privilege-Based Pricing?

Privilege-Based Pricing is an innovative pricing structure designed for social justice.

Unlike sliding scale systems which typically have no guidelines or simple income-based guidelines for how much to pay, Privilege-Based Pricing takes clients through a rigorous self-reflection and conversation process which determines a discount on services, ranging from zero to 50%.

The discount is calculated to correct for the imbalances of an unjust culture. It’s an experiment in taking all the rules of our society and turning them around 180 degrees.

This is not a scholarship or a charity for people who are less privileged. It’s also not a way to punish people who are more privileged. It’s a way to make the invisible privileges of our lives visible, bring balance to an unfair world, and spark learning and transformation for all.

What do you mean by privilege?

In one of my favorite books, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, she talks about “headwinds” and “tailwinds” as the forces that make our lives easier or harder each day based on whether we’re in a dominant or minority group.

Factors outside of our control, such as race, gender, access to education, family resources growing up, where we were born, experiences of trauma or lack thereof, etc., profoundly shape our life trajectories.

Where did this idea come from?

As a Business Midwife – someone who helps my clients give birth to their dream businesses – I’ve come to realize that certain clients are poised to make a lot of money from the outset, and for others it will likely be a much longer journey. This doesn’t have to do with their skill or how good a person they are — it had to do with their privilege.

For instance, a white male client with a graduate education, who has already had a successful corporate career, has a lot of money in his bank account, and is connected to wealthy and powerful people, will likely have an easy time getting a return on their investment.

In contrast, a black female client who grew up poor, is supporting 6 family members, has experienced significant trauma in her life, and wants to build a community-focused business will likely have a more challenging time paying for her coaching with me.

My question is, why are these two clients paying me the same amount of money?

In the old “equality vs. equity debate” the idea of privilege-based pricing is to look at a client’s resources and ability to make money based on their life story and privileges they’ve received in order to determine a price that creates equity by stretching everyone equally.

All clients receive the same high-quality service, and I hold all clients to the same Visionary Code – principles for being powerful creators in their lives and businesses. But the place each client is starting from is acknowledged.

How would you respond to people who might say, “Isn’t this reverse discrimination?”

No. It’s about equal opportunity and restoring balance to an unjust culture.

Women make 79 cents for every dollar men make (source). The median wealth of a black family is $6,446 while a white family is $91,405 (source). These are long-term trends and statistical truths, and they won’t resolve themselves without a change in policy.

Why wait for government policies, when we as entrepreneurs have the power to create change by changing how we price our own services?

For legal reasons, the Privilege-Based Pricing Questionnaire doesn’t ask directly about race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but rather explores how our identities mixed with cultural biases influence our chances of business success, asking questions like, “Do you see other people who look like you leading in your field?” and “Do you have family members who are role models for business success?” and “What’s the most money you’ve made in your life?” These are the invisible headwinds that make it easier for us privileged people to succeed.

Why does this idea matter to you so much?

I’m currently immersed in a 2-year training with Lee Mun Wah to be a diversity facilitator. I’ve been deeply exploring my own whiteness, having conversations with friends about race and privilege, and have been curious about how I will bring these learnings to my business.

This idea of Privilege-Based Pricing came to me one day, and I smiled. I have a trickster side to me, and this feels like the perfect “trick” to play on all of us (myself included) to challenge the assumptions we have about how business should be done.

I’ve been doing some informal research on the concept with the intention of implementing it in my business in January of 2017. It feels like a big risk, and yet a unique and profound way to practice the social justice values I’m preaching.

I’m happy to discount my services to some clients in order to spark a healing conversation about privilege and, hopefully, have a more diverse and socially-aware group of clients as a result.

How exactly does the process work?

There are three steps to the process. They include:

Step 1 – Education

Because this is such an unusual pricing system, it’s important to give context. The model will be explained to potential clients so they understand what they’re getting into, and the intentions behind it.

Step 2 – The Questionnaire

I send an online survey to potential clients that asks about specific questions about:

  • Their personal and family story, and the advantages and disadvantages they’ve had from before their birth to the present.
  • Their existing resources – including financial resources, social capital, and more.
  • Their potential for future income – based on their vision for their business, who they plan to serve and how they plan to price their services.

The exact questions in this questionnaire are still being worked out.

Step 3 – Conversation + Decision

Then we review their questionnaire together and decide together how much of a discount to give them. There will be six tiers of discount, from no discount up to a 50% discount, with case studies that exemplify each tier. This conversation is held as sacred, and we will take time to process any emotions that come up along the way.

Do you think people will take advantage of the system?

I guess people could lie about their responses, but those aren’t the sorts of people I work with. I handpick clients who care about social justice and have a lot of integrity, and I trust them to answer honestly and pick the tier that best represents them.

Where do you expect to receive the most pushback?

Let’s be honest – there’s nothing comfortable about this pricing system!

In the testing I’ve done, just along lines of race, people of color have been pissed (“I don’t need your handouts!”) and white people have been pissed (“How dare you reverse-discriminate!”). People of color have been delighted (“What a cool way to bring privilege to the light!”) and white people have been delighted (“I’d be happy to pay more to support this”).

So I realize that what I’m filtering for isn’t privilege at all. I’m filtering for willingness to be vulnerable.

Determining your Privilege-Based Price is an incredibly vulnerable process and brings up the very things we are taught to be most private about – race, class, level of education, etc. I intend to be very tender with my clients as I talk through the questionnaire with them, expecting difficult emotions (shame, grief, fear, etc.) to come up.

Those courageous and open-minded souls who want to be part of a social justice experiment will be drawn to this new pricing system. Those who aren’t open to it will be turned off by it – and that’s just fine!

I’ve found that clients who are most vulnerable with me get the most value out of working with me. They’re able to release shame and reclaim their power, making them stronger business leaders. So filtering for a willingness to be vulnerable can only be good for my business.

What kinds of places could you imagine people using this?

