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EPISODE 78: How to Build Your Packages

by Mar 22, 2022Brand Your Voice, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • What it means to price your packages intentionally, not reactively 
  • Comparing the pros and cons of package-based pricing vs. hourly pricing 
  • How to design your packages based on your financial needs, energy levels, and personal zones of genius

Our last two episodes focused on how to get paid and how to price your services according to your unique expertise. And as a content creator and copywriter, there are so many different methods for packaging your services in a way that will accomplish both of these goals. 

It’s important that you price your services fairly, but it’s equally important to communicate to your clients exactly what they’re paying for. Doing so will result in clear expectations and less stress for both parties in the long run. 

 

So, how do you go about designing packages that are aligned with your business goals and will support you in establishing healthy boundaries with your clients? In this episode, Jessi and Marie discuss: 

  • All the different package types they’ve used in the past {you name it, they’ve tried it!} 
  • Why it’s important to choose a package type that works for your financial goals, energy levels, and personal interests. 
  • The pros and cons of charging for your work by the hour or by package.
  • Why, when it comes to building packages, less really is more. 

When done intentionally, charging based on packages you’ve created can result in higher efficiency, professionalism, and financial predictability. It’s a win-win for you and your client!

 

Homework: 

  • Design your ideal package, based on your financial goals, energy levels, and the work you most enjoy doing. 
  • Or, if you already have packages, complete an audit of them. What’s working? What could be improved? 
  • If you’re not already tracking your time … start NOW! 

 

Past episodes mentioned in Episode 78: 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right, welcome to another episode. And we are coming off of a couple episodes talking about money and how you get paid and how you price yourself and diving right into how you can build your packages, because people like to know what they're paying for. And there are a lot of different ways that you as a content creator and a copywriter can create packages so that you can get paid and so that you can price yourself in a way that makes sense. So we're kind of tying it all together, talking about building packages today.

Marie:
Yes. And I definitely suggest if you're struggling with pricing yourself at all, or, you know, trying to figure out how much you should be making things like that, check out the previous two episodes, um, episode 76 and 77, and those will give you some direction. And the other thing I wanna preface this episode saying is we're not saying that package pricing is the way to run your writing business at all. We've done it all. We've done hourly pricing, we've done package based pricing, we've done like pay-in-full up front, we've done pay-in-full at the end. We've done monthly payments. We've done milestone pricing. Like you name it, we've done it. And all of them made on for us.

Jessi:
Yeah.

Marie:
So yeah, we're not saying you must make packages.

Jessi:
Right. And we're gonna talk about a few different models that we've done over the years. But this preface exists because package pricing is sort of where we've landed on as the most effective for us and our current business setup. But any type of package set up, any type of pricing model, may make sense for you and your business. It's just a matter of making sure that it's structured in a way to hit your goals. There are a lot of different ways in which a content creator can serve their audience. This is another area where I sort of feel like we've done it all over the years. We have that done for you standalone project. So this is someone needs a website written. We write the website, it's a one off project where we are actually in there doing the copywriting and the creation. We have retainer contracts where we create a lot of content for people over a long period of time. We've done mastermind communities where we're not actually doing the writing, but we're helping with essentially consulting in a group setting. We've done membership communities, which is similar, but a lot lower touch. We've done courses, we've done audits, we've done consultations, we've done templates. We've done intensives. We've... basically anything that you can do. We've tried at some point over the last 10 plus years.
And I wanna kind of lay that groundwork around the types of packages we've done in the types of pricing we've done because, like Marie said, it's all made us money. It's not as if one was necessarily better than another or worse than another. At the end of the day, it came down to what made the most sense based on our business needs, our business structure, and our personal needs and our personal interests. You know, there are some things that we did that we just liked better than others, and that's totally valid reason to structure a package in a certain way because you just enjoy it more.

