Never Say It’s Too Expensive 

At a networking event several years ago, I witnessed an impassioned conversation between a man and a woman. She was describing a training course she offers, priced at a few thousand pounds, and he was incredulous. “But it’s not fair!” he kept saying, polite yet exasperated. “It’s not right!” 

Her price offended his sense of justice. It bashed up against his vision of a fair and equal society. In particular, he couldn’t stand the idea that she’d created content in advance that could be delivered without much in-the-moment input from her, yet was charging premium rates. 

I’d go out on a limb and guess that at some point you’ve thought somebody was charging too much. You’ve heard their price and responded, “Ooh, that’s steep!” I’ve heard it recently from friends who baulked at me paying £10 for Rock Choir sessions, or £12 for Five Rhythms classes. 

If you’ve ever thought somebody was pricing too high, or being greedy or unfair in their pricing, I want to make something clear.

It costs a lot to make money

The person we call “expensive” probably paid a significant amount of money to train. We’re talking hundreds, if not thousands, and with that came travel costs, course materials, childcare, in addition to not being able to earn money elsewhere – possibly for years. The cost of her services today has to cover all the years that went before, if she’s to break even.

The person we call “expensive” probably pays out a huge amount each month on business expenses. As her business grows, so do these expenses. PayPal charges, venue hire, the cost of designing and distributing flyers, business cards, networking meetings, website design, website hosting, printer, printer ink, postage, a web developer, travel, business banking charges, webinar services, teleclass services, email list services, landline, mobile phone, internet, laptop, camera, professional headshots, office desk, work-related equipment – the list goes on. The cost of her services has to cover all of these expenses, and that’s before we even get onto hiring a team and paying income tax, corporation tax, dividend tax, VAT. Her revenue is not her profit, and her profit is not her take-home cash-in-the-bank.

The person we call “expensive” probably does a huge amount for free. She blogs, or records videos, or gives free consultations, or shares inspiration on social media. She doesn’t get paid by anybody for any of that, so the cost of her services has to cover this working time too. I don’t see many people advocating on her behalf, passionately arguing that it’s not fair that she has to do all that work for free. 

The person we call “expensive” – the hourly rate you see on her site does not equate to what she receives per hour. She may have invested days, weeks or months in creating a product. Unpaid hour after unpaid hour. Let’s be careful not to muddle our maths and think someone’s hourly rate tells us their income.

The person we call “expensive” is not just paying a financial cost. She’s living on a daily basis with lack of security and with the constant risk of rejection. She is paying an emotional cost when she lays awake at night, anxiously wondering, “Will anybody buy? Am I good enough? Will anybody want this?” We pay for it to be worth it for her to put her soul through that. If it’s not worth it, nobody would do self-employment. 

The person we call “expensive” – we don’t know the circumstances of her life. We have no idea what she needs money for. We don’t know if she’s using some of that money to help a family member in need or tithe to charity. We don’t know the debts of her past, or her hopes for the future. We don’t know – and quite frankly, it’s none of our business. 

We never really know what happens behind the scenes of somebody’s life. When I watch the credits roll at the end of a movie, I always wonder, “How can they pay this many people?!” and I therefore couldn’t consider £10 to be “steep” for a DVD or a cinema ticket. (Even the actors who earn millions, the price they pay is often their privacy – something many of us would not be prepared to give up.) 

Every time I see a yoga teacher charging £8 per class, trying to keep her classes “accessible to all”, I guess at her behind-the-scenes. I guess she’s likely to be working in a day job (if she’s not sustained by a partner), behind her computer for half the week, desperate to get back on the mat and help people.

No more “It’s too expensive” 

If we care about fairness and equality and justice, we must check we’re doing the maths properly before we deny our friends the right to make a healthy living through their innate gifts and talents. They are fulfilling their duty by sharing their passion with us, with all the costs that are associated with that. Let us celebrate their ability to earn well through that.

Nobody is ever “charging too much”. It can’t happen. If it’s too expensive for you, fine. That’s about you. It’s not about the person generously offering their heart out into the world. Don’t buy from her; it’s that simple. But please: stop telling her she’s overcharging.

If you’re self-employed, there’s another reason to stop calling things “expensive”

Whatever we deny others, we deny ourselves.

Our disgust at her price is preventing us from setting a healthy price.

Our resistance to her healthy earning is preventing us from enjoying a healthy income.

Our muddled maths is leading to our own numbers not adding up. 

Question your judgements of her for your own sake. Be selfish. Don’t sabotage your own chances of happy, sustainable self-employment.

What has it cost you?

How many hours per week do you work for free? Include all admin, marketing and professional development time, as well as travel, free consultations, networking, social media, blogging, and preparing resources. 

How many years have you invested, so that you can now offer what you offer? How many books did you read, courses did you take, personal journeys did you go on? Did anyone pay you for any of that? 

How much money have you spent – and do you spend monthly – to be able to provide the product or service that you pour your love and care into? 

Over to you

Leave a comment below, join the discussion. 

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7 replies
  1. Emi
    Emi says:

    Thank you for posting this again. I have referred to this piece in discussions many times, shared the link and thought about it tons since I first came across it in what maybe 2014? It’s a brilliant piece, applicable by analogy to other contexts. It’s the best piece on this topic I’ve ever come across. Kudos.

  2. Kip
    Kip says:

    I too am grateful you reposted this thoughtful piece and have referred to it many times as well. It’s a must read for both purveyors and consumers of goods and now it’s back I will continue to refer people to read it. Thank you!

  3. Hope M Pomerantz
    Hope M Pomerantz says:

    Emi- I must have missed this the first time you posted it. It’s a great reminder that worth is subjective and that the proposed consumer is not the only one whose evaluation counts, despite the practical implications of that last phrase. Thank you for re-sharing. Happy New Year my friend!

  4. Daria
    Daria says:

    Hi Corrina,
    Thanks to posting this again. It’s such a valuable reminder & so clearly said. I wish you posted this in German, too. I’d share it on my blog 🙂

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