This pricing system is somewhat complex – each client is required to fill out a questionnaire and have an in-depth conversation with a service provider who has the capacity to hold space for such a conversation. So I don’t imagine us using Privilege-Based Pricing at vending machines! But I do think it is promising for transformational education and services.

How can people learn more about Privilege-Based Pricing and the work you do?

You can visit my website at www.yourbusinessmidwife.com and sign up for my mailing list. I’ll be keeping my subscribers in the loop about PbP and announcing when I officially launch the new pricing system in January of 2017.

downloadAbout Peter Rubin

Peter Rubin helps visionaries give birth to their businesses. He gives his clients the support they need to get clear on their visions, craft a strategy, and deliver it to the world. Peter has developed this radical approach to business, having given birth to a series of transformational service-based businesses himself, each time pushing his edges and learning from his failures. Before becoming a full-time coach in 2011, he was a consultant at IDEO and Daylight, two of the world’s leading innovation firms. He has taught at the Stanford d.school, OneTaste, General Assembly, and beyond. He lives in the Bay Area with his life partner, Morgan West, a midwife (for real babies!) who continually inspires him with her badass midwifery skills and devotion to her clients at all hours of day and night. Learn more at www.yourbusinessmidwife.com.

What if the people I most want to help are broke?

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There are three main criteria of a viable target market.

First, it needs to be clear. As a prospective client, I should know immediately if I’m in that group or not.

Second, we need to be able to find those clients. There should be hubs.

Third, there need to be enough of those clients who can afford to pay you full price.

Ah.

That third one.

What if the people you most want to help don’t have much money?

If that’s true, hand over my heart, what you have is a non-profit-profit. I suggest you legally structure yourself as such and generate your salary through fundraising. Stop making yourself and your clients suffer by pressuring yourself and them to pay you with money they don’t have.

But what if there might be more possibilities here?

They’re broke.

There’s a big question as to whether or not that’s true.

Sometimes it’s not that clients don’t have money but that your marketing is terrible and they don’t see the value in what you offer; and you are terrified to talk to them about working with you and you utterly collapse when a conversation about money comes up.

It really could be that. Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Years ago, I met with the good people running Green Enterprise Toronto, an independent, green business network that would, eventually, become Green Enterprise Ontario. The business is still around, now known as Green Enterprise Movement. As I sat at their Spadina Street office in Toronto, they told me that their business model wasn’t working. They were trying to sustain themselves on dues from their members and it wasn’t nearly enough. They needed more money but their members weren’t able or willing to pay more. It wasn’t until they had a conversation with the Toronto City Council that headway was made. The city saw they were providing a service that properly should have been the domain of the city – supporting local businesses – and so the city was able to put some funding towards it. Without the funding from the city at that point, the Green Enterprise Toronto project would have utterly collapsed.

Edmonton had a similar group for years called Live Local, of which I was a founding board member. Same issue but, in this case, the Edmonton City Council didn’t step up and the organization folded.

My friend Robindra Runsan incredible project called It’s Time to Bloom. They throw a weekend event for local yogis that has yoga classes and workshops, inspiring talks from big name speakers and sweet, classy dance parties.

Every year, it lost money.

“Did you make any money this year?” I asked him, full of hope that this might have been the year it turned around for him.

“We only lost about $5000 this year!”

Cities need more people like Robindra who do what they do for the love and not the money and bring such fine things in.

But he was stuck. He couldn’t raise ticket prices and he couldn’t guarantee that his events would sell out. It was always so close to the wire.

“I’m sorry to hear that man.” I said, commiserating with him.

“But we’ve got it figured out for next year!” he said.

My ears perked up.

“Festival grants!” he smiled. “We realized we’re a great fit for a lot of these grants and, with them, everyone can get paid and we don’t lose money.” He told me that they were also deepening their exploration of corporate sponsorship.

What he had on his hands was a social enterprise. His project was a mix of business and non-profit. It took him five years to see it. Some people never see it.

Now, with a different business model, It’s Time to Bloom might not have needed grants. For example, if they came up with a “Bloom Yoga Teacher Training” or a “Bloom School of Yogi Business” or “Bloom Life Coaching Program for Yogis” then maybe they could have afforded to lose on the big event if it was an effective marketing tool to fill their higher-end programs.

If your people can’t afford to pay you what you need to sustain yourself then you have four options:

  1. Change nothing, try to get water from a stone and burn out in an ashen pit of poverty, bitterness and resentment.
  2. Drop that target market for a more profitable one and simply volunteer your time to help those people who can’t pay.
  3. Focus most of your efforts on a more profitable target market and give the work or service to the people you most love at a discounted rate (e.g. gift economy, pay-what-you-can, sliding scale, or barter).
  4. Shift into a social enterprise or non-profit model and raise money through grants, sponsorship or individual giving.

Which option would you choose?

Intake Forms & Earning Trust

Trust

I went to see a therapist the other day.

It was my first time making an appointment with her.

I arrived early to the old house, renovated to be a clinic where my naturopath is also housed, and was offered some tea while I filled out the intake form.

Some of the questions were straight forward but some of them were incredibly personal, asking about addictions and relationship status. Neither of which, to my knowledge, have anything to do with what I was there for. I left them both blank for the most part and gave only partial answers to other questions. They felt immensely assumptive.

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

I realized that, aside from the basics, I only wanted one question on the intake form, “What brings you to see me today?”

“Can you pay before the session? I’ll be on my lunch break when you get out.”

“Sure,” I said and then caught my breath at the $180 price tag for the hour. Shit. I had not realized it was going to be that much. Rule #1 of Pricing: never surprise people unless it’s with a discount. Sighing, I paid and followed the receptionist upstairs.

The therapist came out a few minutes later and invited me into her office. She had a good vibe and I liked her right away.

“So, this first session is mostly to go over the intake form, the policies and to answer any questions you have and then to maybe do a bit of work.”

I hate this.

This happened to me a few months ago when, on a friend’s suggestion, I went to see a therapist who spent the entire session talking about the theory of the treatment and the ethics of the whole thing.

