Ellen Butler asked:

“Do you post your project, hourly, or starting rates on your website?”

The answer depends on what pricing model you’re using. If what you’re selling is a commodity, then pricing can be public. Most people who are in service-based businesses are selling hours of their time, which they treat as a commodity, just like apples, iron, gold, Apple’s stock, rice, and corn. That pricing model also makes it easy for buyers to do apples-to-apples comparisons. John Doe’s pricing is 50 an hour, while Jane Doe’s pricing is40 an hour. If all you care about as a buyer is price, then the decision should be easy.

If what you’re selling is not a commodity, then pricing can’t be public because there is no standardized pricing. What’s the price of surgery? Well, it depends on what you need to have done, which doctor you’re going to have do the work, what hospital you’re going to have the work done at, how urgent the need is, who your healthcare insurance provider is… you get the idea. Surgery isn’t a commodity (yet).

What determines whether or not you are selling a commodity is customization. If what you do offers no significant benefits over what anyone else does – or if your buyers and customers don’t understand the difference between what you do and what others do – then you’re selling a commodity and you’re forced into a price war. If what you do is so unique and so customized that you’re a market of one, then you can price to what the market will bear. There’s a reason that Apple, when it releases a new product line, can price whatever the heck it wants – usually there are few to no competitors. Think back to when the first iPad came out. There was nothing else like it. Or the iPhone. Or the iPod. They were unique enough that they were their own markets for quite a while. Now, unless they continue to innovate, their spaces have become commoditized.

If you want more details on pricing, I recommend this older post on setting consulting billing rates for some additional ideas.

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