Are You Charging Hamburger Prices for Gourmet Work?

It’s not uncommon for those starting out in the personal history business to offer their expertise at rock bottom rates. And while this might be important for the first project or two, it’s definitely not a plan for financial solvency and success in the long run.

How much are you charging per hour for your personal history services? To give you some idea of where your fees fit with others, I’ve compiled some lists. From PayScale here are the current median average US hourly wages for some different occupations. The figures are based on ten years experience. Keep in mind these  are average wages which vary from state to state and from large metropolitan areas to smaller cities.

Senior Editor: $29.20
Registered Nurse: $25.49
Master Plumber: $19.65
Writer: $19.64
Flight Attendant: $19.33
Automotive Service Technician: $15.93
Secondary School Teacher: $14.74
Computer repair Technician: $12.12

PoeWar lists the average salaries for writers and editors in mid-sized metro areas for 2010. These are not freelance salaries but writers employed by  companies.  I’ve converted the annual salaries to hourly rates based on a forty hour week and fifty-two weeks of employment. Here are a some of the rates.

Copy Editor:  $10.50/hr to $21.00/hr.
Proofreader:   $14.50 to $20.50
Editor:  $18.50 to $27.00
Senior Copywriter:  $27.00 to $40.00 lists 1,084 creative writing freelancers for New York City. My analysis of the data shows that the majority of these writers charge between $20 and $50/hour.

I’m not going to tell you how much you should be charging for your services but scanning these lists suggests that anything less than $20/hour puts you in the hamburger league.

If I haven’t yet convinced you of the need to charge a fee commensurate with your skill and the service you provide, then take a look at this interesting bit of research. Marketing Experiments in 2004 offered an online book with three different  price points, $7.95,  $14.00, and  $24.95. The cheapest priced book was perceived as of lesser value and received 1950 orders for total revenues of $15,500. The $14.00 book had 2400 orders with revenues of $33,600. But here’s the interesting point. The most expensive book while  receiving only 1500 orders managed to make the most – $37,425. You need to ask yourself, “How can I determine what my market will bear?”

Something else to think about. A  Stanford University study showed that when subjects were given the same wine and told that one bottle was $5 and the other $45, people unfailingly found “the expensive wine” tasted better. “So, in essence, [price] is changing people’s experiences with a product and, therefore, the outcomes from consuming this product.” said Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing who co-authored the research report.

What do these studies  say about how you price your personal history services? They show that pricing too low can be perceived by your potential clients as you’re offering an inferior product. People still believe the old adage – you get what you pay for.

So when will you start charging gourmet prices for your work?

Photo by iStockphoto

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3 Responses to Are You Charging Hamburger Prices for Gourmet Work?

  1. Thanks for doing some legwork on this Dan. I think it’s a good idea to put our work in relationship, not only to similar jobs, but to other jobs people pay for, like massage therapists, housecleaners, yard-workers.

    These numbers strike me very low. I’m wondering if that is the rate the person receives? call it the wholesale price, no benefits, taxes, etc. When a plumber comes to my house, I pay between $60 and $80 per hour. I know the plumber is not receiving all of that, but it is the cost per hour of the business. Same as my yard guy whose $55/hour rate not only has to cover labor, but also equipment, gas, truck, etc.

    • @cj madigan. Thanks, cj. The numbers are low. The wages I’ve listed, other than for the freelancers, would be people employed by companies that would also provide benefits. There’s also the difficulty of quoting average salaries because of the discrepancies from region to region. What I hope I’ve conveyed is that people shouldn’t give their work away!

  2. Pingback: Have I Got Something For You! Nine Fabulous Marketing Articles! « Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

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