Pricing, pricing, pricing.
Almost five years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “What’s in Your Hour?” It’s been one of the most shared and visited blogs on our site.
In a routine clean-up, I reread the article – and realized how much had changed in the last five years. Not only in my perspective on pricing, but in the world of voice, and in the global economy.
You, dear friend, are not in the same economy that you were in when you first read “What’s in Your Hour?”.
You’ve got more options than ever before. You went through/are going through a pandemic. Your nation may be in the think of political reckonings.
Your money needs to do different things for you, today than it did five years ago.
And while the basic premise is the same – you still need to take a look at what’s in your hour as you move into the next season of your business.
So I’ve updated the “What’s in Your Hour?” blog, for you – in hopes that it will empower you to move into the next season with courage and self-nurturing.
“What’s In Your Hour?” is about Self-Empowerment
We are often challenged to defend our business’s pricing.
Especially now that inflation is on the rise and people are just learning to get back into the swing of things post-Covid shutdowns. Even if someone isn’t asking you outright to defend your pricing, they ask in subtle ways – like asking “what do I get for this price?” or by asking “How much is it?” before they take the time to learn anything else.
Let me be clear: You don’t need to justify your pricing to anyone.
However, I’ve learned that one of the most effective ways to find peace around appropriate pricing is to be able to defend your pricing to yourself.
Defending your pricing to yourself not only opens the door for confident rate raises; it also opens the door to effective marketing messaging and sales.
“What’s in Your Hour?” is not a script we memorize in order to be defensive about money or our pricing. It is a reflection process that compels self-empowerment. We honor the hard work, dedication, energy, and time that we put into our clients. It’s a way to truly own the beautiful positive responsibility we take for our role in people’s growth and change.
Talking about our prices is a part of this business we signed up for, and if a few folks are not asking questions, we probably aren’t charging enough. If lots of people are asking questions, then we certainly aren’t charging enough.
Instead of stating how we really feel, which often includes words like, “You have no idea what I do for my clients!” and “EFF YOUR SCARCITY MINDSET!” we would do well to educate those around us.
When I take business clients (any client! From voice teacher to accountant!) through the tough but necessary pricing strategy conversation, big fear starts to manifest. It’s usually due to the fact that most voice teachers haven’t taken the time to really figure out two things: their money plan and what is “in their hour.”
They haven’t taken the time to get super depressed over how much work they do for how little money. And as we all know, the first step toward financial freedom is depression.
Service-based business owners like voice teachers tend to fall into the trap of pricing based solely on industry norm (also called industry standard), but they call it “the market”. Or worse, they just pick a price out of the air based on what they assume people will pay.
(Spoiler Alert: This doesn’t work.)
When you are clear about why you charge what you charge it’s much easier to do so. You are empowered by data + love, not just hopes and fears.
What does “What’s In Your Hour?” mean?
“What’s In Your Hour?” is an exercise we go through so that we can finally see how much effort, support, energy, and tangible cost we put into the wonderful offers we provide to our clients. It leads the way for our pricing to reflect what we truly provide.
I’m not gonna take ya through the actual exercise. It takes time and coaching, and is driven by each business’s finances – that is why it is reserved for clients. (You can get the worksheet free here.)
Instead, I’ll share what’s in one of my “hours”, so you’ll get an idea of where this is headed. I’ll bet you’ll see some things that look very familiar.
Here is what’s in the “hour” of the Inquiry process I offer to all potential new voice clients. This process includes a free discovery call and a 90 minute Initial Fit Session:
- 5 minutes: Reading email or listening to voicemail or reading text or DM in which someone inquires about voice work.
- 10-15 minutes: Email responding to initial questions. Including the correct scheduling link for the need of the client, and walking them through options on how to continue. This leads to a phone or zoom consult.
- 20-40 minutes: Complimentary phone or zoom consult in which client and I talk through what the needs of the client are, and allow any and all questions about this studio. We go over long-term goals, current desires, any fears about continuing. They ask a lot of questions and I love to answer them. I ask a lot of questions and love to hear the answers!
- 5 Minutes: Emailing the link to schedule Initial Fit Session.
- 30 minutes: Reviewing the intake form from the Initial Fit to be sure I understand what I am reading, do any necessary research, and follow up with any pertinent information.
- 10-15 minutes: Any other email questions that come back to me, being sure to answer any questions, and be sure the client feels comfortable and clear in the next steps of the process.
