How Chris Brogan’s Day Rate Can Help YOU Get Paid

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.

Why not?

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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  • http://www.jacksonwightman.com/ Jackson Wightman

    The explosion re Brogan's rate was f-ing appalling. Alas it was indicative of a strain within new media that has taken some sort of monk-like vow of poverty. This crap needs to be jettisoned immediately – esp as much of the conversation around social media invariably involves commercial applications.

    What the haters are missing re Brogan is that the decision re the rates he charges is only partially his. That elusive, faceless force known as “the market” is the real determiner of his pay. And mine, his, her's, etc.

    Tks for the post.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    The faster people realize that social media isn't “cheap”? The better off we will all be.

    Tried to cover it in a bit of depth here: http://thelostjacket.com/community/running-start

    Think I was successful?

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

    Once again you not only hit the nail on the head, but you beat the thing as hard as you could.

    I wish I had read this BEFORE recording a podcast talking about exactly this topic because it pissed me off the way people reacted, but it didn't surprise me one bit.

    Each person needs to figure out their own value and if businesses are willing to pay that, then hellayeah! Go for it. Anyone can price themselves at any level and if they don't get that much then they are pricing themselves wrong.

    Thanks for being one of the few voices of reasons out there. We need more like you.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    If you need me to call into your podcast as The Occasional Voice of
    Reason, let me know. I'll also be happy to sigh loudly in the
    background from time to time, just to shake things up.

  • amanichannel

    Great thoughts Justin. In other words let go of the 'haterade.'

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral TheBizWebCoach

    Word up.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Justin –

    You had me at …

    “You have 400 Twitter followers and you wet yourself every time you get retweeted.”

    Spot on. Spot on. Spot on. This was my response: http://twitter.com/djwaldow/statuses/9927261738 – If I could have pulled it off in <140 characters I would have added everything you just blogged about above – likely word for word. I would have also claimed it as my own, then charged a boat-load for it. Oh wait. (That's just my way of saying, “great post, dude.”).

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    P.S. I'll be back later. Pretty sure I just got RT'd

  • http://www.semiosiscommunications.com/ Peter Korchnak

    The hate fest about Chris Brogan's daily rate reminds me of the Slovak band Bez Ladu A Skladu's song that goes something like this (translation): “Chop off his head / So he doesn't stick out of the crowd”.

  • http://www.mackcollier.com/ Mack Collier

    Funny how you couldn't find a Brogan hater a few years ago, then he started finding smart ways to MAKE MONEY with social media, and now he suddenly has detractors.

    Honestly, you nailed it, much of the teeth-gnashing is coming from people that don't think they can get the same bread for similar services. When I published some of my prices (thanks for the mention, BTW!), I had people that were in the same line of work telling me that the prices were too low, while bloggers and others were telling me they were way too high. Right now they work for me and my clients, so all's good with the world.

    Personally I think there needs to be more transparency in pricing. And here's the funny thing, if you guys think Chris making $22K for a day is a lot, that's a drop in the bucket compared to what some people get. But they, as Chris, give value that justifies the price they charge. Which is why they can get it.

    In the end, the time I spend worrying about what Chris or anyone else charges for their business is time I can't spend on my own. It's just not worth it.

  • red_pen_mama

    Here is a thought (and I'm going to get shot down for this by someone): Social media is dominated by writers (and/or people who consider themselves writers). It's always been tough — if you didn't have the cojones — to ask for what you are worth in terms of experience as a freelance writer. i remember several jobs that I named my price (which was pretty high for my city) with my heart in my throat. Most of those jobs I got (and delivered on), and a couple I was quietly frozen out of. And I was okay with that. If a client only wanted to pay me pennies a word, and nothing for my time and expenses, I wasn't interested in working for them.

    When I start serving clients in the realm of social media marketing, I know what I am going to ask them for, based on their budgets as well as my time and knowledge. Let me tell you, the market I am interested in serving doesn't have a lot of money. But it's going to pay off down the line. Probably not to the tune of $22K a day, but I know that going in.

    More power to people like Chris Brogan and others (you?) who aren't afraid to ask for what you're worth. It's not just about getting experience or a byline. Ya gotta pay the bills (and then some) too.

  • http://www.shadesofadream.com/blog/ Heather

    I managed to miss the entire explosion. Don't see how it really affects me though; great for him that he can charge that much, for myself… I'm not even in the same niche, nor have I been around as long. No sour grapes here.

  • http://ianmrountree.com Ian M Rountree

    Just because I drive a pinto doesn't mean I deserve to call it a Ferrari.

    I'm always frustrated when people fail to see the positive: Chris just set the bar for marketing the wanna-be, gave them all something to aspire to. As someone whose cost-per-day just went up by a thousand percent (Yeah, job change) Chris just told me that, no, I haven't “arrived” and I'm stupid if I think I have.

    The hate on for Chris is totally logical, but another piece of the conversation is entirely missing. He just announced what he charges. He didn't say anything about what he takes home. Anyone who can take home more than half of what they charge is obviously doing things right, but if you're running a business and want your business to succeed through you, rather than using your business as fuel for your own life, chances are, you take a cut and leave the rest in the business' pot.

