How much it really takes
I’ve been wrestling for several months with the question of raising my prices. I’ve been feeling the crunch of the economy just like everyone else; prices are going up for the things I pay for, and I don’t have much of a cushion in my finances, or much that I can cut back on.
But does that mean that I need to charge more? Is there another option? How much money do I actually need?
So I ran the numbers. (Duh.)
- Adding up all the expenses it takes to operate my business,
- plus what my family needs to pay our bills and have a little savings and enjoyment,
- divided by the number of hours I can actually, healthfully, spend working (coaching, and admin stuff, and content creation, etc.) without burning out again (that is NOT an option),
- and assuming that my income comes just from 1:1 coaching (which is close to accurate),
…then I need to charge $140 an hour.
Currently I’m charging $120, so that’s not a huge difference and that’s heartening, but it does explain why things always feel just a little tight.
I always manage to make ends meet, but I do that by working just slightly more hours than what is good for me, and that means that something has to give. Lately that’s been working on my burnout recovery course, ironically.
I haven’t made much progress on that in the last few months because a significant chunk of my non-coaching hours have been going to maintaining the level of article writing, making YouTube videos, and social media posts that I’ve become used to.
My two purposes
But here’s the thing. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been pouring so much time into that, why it feels so necessary, and when I ran those numbers above: it finally made sense to me.
Putting out lots of free info serves two important purposes. It’s both my primary form of ethical marketing, and my way to contribute to the community.
It’s important to me that my marketing is ethical and respectful. I don’t, and won’t, use pushy manipulative sales tactics. Instead, through my articles and videos, I demonstrate my point of view, give genuine value, and allow people to organically decide if they match my perspective and style.
Some people will resonate with it and want more, and that turns out to be enough.
Some won’t want more, and continue their search elsewhere.
Many who do like my material will only ever use my free content, and that fulfills my second goal of helping the community. Because when I was newly self-identified, and then newly diagnosed, I didn’t get much help navigating that process from an autistic perspective, and I want others to have a different experience.
It genuinely doesn’t bother me in the slightest if most of the people who use my content never pay me a dime. As long as I make enough to cover my expenses, I’m happy that many people will get value from my free content.
Back to my realization
Since respectful marketing is one of my two goals in making more free content, and I’ve been feeling the pinch of making just a little bit less than I really need, I think that below my conscious awareness there has been a slight internal push to put more content out there in order to find a few more clients to make up the difference.
But that takes a lot of time and effort, and I’ve been pushing a little too hard.
I have not been pushing myself so hard to be at risk of burnout. I learned that lesson the hard way, too many times, and it’s not worth it. I’ve been careful to take time off to restore, daily, weekly, and monthly.
But it has meant that I haven’t made much progress on my burnout recovery course. Or other things that I’ve wanted to do.
So now that I know what’s going on, I have to make some choices about how to proceed.
- Either I can raise my prices, which I really don’t want to do.
- Or I can make up the difference from other things besides individual coaching.
That second option could be interpreted in a lot of ways that might be equally, or even more, dangerous to my time resources. I don’t want to split my focus or end up trying to juggle lots of different projects. I don’t work well that way.
However, there are a bunch of sub-topics that are in line with my primary themes of autistic burnout recovery and post-identification intentional life creation.
These are topics that I want to write about anyway, that I’ve been planning on already, and for which I have lots of notes and intentions already in the works. Rather than giving all of them away for free, I could turn them into e-books, mini courses, self-guided experiences, small group workshops, etc.
By charging for them, I could invest time into their creation and get compensated for it later, allowing me to make up the difference without having to raise my prices.
It would also provide ways for people to get in-depth and valuable info from me at a much lower price point than 1:1 coaching. And I would love to get much more specific and in-depth, with lots of examples, than I (have time to) do with the free content. So you would get better info.
And by having some evergreen content available, I’d be building a more robust business model that is not solely dependent upon my ability to show up live for individual coaching. (I’m not expecting this to be a large source of passive income, but it would build up over time.)
So this is my current plan. I’m going to experiment with this for a while and see how it goes.
Business model as a win-win solution
I probably will raise my prices eventually, maybe in a few months, maybe next year, I don’t know. But I don’t want to do it now.
So many people are hurting so much at the moment, financially and otherwise, that adding to that makes my stomach churn.
And while a few of my clients could handle an increase, and have even encouraged me to, most are struggling as much or more than I am. I’d rather more people be able to continue coaching so they can build a better life, and for some that means getting back to a place where they can work and earn more income eventually.
And my prices are already out of the range of a lot of people. I don’t want to exacerbate that. (BTW, I offer a sliding scale for exactly these reasons.)
By tweaking my business model instead, I’ll not only be able to maintain my current prices (at least for a while), but I’ll be building a more robust business that will be better for everyone in the long run. More people will have access to in-depth information from me at lower prices, I’ll be expanding my range of offerings (because not everyone wants coaching), and I’ll worry less about my future and how to support my family if I get sick or something. That’s a win-win solution.
Implementing this solution means that I’ll have to make a few changes in how I do things. The time to make these e-books, mini courses, etc., has to come from somewhere.
The biggest area is going to be my free content creation. It’s not going away; I will always put out quality, free info, as that is one of my primary goals. But it won’t be quite as much.
I’m not going to make grandiose announcements of “this is the way it’s going to be from now on,” because I’m in experimenting mode.
But for now, I’ve already started scaling back to one YouTube video a week (instead of two or three), an article every other week, and one or two social media posts a day (instead of many).
I’m flirting with the idea of not answering every email asking for advice and opinions, as that takes quite a bit of my time. I’m not really sure how to not do that, but I might figure that out. Sigh.
And I’m handing off a few more tasks to my part-time assistant. They have been invaluable in the last year, even just taking a few things off my plate, and they’ve agreed to take on a few more hours. (Paying them a fair wage is also part of my business expenses.)
So you can expect a wider variety of paid content from me in the near future. Starting with the second round of my anti-anxiety small group course, which is in February.
I’m interested in hearing from you what types of materials you prefer. Do you like e-books or PDF downloads? Small groups or self-guided experiences? Email-based courses or do you hate email? Drip courses (sections get released to you over time) or do you want to get everything all at once? Please comment below to let me know.