In both cases, I sat there thinking, “What the fuck? Why am I paying $180 to have her go over things she could have emailed me in advance?”

“Did you read up the technique we’ll be using?” she asked.

I shook my head. It would have been a good idea. “I wasn’t given anything on it to read.”

“You didn’t take any of the flyers at the front desk?”

I shook my head.

From a marketing and business standpoint, this is such a gap.

When I booked the appointment, the therapist sent me the following email:

I am sending you an email to welcome you and also to pass along some information prior to our first session. If you have had counseling before, this may be familiar. In general, the first appointment is primarily a paperwork, history-taking and get-to-know-you session.
 
However, if there is something that you want to make sure we address specifically in that first session, please let me know either ahead of time via email or at the start of the session so that we can budget enough time.The first session is also an opportunity to clarify your goals for coming for counseling. Sometimes a good way to frame this is to ask yourself how you will know you’re done with counseling? How will you feel? What will your life be like?
 
It is best to approach counseling as a process and to allow sufficient time for you to work through what you need to work through. This time-frame varies from person to person, depending on issue(s), personality, and history. In general, however, you should notice some positive change in the first 3 sessions and more substantive change in 8-10 sessions.
 
My job is to support you in your process, offering expertise and feedback. If you are finding that my approach is not working for you, I welcome your feedback, as a means to learn and grow myself, and to see if I can better address your needs.
 
I look forward to meeting you.
Warm regards,

 

It was a fine email to get and set the context well and, I would have loved it if she had added a link to a 10-15 minute video about the modality and asked that I make sure I watch it before the session. It would have been wonderful if it was a video of herself explaining it. I might have watched the video and decided that due to her vibe or her description of the modality that it wasn’t a fit. I might also have gotten even more excited to see her. And there could have been another video that would go over all of the ethics and other typical things discussed in a first session.

And then, two days before, if she’d sent me a reminder email with those two links asking me to make sure I set aside thirty minutes to go over these before the session but that, if I didn’t have him, it was alright, we’d just go over the content together in the session – then I would have had the choice.

As a client, I deeply resent paying money to sit through something I could do better at home.

She began to go through my intake form which had me wonder why I bothered writing it down in the first place. Couldn’t she have just had it and written it down as we talked?

Stop being cranky I told myself.

“So it says here your last relationship…” and she begins to ask me about whether I’m dating or if that’s something I’m looking for.

I narrow my eyes.

“I am confused by this line of questioning.” I say. I’m not particularly trying to be nice about this.

I’m paying her $180 for this time and she hasn’t even asked me why I’m there. It’s reminding me of the pulse reader from last week. But it’s also different. These are issues that seem to, in no way, relate to why I’m there. They are immensely personal issues to be divulging to someone I’ve just met. Perhaps most therapists assume that they are trustworthy. Maybe they’ve lost touch with how vulnerable these issues are for people and it’s become rote for them.

I don’t know why.

But I sat there resenting her questions wondering, “Who do you think you are to ask me such questions with no context of why you’re asking them or how they relate to why I’m here? And why haven’t you asked me why I’m here?”

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

She is thrown off for a second but seems to collect herself quickly, “Oh, it’s just taking your history for what we’re going to be working on.”

“Why don’t we skip to that?” I say.

“Sure.” And, to her credit, we do.

The good Bill Baren suggests starting off your first session with a client with two questions: “Why me? Why now?”

I wish all sessions would start this way.

If she’d asked, “Why me?” I would have said, “Well, I’ve heard good things about the modality you use and my naturopath recommended you as someone who could help me with some things I’ve been struggling with.”

If she’d said, “Why now?” it would have been a doorway into my symptoms and struggles.

She didn’t ask those questions but I took the opening in her conversation to lay it all out for her. She listened well and I immediately relax to not be sitting there and waiting or regretting having shared something so personal.

If there are other issues related to this that come up, I think to myself, I’ll be happy to share them. But I didn’t walk into this room with an agreement to share every secret I have.

Trust is such a precious thing. And it’s earned. Our unwillingness to go slowly, in the beginning, is so much of what kills trust in both a therapist-client relationship or a customer-business relationship. You are rarely done much harm by going slowly.

By the end of the session, I really liked her and she had earned some portion of my trust.

But it lifts up questions for all of us: where in our business or helping processes are we assuming trust? Where are we asking questions we have not yet earned the right to ask? Where could we give more context into the reasons for our asking the questions we ask. Can we trust the process in that the right information will come up at the right time?

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

Additional Reading:

Marketing for Psychotherapists

Slow Marketing

Case Study: Hidden Gems (good thoughts on personalizing intake forms here)

Farmers Market Marketing Series #10: Thoughts on How do I Price Things?

signs 2What to charge?

This has always been and may always be one of the most difficult decisions you can make in business and one I knew would be important to touch on in this series of posts on marketing for farmers and farmer’s markets.

Here’s the most basic I can make pricing:

If you’re getting a lot of onlookers and no one’s buying? It might be a sign your price is too high.

If you’re selling out before the end of the day and getting no complaints on the price? It might be a sign your price is too low.

If you charge a lot more than what others are charging for similar things or a lot less, people may be suspicious and want to know your reasons. So, unless you’ve got a very clear logic behind a huge difference in price between yourself and your colleagues, it’s wise to keep the prices within roughly the same ballpark.

Remember that, for whatever reason, pricing in ‘odd cent increments‘ (particularly the numbers 7 and 9) seems to get a better response from people looking for a bargain. You’ll sell more for 49 cents than 50 cents, more at $1.79 than $1.80. I have no idea why this is true but it seems to be.

But, if you price in five cent increments, it will tend to suggest higher quality and premium value.

Why? I have no idea. But this is what I’ve heard.

Also if you offer a discount for bulk buying (e.g. It’s $5.50 for one but only $10 for two then people will lean towards buying two).

You might also considering offering a two tiered pricing system – one price for your best quality stuff and a discounted price for the wares that are slightly less so.