- 75-90 minutes: The Initial Fit Session. The actual face-to-face time.
- 180+ minutes: Putting together custom packages that will best serve that client for their continued training.
- Researching recording studios, programs, venues, etc they may be interested in
- Researching current school/area of interest and its offerings
- Researching current companies being worked with
- Reaching out to my network to solidify their availability, in case the student is in need of things like studio space, musicians, or coaching in other areas.
- Listening to the Initial Fit Session again, (that was recorded) to more thoroughly identify vocal training needs and areas of focus
- Dreaming big
- Looking over the coming months to see how our schedules meet up
- Determining a plan of action for executable goals and deliverables
- If it is a habilitation client, looking over scopes/films, contacting SLP/ENT, and gaining a better understanding of the protocol they are coming in from.
- 5 minutes: Emailing the custom packages off to the client.
- 15-30 minutes: Email or phone re-connect to tailor packages to client needs even more.
- 20 minutes: After the client has chosen a package, putting together a contract, and emailing to the client.
- 5 minutes: After receiving the signed and returned contract, sending over the scheduling link.
I am investing at least six hours of real work on each potential voice client, to make sure they have the red carpet treatment from the first contact to the contract. This is why the Initial Fit Session for voice clients is only $250. A loss leader, indeed!
Did you know that I wrote a 60 page book about the inquiry process?
You can get your copy here:
The Art of the Inquiry:
The Secret to Revenue, Relationships, and Retention
There are a ton of activities we voice teachers do that do not directly create revenue
There are two types of activity in every business: direct revenue generators and non-revenue generators.
Direct revenue generators are activities like face-to-face sessions. They are activities that when you sell them, they make you money.
Non-revenue generators are activities like bookkeeping and attending conferences. They are activities that can’t be directly billed out to clients to produce an income for the business.
Here are some examples of non-revenue generating activities in the voice studio:
- Pursuing Continuing Education from:
- Going to Conferences
- Reading Books
- Participating in Masterminds Groups
- Taking Online courses
- Attending Workshops
- Attending Masterclasses
- Answering questions via email
- Answering questions via phone
- Answering questions via text/DM
- Arranging songs (or paying to have them arranged)
- Coordinating performances, recitals, rehearsals, studio classes
- Repertoire research and development
- Research and writing up performances/recital/class programs
- Writing letters of recommendation
- Providing materials and music
- Providing accompanists or other collaborative artists
- Coordinating with make-ups
- Solving other types of scheduling snafus
- Connecting singers/clients with other resources
- Diction coaches
- Collaborative pianists
- Other coaches who fill the gaps
- Passing on auditions and casting calls
- Recording studio contacts
- Session players for recordings
- Setting up and executing recordings (Albums, demos, college prescreens, etc)
- Prepping for last-minute opportunities (auditions, gigs, etc)
- Attending shows they are in
- Attending concerts they are in
- Attending other recitals or gigs they are in
- Learning the rep THEY bring in
- Our own performing time (which gives us more experience, which in turn creates empathy in the studio)
- Our previous degrees and energy put forth to being trained before we began teaching
- Being lovely when we are exhausted and we get an “I have an audition tomorrow” text at 11:00 pm.
On top of the non-generating activities, we have expenses that we incur as we run our voice studio.
Here are just a few examples of expenses of our voice studio.
- Costs associated with performances, recitals, rehearsals, studio classes
- Location costs (rent or home)
- Fiscal costs of travel
- Fiscal costs professional development
- PayPal and Credit Card fees
- Sheet music
- Software: Voce Vista, Zoom, Editing software, Canva, etc.
- Hardware: pianos, computers, tablets, phones, printers, microphones, recording equipment, phones, internet, webcams, etc.
All of the above, and more, is what is in my “hour” for each client. I’ll bet many of these things look familiar to you as well, as things that are in your “hour”, too! (This is one of the reasons I stopped charging an hourly rate for most clients.)
All Tasks Come with a Hidden Cost – Your Energy and Mental Capacity
Ironically, the most valuable – and therefore most costly – resource that we forget to take into account with non-revenue generating activity is how much emotional and/or mental energy a task may or may not take.
This is one of the main reasons I wanted to update this blog – to remind folks to account for the emotional and mental energy that tasks take when you’re considering pricing.
Mark Twain is said to have quipped, “if you have to eat two frogs, eat the big one first.”