Marie:
Yeah. I will say that if you're gonna consider package based pricing, it's really important that you collect data and actually use the data. So there's some, there's some pros and cons here, right? Like if you are pricing yourself hourly, one of the cool things about that is you have a built in profit margin, right? So like maybe you price yourself at like $40 an hour to your clients. And you know, that all you need to be financially lucrative or whatever is $20 an hour, every single hour you work, you're gonna get paid twice what you need. Right. And so that's a nice thing about our really based pricing. You don't have that safety net within package based pricing. If you say, Hey, I'm gonna do this project for you and you know, you're thinking on the back end, this will probably take me 10 hours. And then it takes you 40 hours. Like, oh boy, you know, too bad for you. Like you'll estimate better next time, but this is why you have to have that data. Right.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I wanna back up just a second and mention that we're specifically talking today about sort of project based packages versus hourly pricing, because those are the two most common ways that writers price themselves. And what we're sort of assuming here is that at least one of the ways in which you serve your clients is with done-for-you work. So sitting down and actually creating the content. Obviously this will look a little different if you are, for example, hosting a mastermind community or creating a course or something like that. And we may do future episodes that dig into that in more detail.
But we wanted to talk specifically about this sort of decision around package based versus hourly pricing, because it's one that I think a lot of writers spend a lot of time and energy on and kind of often go back and forth between the two they might do hourly for a while, and then be like, I'm burnt out. I wanna do package. And then they'll do package for a while and they'll be like my profit margins. Aren't where I need them to be and I'll go back to hourly. And it just, it goes back and forth and back and forth.
And I think it's important to have this conversation and let you know that there is not a wrong way. Both of those ways are valid. And that one of the hardest things I think about creating stability in your business is figuring out how to proceed in this in a way that feels intentional and not reactive. And feels like it's something that you are creating based on some of the things we talked about in the previous episode, what your financial needs are, what your energetic needs are, things like that. And I think it's really important to have this conversation so you're not constantly yo-yoing between the two and feeling like you're running catch up to your financial needs.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. So with that, maybe somewhat false dichotomy in mind of like hourly versus package based pricing, yeah. I wanna run through the pros and cons in a little bit more detail. So, like I said, one of the great things about our pricing is you guarantee a built in profit margin. One of the difficult things about it is that it can be really difficult to create accurate estimates. Because you know, you're like, well, I think it's gonna take me 10 hours. Like as you're estimating for client on the front end, they wanna know how much is this gonna, how much is this gonna cost for me? And so you're like, well, I think it's gonna take 10 hours. Right. And if I'm charging $40 an hour, that means that, you know, you're gonna be paying up to $4,000, but it could take more, you know, like, you know, this happens sometimes and it can be a little bit difficult to get a client to agree to it, right. Because they just don't know how much it's gonna cost them. And so one of the ways that you can get around that, one of the things that we used to do is we would say, well, we'll charge you up to $4,000 if we spend more time than our 10 hour estimates and that's on us. So then you like run into the same issue you did with package based pricing, right? So it's still that frustration's still there.
Another thing that's difficult about hourly based pricing is that sometimes the client is gonna be like, they're gonna get sticker shock when they see the bill from you. Unless you've been talking about your, you know, hour spend the whole time. And so they may start haggling with you over specific line items on the front end or on the back end. There's also a huge potential for scope creep, which I think is probably a potential everywhere, but this is the kind of thing where people will say, you know, well could you just do this other thing? It's just gonna take you another hour and you know, you get 12 more of those and it just keeps going. And this is like the project that will not die. It's like a zombie project. Right. And also sometimes if you're trying to stick within a certain amount of time, and you're a very compassionate person, and maybe like me, you're kind of a people pleaser, I'm working on this. I think I've gotten a lot better. You may stop the timer and you may start working for free sometimes out of the goodness of your, and not saying you can't do that, I'm just saying, be careful with that. Right. Cuz that can be really difficult.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think to one of the issues... So We talk a lot about the marketplaces for writers, things like Fiver and Upwork, where you can go and bid essentially someone bids on your work. And one of the things that has come out of places like that, that is rooted in hourly pricing is the idea of like screen trackers and you people who are monitoring your time and this actually harkens back to a previous episode, we did about not allowing your client to feel like your boss. It's not on them to check up on you and how you're using your time. And as a writer, you know that the time that you are sitting with your butt in a chair actually typing on a keyboard is not the only time that you're thinking about this project. It's not the only time you're ideating. It's not the only time you're brainstorming or revising in your head. You know, that time is also valuable, but that's often time that we're not charging for. We don't go and press the clock time button while we're in the shower thinking about, oh, that would make a great headline. Like that just doesn't happen. And so that's time that you're spending on the project that you're not charging people for.