Whatever you do, don’t devalue it. Sell it for more than you would at a grocery store. There can be a temptation to charge less than the other vendors at your market and undercut them but this can actually create the perception that your product is lower quality than theirs and create ill will between you.

It might also be wise to have a concise, convincing and clear answer ready for people if they challenge you with, “Why do you charge what you do?” Genuinely, take five minutes to sit down and really articulate this so you don’t stumble when asked. If you can give an honest answer that makes sense to people it will earn their respect and increase the perceived value of your products.

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Industry Report: The State of Online Course Creation

At some point in your life as a conscious entrepreneur, teaching an online course may be to be the next logical step.

You’ll want to help many more people, without the constraints of space and time. You’ll want to make an impact beyond your live group workshops or one-on-one sessions.

The best thing is, marketing your online course won’t feel gross when you know it will change your students’ lives. As someone who has sold online training programs, I can tell you it feels wonderful to promote and deliver a product when you’re confident it will truly help others.

Many online course creators believe their students’ success is the most important measure of their own success, as a recent survey by Firepole Marketing found. The rest of the findings are summarized in the infographic below. If you’ve tried making your own online course, or are thinking of doing so in the near future, these findings will interest you. You can learn more about what Firepole Marketing is up to here and read the full study here.

firepole OK

Guest Post: Why You Should NOT Work In The Gift Economy

 

by Mirror Living

January 2015

 

Occasionally on this wild path of working in the gift economy, I’ve been approached almost with a sense of reverence. Some souls are deeply touched, moved to tears by me doing this so publicly. It confirms their own insights into alternative pricing models, the ruin that is our current economic system and the myth of money and debt. It gives a sense of possibility for those of us who’ve felt like outsiders, freaks and rejects of society our entire lives. It echoes the journey of the heart’s deepest wisdom and the more beautiful world we can create together.

Many are certain mainstream pricing and business models are not for them. Or they’ve tried it for short periods of time and it’s been a difficult and overwhelming road leading to retreat or blame of the system or themselves. A sense of powerlessness and inadequacy is evident. When someone comes to me for help and they tell me they work in the gift, my heart sinks a little for I cannot recommend running a business this way initially. I don’t teach people to work in the gift because I don’t yet know it’s possible. For me the ride thus far has been crazy-making, humbling and incredibly challenging (just like working in the mainstream economy is) with the very idea of alternative economies still being confronting to the majority. There’s a familiar, comfortable weight of security in the way things have always been done. There are mammoth amounts of fear and complacency that first need to be met within the self and then met with love in others before we can embrace what it means to truly work in the spirit of the gift.

There’s also an assumption (the illusion of good marketing if you will), that because I’m doing this visibly and I’m seen regularly in both pixels and real world events and because I present myself in a professional manner, I must be successful working in the gift. And if I’m successful, then you will be too. (I’m doing OK but definitely not making as much money as I was in regular ol’ business. Also, for the first time since I left home at age 17, my partner is paying my rent so I no longer have the responsibility of having to earning enough to keep a roof over our heads. I am also debt-free.)

I define the gift economy simply – a model of the movement within society of necessary goods and services wherein human relationships are valued above all else, one in which money no longer determines the existence of relationship. Money may still be used as part of the gift economy but it’s presence (or absence) does not define the relationship (unlike in the dominant economy). It’s a movement from accumulation and separation toward generosity and the natural reciprocity that arises in the face of a gift freely given. Models like pay what you want / pay what it’s worth pricing, you decide invoicing and by donation are all interpretations of the gift economy and attempt to capture the essence of the pure gift economy found in traditional cultures. For me, the gift economy does not include barter and trade models that seek agreement on value before the transaction can occur.

Before transitioning into the gift economy 6 months ago, income earned via business in the current economic model paid my way 100% for more than 4 years. Without looking at the nitty gritty of exactly what the number of zeros I made annually add up to, from a survival perspective I was running a “successful” business. This journey has been (and continues to be) one of the most intense and liberating spiritual paths I could possibly imagine. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for those who want quick and easy money. There have been years of hard work, long hours, multiple failures and disappointments, challenges, depressions and crippling self-doubt. Money issues shoved in my face. Putting things out there and getting no results, not being noticed, not being seen, not being responded to. Measuring achievements against others and believing with every cell in my body that of course, it’s obvious, I’m just not good enough and never will be. Drowning in unworthiness. Attempting to change who I am (yup, even going so far as to wear makeup and collared shirts. blech!) to better fit in. I’ve tried to sell, played the game, manipulated, become obsessed with money and woken in sweaty panics at 3.00 am. I’ve felt desperate, alone and ashamed of how little I have to show for the time, effort and energy I’ve put in. I’ve been scarred and have let fear dictate action (all this despite being a devoted yogini and dedicated-to-consciousness-and-higher-states love bunny). I’ve been human.

Alongside this, there’s been unspeakable thrills of putting out offers and overnight making rent for the next month. Sold out courses. Coaching sessions booked for weeks in advance. Beautiful feedback on blog posts and emails. Co-creative opportunities flowing in. Published print and online articles. Being sought out from word of mouth glowing referrals. The sense of one’s power that comes from taking action, showing up every day and seeing direct correlations between said actions and results. Knowing you’re the master of your own destiny. Moments of Awe. Radiant insights beyond this realm. I’ve cried many a tear of gratitude and received many an unsolicited testimonial of soppy thanks. I’ve seen and known the omnipotence of Source in my business and life. Witnessed miracles, coincidences, gifts of such incredible abundance I’m humbled and brought to my knees by the beauty and glory of it all. I’ve tasted heaven and know it is within. I’ve been spirit.

This has only been possible because of a willingness to step into the world as it is, not how I would like it to be. To look at business from every perspective, honour and identify what I don’t like about the mainstream economy and how most run their businesses and make choices that come from an empowered and embodied place that’s here, now and grounded in the third dimension.

The three reasons below outline why you should NOT work in the gift economy. The opinions contained here are strong (partly because I wish someone had been as straight with me when I first started working in the gift instead of having to messily hash it out on my own! But then again, maybe they did but I just couldn’t hear them…?). The pointers below are written specially for those new to business and for those who want to make enough money doing what they love in the world. 

