There was a small tsunami on Twitter yesterday that had nothing to do with Chilean earthquakes and everything to do with Chris Brogan‘s wallet. In a nutshell, Brogan stated (somewhat quietly) that he charges $22,000 for a day of his time, and THE INTERNET EXPLODED IN A BALL OF SPITE.
Responses from the Twitterverse ranged from awe to derision.
Some people were mystified that one man could charge so much for what they consider to be so little work. Others immediately began scheming to calculate how they could escalate their own rates into the $20K per day range, because if there’s one thing social media loves, it’s imitation.
Personally, I see the public’s collective recoil as proof that no one truly believes anybody can make money online without first selling their soul to an affiliate program. Any evidence to the contrary simply blows our synapses.
But lost in this mix of sticker shock and vitriol were some key truths, which Chris touched on in a follow-up blog post, including:
- Chris doesn’t always work for a full day, so he doesn’t always bill for a full day.
- Chris gives away huge amounts of his own knowledge for free on a daily basis.
- Chris purposely prices himself in a range that discourages half-assed clients.
In short, Chris doesn’t always expect to make $22,000 a day, but he certainly doesn’t turn it down either.
And why should he?
Chris knows a thing or two about the Internet. He speaks and writes in a manner that people enjoy. And he brings a unique mix of personality, experience and analysis to the table, which enables him to price his services as a luxury rather than a commodity.
If a company were to pay Chris $22K, and then they turned around and invested his insights to the tune of $22M in profit, we’d all agree that the company had made a shrewd investment.
So why are we so aghast at the fact that these numbers exist?
Because none of us thought they were plausible — at least, not for us.
Fear and Loathing in Social Media
Let’s face it: you have no idea what you actually know about social media, and you certainly don’t know if you know more than the next girl. The only thing you’re sure of is that you know something, and you never really know what that something is actually worth.
Then Chris Brogan comes along and tells you what he believes he’s worth, and you panic because you never would have assigned that kind of value to yourself.
Probably because you don’t believe your insights are worth $22,000 to anybody, much less for a single day of your time. Hell, you barely have any practical social media (or marketing, or business) experience to begin with. You have 400 Twitter followers and you wet yourself every time you get retweeted; $22,000 is like space money in your world.
So here’s a tip: stop hating Chris, stop hating yourself, and stop hating the newly-distinguished class separation between you. It is what it is, and resenting the successes of others sure as hell doesn’t vindicate your own lack thereof.
Yes, when it comes to the group hug that is social media, we’re “all in this together.” But some of us are waaaaaaaaaay more “in this” than others. Some of us really are worth a few hundred dollars a day, or a few thousand, or a day rate that far exceeds whatever you spent on your five years (and counting) of community college. So relax.
But this doesn’t mean that you’re worth nothing, either.
So how do you find the happy medium?
Here are 6 tips to help you stomach the reality of determining your own self-worth.
1. Admit what you do and don’t actually know.
This is the hardest part because human beings are horrible at honest self-evaluations. But, what the hell: try.
Sure, you don’t know everything about social media (or whatever field you’re in), but you do know something. Identify your areas of expertise. Are you strong on the social side but weak on the tech? Can you manage an existing strategy but not implement one from scratch? Are you a LinkedIn wizard and a Facebook rube?
Summarize your strengths and weaknesses. That way, when someone asks, “So, what do you have to offer?” you’ll have an answer that doesn’t involve lies, borrowed anecdotes and desperate obfuscations.
2. How much experience do you have… and with whom?
If you just started tweeting yesterday, your insights are not worth $22, much less $22,000. We’re all in competition with each other, and since our competing knowledge is always The Great Unknown, our work experience becomes a concrete qualifier that separates the know-hows from the guess-hows.
Who have you worked with? What did you do for them? How successful were you? What did you learn in the process?
What proof of your ability to make someone else’s business more profitable and efficient can you provide?
(Hint: If you’re stretching the truth to answer this question, cut your rates in half and remove the word “thought leader” from your Twitter bio.)
3. How hard are you willing to work?
You may not have astounding insights or jaw-dropping work experience, but there’s one intangible that can’t be ignored: you’ll work your ass off in order to get the job done. Any job. Multiple jobs, if necessary. You’re dedicated to success and you’ll work day and night to achieve the desired results.
When you put it like that, I can see why your rates may be higher than your contemporaries: because your clients know they can rely on you. Or take advantage of you. Or both. But however it shakes out, you’ll know you did your best — and you’ll charge for it.
4. How hard do you want to work?
We could all be busting our asses for 60 hours a week and changing the world left and right, but life is short and we’re tired, selfish, American Idol-addicted individuals. We’re fragile; we need breaks.
So we price ourselves higher than we need to because we want to work less than we have to.
Chris Brogan doesn’t want to work 60 hour weeks. At his rates, he doesn’t need to; he just needs 2 or 3 clients a month to meet him halfway and he’d be living quite comfortably.
5. Price yourself into the ballpark of the clientele you can best serve.
Chris Brogan’s rates mean his clients are self-selecting. He doesn’t want to spin his wheels with companies who aren’t capable of asking $22,000 questions, because he can’t provide those companies with the kinds of answers that will send his CV into the stratosphere.
But there’s a catch: at those rates, people expect results. They’re hiring a miracle worker, or renting time with an exotic shaman. If you can’t provide the kinds of insights that make your client’s competitors envious of your relationship, you have no business pricing yourself in that range.
All the same, if you price yourself too low, no one will hire you. People pay for the illusion of success, and if your rates say “will work for food,” you’ll starve to death. It’s fine to work for charity, but don’t price yourself like one or you’ll need their help to feed your family.
6. Everything you do is worth something; charge accordingly.
Stepping away from Chris Brogan for a moment, there’s another social media guru you can compare your rates to: Mack Collier.
Here’s a guy who unabashedly lists his price range for a wide array of services, from original content creation to audits of your existing social media strategy. Notice that his prices truly are a range, in both his actual rates and in the type of work he does. No matter what kinds of client Mack attracts, he offers “something for everyone” — which means he’s also likely to remain consistently employed.
What types of services can you offer? Can those services be bundled? Is there a sliding scale based on time constraints and degree of difficulty?
Even the priciest retailers have a bargain bin, because they don’t want anyone to leave without buying something.
A Final Word on Not Crying Yourself to Sleep in the Corner
No, you’re not Chris Brogan. Nor are you a person who earns even more than Chris Brogan does. (Yes, they’re out there, and if you knew what they charged, your bladder would never recover.)
Valuing yourself according to other people’s self-estimations is the easiest way to drive yourself crazy. But valuing yourself according to your own self-estimation is the easiest way to go hungry, because you never truly understand what your assets are actually worth to the people who don’t know what you know.
You wouldn’t pay somebody $5 to change your oil because you know how to do it yourself; I don’t, so I’m willing to pay $30 if it gets done fast and well.
Is your knowledge worth $30 to someone who doesn’t know what you know?
Is it worth $300? $3,000? $30,000?
The sky’s the limit, as long as you bring your own plane.
But if someone ends up paying you $30,000 to do nothing, they’re going to have to pay Chris Brogan a hell of a lot more than $30,000 to fix it — and then we’ll really start feeling some sticker shock.
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