Marie:
Right. And so this sort of trading your hours for dollars mentality can a sort of cheat yourself out of some hard earned money. But also I think it can lead to a culture within your maybe company of even just one of overwork. Like I know somebody who had their own business for a while who did this, right. They charged hourly and they, it was quite lucrative for them. And they got to a point where they didn't wanna go to dinner with friends. They didn't want to, you know, stop work in the evening and like go, you know, whatever. Like they didn't want downtime because it felt like every moment they weren't at their computer working was a moment that they weren't making money. So if that is something that if you feel like you you've ever sort of classified yourself as like a workaholic, the hourly based pricing can exacerbate that.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. One of the benefits about hourly pricing that I think is worth mentioning besides the built in profit margins is it does make pitching to someone easier in some regards. There's a, a tendency among packaged based pricing that we advise against. Usually there are some exceptions, but usually which is to create a custom proposal for every single project. Be like, okay, these are the things you need, and this is what it's going to cost, but everyone needs slightly different things. So every day or every time you have a new lead, you're sitting down and creating a new custom project that tends to happen more with project based pricing than it does with hourly pricing. Because if it's hourly pricing, you can just say, doesn't really matter what you need. This is my hourly rate and we'll figure the scope out, but that's not gonna change the pitch.
So that is another benefit to pricing yourself hourly, however the other downside to that, not only is it hard for your client to figure out what to budget for you, it's also hard for you to predict how much revenue you are going to bring in. So in the previous episode, we talked about setting revenue goals and then tracking, okay, well, if this is my goal, how many clients do I need? How many projects do I need? It's hard to fill that data in if you don't don't know how long each project is going to take and how much money it's going to yield you because you're not invoicing until after the fact.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. I also know somebody who charges their clients hourly, but they have different hourly rates depending on the type of work. So like if they are just sitting in a meeting, not really participating, they're just there to like, listen, that's a lower, hourly rate than if they're leading the meeting or if they are editing something, that's a lower, hourly rate than if they're writing from scratch. Right. And that can become very complex. And, you know, my thought, my wonder about the way he was doing that is okay, but like, are you paying yourself and your team, different amounts of money based on what they're doing? There probably is a way to do that that is profitable, and I think that their business has been wildly successful. So that's great. But if, you know, if you're not charging, if you're not paying yourself sufficiently because you're like, well, I'm just sitting in this meeting, that is where you can get into trouble with it.
So let's talk about package based pricing. What, so the pros and cons are, so one of the things that's really nice about it is if you have set packages, this means less time building those custom proposals. Even if they need something a little different, like, let's say you have a website pro website package, copy, sorry, website copy package. And it includes like four pages of copy, but you talk to somebody and they need five pages. Okay. Well at least you have something to go off of. Right? You have your package that has four copy, four pages of copy. And so you're just gonna add one more page to it, right? So you could even create packages that are standardized and then, oh, if you just need this extra thing or one fewer thing, you can go ahead and like pre price, all of that out.
And we actually have a document where as sales people, we can have it up in our computer as we're having our conversation and just refer to it. Right. And so that way we just say like, well, this is our package. It includes this, this is the investment. Do you have any questions? Right. And it's really nice to be able to do that because the other benefit of that is you look so polished. Right. Cause you're just like, well, this is just the price for this thing. And you know, like you're not like, oh, okay, well let me think. Let me add all these things up and I'll send you a detailed proposal tomorrow. Like there is a place for that, but if it's something, if you're doing something that is kind of standardizable for your clients, like maybe you just write a lot of blog posts. Right. And so you're able to come like different blog post packages, things like that. Like if it's something repeatable, yeah. Then you're not spending a lot of time on custom proposals.

Jessi:
I've also noticed over the, in the hundreds and hundreds of sales calls that we've done, often people, they they're coming to you because they have a problem. They need solved and they don't want you, you to ask them to solve their own problem. By which I mean, they don't want to have to figure out what they need on their own. So if someone comes and is like, I need support with my blog and how can you help me with my blog? It's a lot easier on them if you can say, well, I have a blog package and it includes five blog posts a month, and this is the rate, versus well, I don't know what kind of support do you need and why don't you tell me how many blog posts you need and why don't you tell me how long you want them to be? Why don't you tell me all of this? Yes. You need to have those strategy conversations and whatnot. But when you're just talking about like, how can you help me? People want an answer to that. And they, they want you to show up as the expert and essentially be like, I got you. I can help you. And here's the baseline. Here's where we can start. And at least get the conversation started so that then you can go into more details and more nuance. And the questions are often then more around like, okay, well, what if I don't like the blog post? I'm like, well, we include X number of revisions and things like that. So you can think of it more from that perspective of you are giving them the answer to their problems on a silver platter, that then they get to kind of pick and choose what on that platter. They want what they can trade out, versus they have to come back into the kitchen with you and help assemble the meal.