1. Working in the gift economy can reinforce and perpetuate separation, creating an Us vs Them mentality

Many of us carry core wounding from lifetimes of feeling like an alien, of looking at the world around us and seeing nothing but deceit, unconsciousness and violence against each other and the earth. Many of us have exited in a variety of ways: into drugs, eastern spiritual, metaphysical and artistic paths and communal living with greater and lesser degrees of peace and lasting happiness. If less than lasting happiness has been your experience, I urge you to sit with and hold any part that wants to escape from this economy, judge or pull down society gently. Society and the economy is messed up, it’s true. But it’s no more messed up than our own internal processes. Pushing against it, avoiding it, shaming or blaming it is not an effective strategy for transformation or success in business in any kind of economy. It creates separation. 

And if our beautiful, profound and magnificent education is preventing us from engaging in the world as it is, we are contributing to separation on this planet. 

This may sound harsh but I’ve seen this truth repeatedly. I’ve also tried separation as a path more than almost any one else I know. It’s painful and it doesn’t work. Because we have to keep coming back into society as it is now. We have to engage in the economy. We have to invest in certain things to live in even rudimentary levels of comfort. We have to make decisions for sustainability that are more about the lesser of two evils than about real solutions. We have to interact with family and people who live here, in society. 

We can no longer avoid a world that doesn’t appear to value love and vulnerability. We can no longer afford to keep ourselves apart from others because of superior concepts of consciousness, inclusive economies and dedication to saving the planet. We can no longer judge others for their apparent lack of understanding of a view so radical and confronting to the norm they can’t even see it. Until we know every person who surrounds us is us, despite their convictions and choices demonstrating degrees of light / dark, willingness and ignorance we will not have a business from the heart (regardless of how pure our motives are of working in the gift and alternative economies). Instead, we are moving from fear, reaction and separation. I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of world we dream of.

2. You won’t learn the language of the world (and the world is where the money is)

One thing I know for sure is that if you step onto this path of the gift economy you will be judged as naive, potentially loopy, silly, and a crackpot hippie by many. Folks may be polite and supportive to your face but some part of them will be doubting you and your motivations, wondering what the catch is. Or people will be confused and won’t book in or buy because of this. Probably not your friends, for they love and understand you but in the wider community you will be likely be disregarded as someone who is too radical and far out to be serious about much of anything. This is reality (however narrow and sad it may be). This is how we live in the west. Our primary way of defining and determining interactions (outside of family and friends) is fiscal. Money determines the value, worth, breadth and depth of relationships and if you challenge this overtly you will be labelled, discounted and discarded. Your audience will be limited or worse, may become so far left-of-centre as to appear non-existent (I saw this clearly in a recent exploration “Working In the Gift Economy 7: The Experiment May Be Over). 

This is not how to make enough money doing what you love in the world :-(

I know many gifted individuals sharing their offerings in low-key, off-the-grid kind of ways working in alternative and gift economies. Some are amazing examples of how these models work effectively (in small, highly local, cloistered permaculture communities). Others are struggling with ideals they haven’t yet been able to actualise (without withdrawing from society and heading to the hills) or dealing with depressing internal conflicts around self-worth and integrity in making money, enoughness and survival. Many I know working in alternative economies have very low confidence in who they are (see core wounding above). They don’t know their message or what they stand for. They’re unable to talk clearly about what they do or invite people to experience it or communicate the value of their offerings. They cannot share from a pristine place of exactly what their service will help with, exactly who it’s for and exactly how much it costs. They haven’t learned how and because of this, are unable to attract clients and create enough income. They may then become disillusioned and leave before the energy of business can transform. Or shelve dreams entirely, holding onto stories of inadequacy for years ahead, go get jobs or opt-out of society to live in ashrams because it’s easier than running a business and facing fear and money every day. It’s easier to avoid learning a new language than to be yourself in the world as it is.

Before I started in business and had to learn the language of the world, I was steeped in separation (I didn’t know it at the time. I thought my heart was so wide open in divine angelic love, rainbows would pave every step of my way!). Learning this language, at even a basic level, has shown me a true connection that cannot be threatened by environment and noise. It’s taught me compassion for others and the world of mind, thought, judgement and comparison within my self. 

If you step into the gift economy without first having met and mastered communication, your experience and ability to serve others will be less. It’s likely you’ll tire rapidly of the hard work required to explain what you do because it’s not in terms people can easily understand. You may give up, believing you’ve failed and this is the real tragedy. There are way, WAY too many soft, caring, intelligent, talented, extraordinary people of the heart NOT doing what they love, NOT being seen because they haven’t yet found a creative and conscious way of being in business and marketing or they’ve given up looking. Their messages of self-healing and self-responsibility are not being heard or contributing to the wellbeing of the earth because of illiteracy.

3. A vital part of your own self-development and personal evolution will be neglected 

Our souls of course, are perfect, innocent and complete and need nothing to be done ever but if you’re feeling a call to share your voice, save the planet and make a difference, THIS is the next stage of evolution being asked. It’s not about changing who you are at your core or “playing the game”. It’s not about forcing our sacred geometrical shapes into a square holes, conforming or compromising. It’s about understanding reality and meeting it with love. For self and for others. A love that proves you understand the realities of busy lives lived from values that, although different from yours, are no less valid, necessary and meaningful. A love that’s willing to listen and be moved by the universe because you’re here for a reason. You’re not somewhere else, living in a close-knit traditional culture where they value the gift economy as essential to daily life. You’re here.

If we skip over the mainstream economy we will fail to understand fully the depth of conditioning and cultural influences inherent in both ourselves and our clients (no matter how conscious and aware we might be) therefor true communication and self-knowledge is limited as is a felt, direct experience of oneness and connection. If we bypass the mainstream economy without knowing it well enough to get a sense of our own power and right to exist, we also risk bypassing our potential and feeling like perennial outsiders. If we miss the learning contained within the structure of the mainstream economy to work in alternative economies, we are preventing and short-changing our own evolution.