    Silly people, accounting's for geeks.

  • http://yorkstreetproperties.com/ Lance

    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. — I say this is an awesome way of working and living. Who wouldn't want that? =)

  • phillymac

    Well said and well done.

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  • http://beancast.us/ Bob Knorpp

    The funniest thing is how little I care about this. I'll be so bold as to say that if someone reacted poorly to this they need to take their head out of their butt.

    John C. Dvorak's POSTED rate for a speaking engagement — yes, just talking for an hour at a keynote — is $20,000. David Meerman Scott in the middle of his own presentation tells you that he gets paid $10,000 per appearance. Again, we're just talking about a speech folks.

    This is not hidden. It's not surprising. Nor is it criminal. It's just the way things are. It's supply and demand. There is very little of these individuals, but high demand to hear them. Our own market forces dictate the results.

    And getting back to Chris, frankly $22,000 for an entire 8 hour day with a famous, well-respected individual, does not seem excessive. No matter how you feel about his teachings or the social media train he's riding, he wouldn't be charging it if we weren't paying it.

    More power to you, Chris. I look forward to the day that a poor little BeanCast host can charge those kind of dollars. For now, my day rate is $5,000 for those interested. ;)

    Bob Knorpp
    Host of The BeanCast
    Posts every Monday @ http://beancast.us

  • http://billcammack.com/ Bill Cammack

    Excellent post, Justin. Well-Said, as usual. :D

    Part of the problem here, which Chris has already spoken to on his own site, is the context that his remark was taken in. AFAIK, the original beef was something like someone complained about paying $47 for something and Chris replied something like “I charge 466 times that for one day” and then someone did the math on that and came up with the 22k number and Chris rolled with it. It’s obvious that the original statement was one of those “That girl is a million times hawter than the other one” statements that has now been taken literally by the masses.

    Be that as it may, the main issue here is people sippin’ on haterade, but there’s also the issue of a lack of transparency in Social Media across the board. Except for a few people who post their own statistics, nobody knows what anyone’s rates are and nobody knows who anyone’s clients are. For instance, there are people who claim to be video producers and there’s no tangible evidence on the net that they EVER worked for ANYBODY. No samples of their work. No client list. No testimonials. Nothing.

    So I feel like once again, Chris has managed to step in the trap and all the pressure that’s been building up amongst the masses to scream “BULL****!!!” to everyone they’ve watched make outlandish, unverifiable claims about who they are and what they do fell unfairly on him. So whether the number was $47×466 or even $5,000/day, the same tension release would have occurred. Somehow, he has the knack for making that happen.

    On top of that, people are treating $21,902/day as if that’s Chris’ “Take it or leave it” rate.. Like as if he never works for less than that, so they’re figuring that either he’s mega-rich or he’s mega-broke, because nobody’s going to pay him that much. The fact of the matter is that if you shovel snow for a living, you can tell people that your day rate for shoveling snow is $21,902. If someone wants to give you that much, good for you. :)

    So now that everyone’s spent the usual three days going berserk over some internet issue *yawn*, now we can all go back to saying “Bull**** :/” on the back-channel until someone else makes an ever-so-rare concrete statement about who they are or what they do and the whole thing can flare up again. Hopefully, next time, it will be someone other than Chris, because unfortunately, he’s had several of these tsunamis break out recently and it’s time for someone else to carry the flag.

  • http://blog.criticalresults.com/ Mark W. Schumann

    That and there are people getting paid more than $22K/day to do horrible, miserable things that kill people and destroy communities. I don't begrudge Chris that kind of money when he's helping people who are happy to give it to him!

  • rebeccawoodhead

    Well put together and very funny. It's sad that this incident turned so personally against Chris but it's good that it was raised. I'm not a card carrying member of the Brogan For President cheer-leading squad, but I am sad for him and his family that this happened. Hopefully, people will start looking at it as an opportunity to discuss more general points about money in the social media arena as that is the polka-dotted polka-dancing elephant in the room everyone's too scared to talk about.

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  • http://moneyandrisk.com/ Kim Luu

    Being new to social media, I had never heard of Chris Brogan before I read angry blogs from “mommy” bloggers who felt that they have been taken advantage of and not paid enough for their work in promoting companies.

    Justin, your article is dead on and well balanced. The market will pay what it deems appropriate. If Chris was not delivering on value for his price, he would not get future business. In addition, he has employees that he's supporting now. How much of that is really net for him?

    For all those professionals struggling to justify the value of their intangible (as in not touchable goods) skills, Harlan Ellison gives a very earthy lessons on valuing yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

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  • http://2012prophecy.net DM I.M.Cango

    Hey dude, never heard of you before, but you are funny. And from the way you talk, you may not be worth 22k a day, but I could see you getting 10k. good stuff.

  • http://2012prophecy.net DM I.M.Cango

    Hey dude, never heard of you before, but you are funny. And from the way you talk, you may not be worth 22k a day, but I could see you getting 10k. good stuff.

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