What’s in Your “Hour”? Pricing without Horrific Pain and Guilt

by | Dec 17, 2017 | 8 comments

Category: Business
5 min read

You can now view the updated version of this post that I wrote for 2022 here!

We are often challenged to defend pricing. I want you to defend your pricing – to yourself, at least. So I ask, What’s in your hour? Let’s get to some pricing decisions without horrific pain and guilt.

It’s 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 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 what is “in their hour.”

They haven’t taken the time to actually get super depressed over how much work they do for how little money. And as we all know, the first step to awesome is depression. They fall into the trap of pricing based solely on industry norm (also called industry standard).

After reading this BRILLIANT post by Tyler J. McCall, I did a hoot and holler happy dance with clapping and shouting and champagne was inspired to write one up, modeled on his, for us voice teachers.

What does “What’s In Your Hour?” mean?

“What’s In Your Hour ?” is an exercise we go through so that we can really see how much effort, support, and energy we put into our clients and how our pricing should reflect that.

Ain’t gonna take ya through the actual exercise (that is reserved for clients, man!), but 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.

What’s in the “hour” of the Initial Fit Session I offer to all potential new voice clients:

  • 5 minutes: Reading email or listening to voicemail or reading text or FB messenger in which someone inquires.
  • 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 consult.
  • 20-40 minutes: Phone 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 everything from goals to current desires, to fears about continuing. They ask a lot of questions and I love to answer them.
  • 5 Minutes: Emailing the link to schedule Initial Fit Session.
  • 30 minutes: After session booked, sending an email with individualized intake questions based on the phone conversation. This includes what to expect, what to bring, and what to be prepared to do.
  • 5-15 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 the custom packages that will best serve that client for their continued training. This includes:
    • Researching programs they may be interested in
    • Researching current school and it’s 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 custom contract, and emailing to the client.
  • 5 minutes: After receiving signed and returned contract, sending over scheduling link.

I am investing at least six hours of real work on each potential client, to make sure they have the red carpet treatment from the first contact to the custom contract.
This is why the Initial Fit Session for voice clients is only $180.

There are a ton of things we voice teachers do that do not create revenue directly:

  • Repertoire research and development
  • Continuing Education from:
    • Conferences
    • Books
    • Masterminds Groups
    • Online courses
    • Workshops
    • Masterclasses
  • Answering questions via email
  • Answering questions via phone
  • Answering questions via text
  • Arranging songs
  • Coordinating recitals, rehearsals, studio classes
  • Cost associated with recitals, rehearsals, studio classes
  • Research and writing up recital/class programs
  • Providing materials and music
  • Providing accompanists
  • Coordinating with make-ups
  • Solving scheduling snafus
  • Paypal and CC fees
  • Printer Ink
  • Hardware: computers, printers, microphones, recording equipment, phones, internet, webcams, etc.
  • Software: Voce Vista, Zoom, Editing software, Apps, etc.
  • Connecting them with other resources
    • Diction coaches
    • Collaborative pianists
    • Other coaches who fill the gaps
    • Passing on auditions and casting calls
  • Setting up and executing recordings of college prescreens
  • Prepping for last minute auditions
  • 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.

All of the above, and more, is what is in my “hour” for each client. This is one of the reasons I stopped charging an hourly rate for most clients.

Taking into account our value not only frees us to charge a rate that gives us the freedom to serve our clients the way we want to, it empowers our clients to a higher level of commitment.

The next time you find yourself bristling at the cost of something, especially a service, ask yourself what you may not know about all the real work that goes into that providers “hour”.

And when it’s time to revisit your revenue (YOU ARE DOING THIS RIGHT NOW FOR 2018, RIGHT?) make a list of all you do to make your students thrive, so you can feel confident in your increases.

I don’t mess around with my clients. 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 leave a comment!

Michelle Markwart Deveaux blog signature
Michelle Markwart Deveaux

Michelle Markwart Deveaux (116)

As CEO of FaithCultureKiss Studios, LLC, I lead underestimated humans through the personal and professional development needed to create successful solo and team-based businesses.

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  1. Katharine Randolph

    I have multiple performances for my students which means hours and hours of finding places/audiences, emails, buying sound equipment, setting up for the gigs, taking time out of my normal schedule to go to and run the gigs, having rehearsals for group numbers…the list goes on.

    • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

      YES YES YES!!! SO true. We all give so much more. It is our responsibility to let our clients know this!

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. This is SO TRUE! I have a lot to read, and a lot to think about. I hoping to make some major changes before Fall enrollment. This is my review period. Thank you so much for inviting me! This is awesome.

  3. Alison Taylor

    Hooooooo nelly this gives me FEELS. Including a big, strong urgency in my GUT telling me “it. is. time. to. make. a. change.” Thanks for sharing your experience with value-based pricing, Michelle. I’ve been chastely devouring EVERYTHING you’ve written on the subject since I joined SECO a few weeks ago.


    This is all so true, yet there is the concern that I might price myself out of the market. I have no idea what other voice teachers in my area charge. Is this irrelevant? I know how much time I spend that is real. I need to think this all through. I think it is easy to not see personal value, how we make a difference, what students take away. We rarely really know in many cases.

    • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

      The market matters only that it gives you an understanding of where you sit in it. What work you’ll need to do to establish yourself in terms of marketing and clarity on what you offer. Pricing is as much about being able to communicate our promises to our potential students as it is about budgeting and sales goals.

      • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

        There are many ways to learn the results and value we bring. Have you ever done a feedback form or a survey on why your folks adore you so? And what they’d like to get more of, less of? Have you asked your clients to tell you what your best qualities are and why they come to you? That kind of survey is gold for branding and marketing!

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