Running a business in the dominant economy teaches us about the nature of the Self and Mind. It will show us how magnificent and infinite we really are. It leads to an understanding of truth, value, worth, community, presence, perception, trust, commitment, surrender and deep communion of the heart. And once we know these things, we can do it our own way for conscious business is an intimate and personal path to enlightenment.

*******

This article is not intended as direction to never enter into alternative economies (that would also be a tragedy! The earth needs this! We need you! The dominant paradigm must be challenged by the passionate rebels among us!) rather let it be an organic transition that comes from a foundation of (at least) a basic level of competence in business in the current economy. Let it come from solid ground and from service to the whole. Let it come from realisation.

So how do we do both? Step onto the path of business in the current economy while remaining rooted in the heart’s desire to be of service? It’s an ongoing exploration, constantly moving, flowing. There’s no wrong way or right way. Only your way. The answer isn’t important, it’s the asking of the question that matters most. And a willingness to keep on asking the question as new information, experiences, challenges and learning come your way. To return often in the midst of chaotic effort to ask, “How can I be of service? How can I give?” In this way, gift economy values are anchored and become the norm. In this way we slowly but permanently shift the dominant paradigm by bringing more light to business. We become the gift.

Below are 9 ways of working in the spirit of the gift while running a business in the present economy. It’s imperative to know your limits and know your self and be gentle in the face of other’s misunderstandings for this is truly a radical path. If we are not, the gift economy may be reduced to just another fancy marketing strategy designed to influence perception instead of a deep honouring of the sacred breath of life we’ve been given. I hope your heart finds solace and inspiration here and practical ways to express the spirit of the gift through your business. 

1. Have deeply loving customer service as your primary priority. 

I’ve been shocked at the level of service many businesses seem content with and I’ve been shocked by how poorly I’ve been treated as a paying customer at times. Your clients will have similar experiences. They will notice and appreciate your willingness to listen and understand their story. This is a gift in a world where many successful businesses don’t honour, value and respect customers and their money. You may feel that being kind and loving to every person who walks in the door is always present but this question asks you how you can bring even more caring and connection to every exchange on every level. 

2. Offer one of your services “by donation” or “in the spirit of the gift”. 

Getting clear on what you’re happy to give and what is definitely a paid service will help you identify where to start with what to give. You might have a weekly community yoga class for $5 or a monthly community get together, satsang, movie night, devotional music performance or something else. This way, you’ll always have an option for folks who want to connect with you but cannot afford full price. This way you’ll be nourished and inspired to continue giving when natural gratitude arises from your clients and students. If you’re a healer, consider forming a small group with other local practitioners to share regular, community giving back days – one afternoon every month or so where everyone offers low-cost sessions and treatments in one location. 

3. Give expansive time frames for instalment plans.

Many businesses do not do this, leaving little room for flow and negotiation. I’ve even heard flexible approaches denigrated by teachers of spiritual entrepreneurs as “betraying the many to give special treatment to the few”. There are good reasons for this but the reality remains in the life of a small business owner –  there have been 7 different higher-end programs and courses over the past 5 years I wouldn’t have been able to participate in were it not for the generosity and understanding of the facilitators. This is not about special treatment, it’s about responding to the realities of life. I remain forever grateful for the love the facilitators showed me and I’ve referred many clients to them because of this. Don’t offer extensions immediately – honour your own commitment to cash flow and covering expenses first but have this as a quiet option. Wait until you are approached personally. If someone really wants your services and they cannot find a way to make it happen financially right now, they will take action to connect with you. Trust them and trust their process. See what your heart and intuition say when the situation arises. Always be flexible when you can for it is a gift.

4. Ask for feedback and deal with all complaints and issues in a loving way. 

Ask your clients for their honest feedback – how can you improve? What worked for you? What didn’t work for you? Many businesses lack even a primitive platform for feedback and so are missing valuable ways to connect and deepen in relationship with their clients. Have a loving and supportive refund policy. Tell folks what it is and why it exists. Let them know refunds and credits are possibly in extreme circumstances. Assess these on an individual basis instead of having one blanket policy that is enforced regardless of the individual situation. If you don’t want to refund them, that’s totally OK but what can you offer to make them feel just a little better? How can you be supportive of them instead of dismissive (like so many business) if they are dissatisfied? How can you listen to the feedback they are giving you? This is a gift.

5. Be open to giving when your heart is called. 

If your heart really wants to work with someone but you know they cannot afford it, see if you can still help them while supporting yourself and the reality of your needs simultaneously. Can you give them mini sessions? Invite them to the community events? Give them a referral to a government service? Call them on a phone for a brief chat once a month or so? Whatever your heart feels to give. There are no rules and no limitations. Just make sure that it’s a genuine YES from your heart and that you’re not giving with any sense of obligation or rescuing as this can lead to resentment. And if you notice resentment building in relation to this particular client, let them know you can no longer keep supporting them as a gift. They will certainly understand and may have some ideas and suggestions themselves (perhaps they can give to you in some other way? Perhaps their situation has changed from when your relationship first began and they may now be able to pay you for your time?). 

6. Share interesting, excellent, informative and transformational stuff online. 

Share things that are of genuine value and bring more love to the world. Do not just talk about all the amazing things you’re doing in your business on social media. Give. Give. Give. Honour another practitioner. Honour your own teachers. Share a story of how much a certain book or practice has changed your life. Tell a story that’s restored faith in humanity. Celebrate a client. If you look, there are a 1000 ways to give and combat the narcissism that mediums like facebook create. This takes skill, time and thought to develop and helps negate the quick-look-at-me, blaring, hyped-up messages that are the norm online. Over time, people will notice the depth, stillness and integrity shared and associate it with you. This is a gift.