This implies that there are going to be some unpleasant tasks that feel bigger than other unpleasant tasks – and that getting the most unpleasant thing done first can be a way to ensure productivity.
I’ve come to learn that all tasks come with some degree of frog-eating, no matter how much one enjoys frog legs.
A model we can look at to gain insight into this is the Zone of Genius model created by Gay Hendricks. According to Hendricks, every single action we take, activity we do, or task we tackle falls into one of four categories:
- Zone of Incompetence: Activities that other people probably do better than you (e.g. tune your piano, set up Facebook Ads).
- Zone of Competence: Activities that you do just fine, but others are as good as you at them (e.g. cleaning up the studio, sending emails).
- Zone of Excellence: Activities that you are excellent at — better than most, in fact — but don’t love doing.
- Zone of Genius: Activities that you are uniquely good at in the world, and that you love to do, so much so, that time and space likely disappear to you when you do them.
The goal is to get to a place where we are never doing anything in zones 1-3. This, if I may be so bold, is utter bullshit, and is an extremely privileged stance on it all.
As micro and nano business owners (those of us who make less than 500K or even 100K annually in our business), we have to “float” many tasks.
With this reality in mind, I take this idea one step further:
- Zone of Incompetence: Activities that other people probably do better than you AND You can’t imagine doing with any joy. This Zone STEALS your energy and leaves you feeling spent and exhausted.
- Zone of Competence: Activities that you do just fine, but others are as good as you at them AND you really, really do not enjoy it. This Zone leaves you tired and bored. You’ll avoid to the point of procrastination, but it gets done eventually.
- Zone of Excellence: Activities that you are excellent at — better than most, in fact — but don’t love doing – it’s tolerable, though. This Zone leaves you MEEEEEHHHHHH. It doesn’t steal energy, really, but it doesn’t light you up, either. THIS ZONE IS THE MOST DANGEROUS BECAUSE IT IS DIFFICULT TO PASS OFF THESE THINGS AND EASY TO GET SUCKED INTO THEM. (uh, playing on Canva, anyone?)
- Zone of Genius: Activities that you are uniquely good at in the world, and that you love to do, so much so, that time and space likely disappear to you when you do them – YOU LOVE IT. This Zone gives you life force. You feel like you could take on the world, even if it took hours.
It’s important that you take these zones into account when you are pricing. If you HATE choosing repertoire (you know you don’t have to do that, yeah?) and you choose to provide that as part of your service, that loss of energy and time can and should be considered – because when you lose energy, you lose time. And when you lose time, you lose opportunity to make a balanced living.
By the way, when you download the “What’s In Your Hour?” worksheet, this is why you see both a “minutes to complete” column AND an “energy audit” column! So that you can truly count the total cost!
Pricing Your Voice Lessons Appropriately Brings Freedom
Many of us voice teachers provide one service – one on one (private) voice lessons. This is what fits our lifestyle and brings us joy. We enjoy cultivating relationships.
What this means is that the only thing we can turn into sellable units is time.
This leaves us with the reality that in order to keep our income sustainable, our 1:1 lessons need to be priced at a premium.
It can be difficult to manage the cognitive dissonance between wanting to be accessible and needing to pay the bills. I think there is a deep desire to “charge what people can afford” – yet, that perception sometimes leaves us with not being able to afford things ourselves – and can lead to resentment toward clients.
When we take seriously the time and energy we spend outside AND inside of lessons it becomes clear that time isn’t the only thing that people are paying for – even though it is the tool that we use to “package” our energy.
When we price appropriately, however, we gain a special kind of freedom – the freedom to spend the energy and time we desire to on increasing value to our clients.
Freedom to charge a rate that gives us the ability to serve our clients the way we desire to.
Freedom for the client to commit to their process and training.
Freedom for other teachers to also charge an appropriate price.
Freedom to be generous because you aren’t pouring from an empty cup.
Promise me? When it’s time to revisit your revenue, make a list of all you do to make your clients thrive, so you can feel confident in your increases.
If that doesn’t work, check out the blog Jessica and I wrote, “Why It’s Imperative For Voice Teachers To Increase Rates Now”, a few weeks ago, here!
Download the FREE worksheet to determine What’s in YOUR Hour
I don’t want to undervalue my clients by undervaluing my offers. I’ll bet you don’t either.
What are some other ways YOU add value to your students, outside of face-to-face time?
I’d love to know, so write me back! What have I left out? How has reading this changed your perspective on your own pricing?