7. Be integral in giving as much as you can be. 

Do not give in order to get all the time. This is a deeply transformative and passionate enquiry that only you can find the answer to. Only you know the deeper motivation behind your giving and the purity of your intentions. It’s OK in business to give to get from time to time. In fact, giving to get is what business and marketing is all about. It’s the truth. Know when you’re giving to get and celebrate this, make this OK for yourself, understand that giving to get is the way of the current economy and of the society we find ourselves in. Giving to get is also how traditional gift economies work in the purest sense (tribal members give to get positive regard and public accolade for example. Or they give because their generosity ensures they will also be supported in the future when they need help). Don’t always give to get though or before you know it, every decision you make in business and life will be determined by what you will get out of it and this does not feel good. Give for no reason other than because you can occasionally. Give because it feels amazing to be of service especially when there is no hope of return. 

8. Give referrals. 

If you cannot help someone do your best to find another excellent teacher or practitioner to send them to. Don’t do this for an affiliate or referral fee as it changes the energetic. Do it because this other person is genuinely more skilled in a particular area then you are or because you personally have benefitted from and love their products or services. Do it because you want to help. Do it because you cannot benefit from this immediately. This is a gift and it shows you care deeply about another’s path and that you’re willing to take time to find out enough about them and their issues to give them something genuinely worthwhile.

9. Support a local charity or cause.

Is there a cause you’re inspired by and want to support? Some businesses choose to donate a set amount from every dollar earned or product sold. Others host fundraising community events for a cause or recent natural disaster. Perhaps you can find time to volunteer personally with hands-on work in your local community on a regular basis (reading to children or people in aged care homes for example) – this is my favourite option because of its immediacy. Guaranteed, it’s one of the fasted ways to bliss and you’ll leave your time volunteering uplifted and with a ton of new energy to devote to your business and life. Think about something that truly benefits those around you and how money you earn through your business could support this.

*******

Working in the gift economy is one path of many to enlightened relationships with each other and the Earth. Mainstream business is another and if you’re wanting to make enough money doing what you love, it’s the only one I recommend (at this current point of personal and planetary evolution anyway). Stepping into the gift and alternative economies as a reaction to what we see around us (and judge as destructive and ignorant) is an incomplete approach. At this point, it’s a utopian dream for many who live in cities and gift economy teachings are destined to enter lives, inspire greatly and then depart once reality kicks in (sometimes leaving a trail of lost and disappointed bodies behind). Keep going, keep giving in ways that feel good, keep living in service, keep sharing from your heart but be honest about where you and where the world are at. Come from a place grounded in the current reality and the love that’s already and always here. You and I right now are crumbling walls of separation and changing what it means to be in business.

Love, Mirror

MIRROR LIVING SHORT BIO

Mirror Living - Business From The HeartDevoted yogini, gift economist, love bunny, living room dancer and closet songwriter madly in awe of any practice that takes us from our heads to our hearts. Mirror teaches authentic marketing for yoga teachers and healers and digs playing with puppets, swimming naked, crystal singing bowls and anything that even vaguely hints at offering the tiniest taste of divinity… Come join the community –www.businessfromtheheart.com or on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mira.living

 
 

Seven Lessons that Daily Dance Can Teach You About Making Better Offers

 
Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 5.04.15 PMIf you’re thinking of creating online programs (or are super into dance) check this out.
 
My dear friend, colleague and client Erica Ross and her partner in crime Vanya Laporte has just co-created a wonderful new online program that I think nails things from a marketing perspective. I’ve known Erica for many years. We met when she came to one of my first ever weekend workshops in Toronto and she’s done nothing but flourish since. I hope to one day come up with an offering as simple and good as this. 
 
Her new offering is called Daily Dance. You can check it out on her brand new website designed by one of my favourite web designers, Kim Tanasichuk.
 
This is the deal: for 21 days you get an email with a video explaining a new ‘dance of the day’ and a song (approx. 4-6 min.) to use to dance to it.  
 
You also get suggestions to explore the intention behind the dance further, a playlist of additional songs, and a link to a private Daily Dance Facebook group where you can share your experiences.
 
Note: I am not an affiliate of this program. Just a fan of Erica Ross and thought her offer would be a great way to talk about offers in general. 
 
Here’s why this works so well (and the four lessons you can learn from it):
 
 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #1: The offer is simple and easy to understand. 
 
I can’t overstate the importance of this.
 
If marketing were like baseball, then first base would be clarity. That people get what it is you’re offering to them. It is amazing how seldom businesses even get to first base. There is no clear understanding of the problem they’re solving, the results they’re offering or even… what they’re offering. 
 
And the confused mind says ‘no’. 
 
The name is simple (and alliterative which is helpful for remembering it): Daily Dance. The name tells you what it is.
 
Such a simple idea. 21 days where you get a new dance video every day. Easy. I get that. I can picture that. Is there more to it? Sure. But that’s the core of it.
 
Want more examples?
 
How about FedEx? The idea is simple: overnight delivery. Easy to understand. Or clearasil (not that I am, in any way endorsing clearasil). In seven words, they state what they’re offering, ‘visibly clearer skin in three days. guaranteed.’ Simple. Easy to understand. 
 
In Edmonton, we have Origami Accounting which offers a flat monthly rate for book keeping. Their website is a delight to go to because it makes it so simple. 
 
And, of course, there’s Dollar Shave club known for its edgy online commercials. You pay them one dollar per month and they mail you the razors you need for that month. 
 
And there’s Panty by Post where for about $15 per month you get a pretty panty mailed to you.
 
Calgary’s Bava juice makes cleansing easy because they just mail you the bottles of (extremely delicious) fresh pressed juices. 
 
These ideas are winners because they’re so simple. And that means people can talk about them. And, for word of mouth marketing (which is the basis of all marketing) that is a must. 
 
It’s a good question to ask yourself, ‘How easy to understand is my offer?’
 
If you’re struggling with articulating your offer, here are sixteen questions you can ask yourself to hone in. And if you generally struggle to articulate what you do then I strongly recommend you get and read this
 
 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #2: It’s offered at a clear and incredibly affordable price.
 
Daily Dance is $21. That’s their launch price so it will go up, but that’s a bargain. If you can set your price at a level that makes you a fair profit but is also a no-brainer for people, your business is likely to do very well. 
 
People don’t like to be confused and it amazes me how many people’s pricing structures are mind numbingly confusing. 
 
And clear pricing is critical. 
 
Why?
 
First, it makes it more likely that those who want to buy will buy. But, far more importantly, it avoids the number one thing that people hate around pricing: surprises. To be quoted one price and then invoiced for a higher price makes people cranky. If you can develop a straightforward and easy to understand pricing structure, people are a lot more likely to buy.
 
Regardless of how much you charge, people must feel as though they are getting a bargain for the money. They need to believe that they are going to get back at least as much if not more than what they’re putting out in terms of money. There must be a clear and solid return on investment.
 
 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #3: It’s a great example of basing your niche on what you do vs. picking one target market.
 
Some niches are based on a very particular target market (e.g. single dads, divorce lawyers, yoga teachers etc) but other niches aren’t so much based on who as ‘what’ is being offered. In this case, they have a very clear offering – 21 days of dance. In a general sense, their ‘who’ is going to be people who are drawn to bringing more dance into their lives. Their ideal clients are the kinds of people who would see this offer and get excited. That may seem obvious, but it’s a critical distinction between two different paths of niching. 
 
What follows is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Niching Spiral.

This is something I’ve come aware of over the years and my colleague George Kao stumbled upon a similar awareness.

One path is that of the Artist. The other is the path of the Entrepreneur. 

The Artist creates from the inside out.

The Entrepreneur creates from the outside in.  

On the Entrepreneur Path You start with identifying an explicit, consciously chosen hungry crowd and you bring them food. 

The explicit niche means you say, “I want to work with this group of people who are struggling with these kinds of problems or craving these kind of results”. A burning problem, demographics, psychographics – you’ve got it all laid out.

You find the target market and then you figure out what to offer them. At its extreme, the Yang style of business is the cynical-business-man, Donald Trump school of thought. It’s very cynical, follows fads, and doesn’t tend to have much heart in it. It’s all about going for the money. And, honestly, is often more successful at creating money quickly. 

The upside of this path is that you can move very quickly. The clarity about who you’re reaching makes designing your offers and figuring our where to find them so easy. The goal is clear and it’s an exciting process.

The challenge is that what’s trending now may change, and if you’re not that excited about it anyway, you’re likely to jump to something else soon. If you need a whole new business and niche every time you do that, that can be a whole lot of work.

At its extreme, as exciting as it can be as a game – it can feel so empty. There’s not much heart to it, and so there’s not a lot of creativity involved, which often leads to a lack of sustainability and satisfaction. Also, when people choose a niche based on what’s popular or trending at a particular time, there’s not much connection from their own life or much experience they have with the problem they’re solving, and so there can be a huge, steep learning curve.

The Artists Spiral of niching is about going inside, asking yourself what it is you want to create and then giving that to the world. This inside-out approach often is a better fit for life coaches, holistic practitioners, permaculture practitioners, etc. It’s where you start with who you are, and what you most want to give to the world, and then you look at who might need that. The extreme version of this style of niching is like Vincent Van Gogh. Amazing art is produced and the world is made more beautiful, but you die broke and unappreciated.  

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” 

Andy Warhol

What the artist is always looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are one.” 

– Oscar Wilde

The challenge here is that there’s no explicit who here. And that can make marketing feel impossible. Where do you start?

In the end, it’s not really an either/or. We all end up needing to dance back and forth between these two. There’s a looking at what we want to give, and then a looking at what’s needed. Then we design the thing that we think can meet that need, and trust our taste and aesthetics around it all. 

If you want more meaning – lean towards the Artist’s Spiral.

If you want more money – lean towards the Entrepreneur Spiral.

If you’re really clear about the exact target market you want to serve, the precise problems they’re struggling with and the result they are craving, you’re likely on the Entrepreneur Spiral.

If you’re really clear about what you want to offer (e.g. massage, reiki, life coaching, permaculture) but you haven’t figured out exactly how or to whom, then you’re likely on the Artists Spiral.

 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #4: They offer a three day trial.
 
I love it when people offer free trials. It’s simultaneously a very smart and strategic thing to do but also a very generous thing to do. 
 
I won’t write much about it here, but if you’re interested in why creating free ways to sample your work is so vital click here. If you want to know how to do it click here
 
 
OFFER MAKING LESSON #5:  It’s a very well thought through and well put together offer that people actually want. 
 
There are many aspects to this that are very well thought out. First of all, only 21 days. That’s not too overwhelming.
 
Second, an online offering for people who feel too busy or intimidated to follow their interest in dance. They don’t have to go to a big class and risk embarrassment. They can start small.
 
Each day is scalable. There’s a video. There’s a song and, if they want more? There’s an extended playlist to explore. 
 
 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #6: It’s visually beautiful, polished and professional. 
 
The most important thing is that the core offer is good. I’d rather have a solid offer with a rough presentation than a bad offer with a beautiful presentation. In terms of sales, if the core idea works, it can still fly in spite of bad design. But a bad idea with beautiful design? It’ll never last. If you have to spend your money on a good copywriter or a good designer, there is no doubt in my mind it should go, in almost all cases, to the copywriter. 
 
However, having said that, I’m a big believer in making things as beautiful as possible. Or, to be more accurate, making sure the design captures the vibe of the business. Knowing Erica as I do, the website as a whole and the sales page for the offer nail it. 
 
I see so many websites that make me wince. They don’t look professional and it hurts the credibility of the site. It has me trust the offers a little less. 
 
 
OFFER-MAKING LESSON #7: It is a heart and soul-based offering at it’s purist.
 
Kim Tanasichuk had this to say, “It’s fun, it had so much depth and beauty, it reflects the care and love they put into all that they do, and it reflects them and their sacred life’s work. And it’s setup in a way where it allows people to unfold themselves – their emotions, their hearts, their being and feel nurtured while doing this. The offer matches the creator. Because of this primarily — it is an “Offer” at it’s finest.”