Marie:
Right, exactly. Another thing that's really great about package based pricing is that it can give you more predictable revenue forecasts. So let's say your specialization is website copy and you charge four thousand dollars per website copy package. And you also know that to meet your revenue goals, you need to bring in $8,000 a year. Okay. Well that just says, you just need two website copy packages per month. And maybe that's easy. Maybe that's not, but like, it helps you just know every time you have a call with somebody, you know, well, this is a potential for that second slot this month that's still open. Right. So it can be really supportive for your budgeting and sales goals, like, just knowing kind of like where you stand with things. Right?
The flip side of that is, as we kind of mentioned, package based pricing, your profit margins can be a little bit more unpredictable. Maybe the first website copy package you do that month is like a dream client. And they like have no edits. And they think you're like, God's gift to pencils and papers and computers, and you're the best writer ever. And it takes you like record minimum time to get through it. And then the next one is like, but I really meant this, but I really meant that. And you go through like a bunch of edits and they're not a bad person. Maybe you would even enjoy working with them, but like you go through a bunch of rounds of revision and it ends up taking you three times as long as the first one. That means that your profit margin is likely gonna be much less the amount of time that you have to do sales is gonna be reduced. So, you know, just bear that in mind as you go through that process, that like, again, collecting data in terms of the amount of hours you spend doing, literally anything in your business is gonna be super supportive for you, if you actually go and use that data.

Jessi:
Yeah. And there are ways to minimize this issue by the way. So you're always gonna have some clients who are more high touch than others, just based on, you know, individual personalities. However, this is where boundaries come into play. And this is where being really clear on what your packages include, come to into play. So it's really important to make sure that the packages you create are built around your personal financial needs, energetic needs and abilities, like zone of genius abilities, not just, oh, I scheduled an email mail once. So therefore I can schedule email for you. Like where are you actually an expert and where do you actually enjoy putting your time? Because it's very easy for scope creep to take over and package based pricing. And that's when the profit margin starts to go way, way down.

Marie:
Yeah. So as an example for this, we, for a while, had a retainer package that was lucrative for us, it was actually one of our largest packages, largest sources of business revenue. And it was great, right. Except for the fact that in order to get to that pricing level, it actually included a whole bunch of tech support that we actually weren't really equipped to do. Like did it, the business functioned. I mean, by that, I mean the client's business function, everything worked right. And it did make us money, but also it was very exhausting for us because we were constantly having to learn all these new things when something would go wrong, it would be like, oh gosh, how do I handle this? Whereas like, if there's a piece of copy, if there's a revision that's needed, I'm like, okay. Yeah, I'll revise it. But if somebody's like backend tech system is falling apart, I'm like hyperventilating over here. Right. And like our zone of genius was content strategy and writing and it pulled us away from that. So we actually, would've been better served our, and probably better serve the client if we just stuck with our zone of genius. And eventually we actually did get that client to a place where that was happening. And wouldn't, you know, we're actually making just as much money now just doing the content strategy and the writing, because we've proven ourselves to be valuable for this client, doing the things that are within our zone of genius.

Jessi:
Yeah. So this sort of leads to the, what I think is the most important part about creating project based packages, and that's the idea that sometimes less is more. There's a tendency, I think us to want to provide more, whether this is a program that we're creating like a course or something it's like shove it in with bonuses and give people more templates and more free sessions and more this and more that. Or if it's a done for you project where it's like, oh, well I said I was gonna do four pages of website copy, but here I'm gonna do eight because I love you so much. And that doesn't matter that I'm not getting paid for those extra four pages. Some of this is people pleasing and some of this is just wanting to create a package that looks good and that, you know, your client looks at it as like, yeah, that's something I want. And I think there's a disconnect here because the more you shove into your packages, the more convoluted they can become. And they may not actually be providing what your client wants or what your client wants is there, but it's buried under all of these other things. Your offer is crammed with so many things that now you have to deliver on because you've promised that the thing that you're actually best at is getting lost in all the noise. When you could slim down your offer, charge the same amount and just focus on that one thing that you are really, really good at and the inclusions around it.
So for example, with copy creation are inclusions are things like how many rounds of revisions do you get, or what type of communication is available to you? What is our onboarding process? Those are all inclusions, but they're all centered around this focus point of we are delivering this piece of copy because that is our zone of genius. It's not anymore around and we're going to plug all of your emails into active campaign or, you know, work on the back end of the tech for your webinar, because that stuff was actually distracting us from doing what we were best at.

Marie:
Or, you know, give you these 12 templates that, you know, because we can, it just sounds really cool as a bonus, right? Like, look at your cell phone. Like how many buttons on your cell phone? If you're me, there's three buttons on your cell phone, right? How many were there back in the day? It was like on those black berries. I mean, there was one for every letter of the alphabet plus like every punctuation, right. And like, I think we would all agree that like simple interfaces, it can go a little too far. It can get a little too scaled down, but like within reason, simple interfaces are better. And it's the same with your packages. Right? So focus on those things you do well. And side note, this is actually a really great opportunity for you to create some really wonderful referral partnerships with other people who do the things you don't wanna do. And then you can refer back and forth to each other and have a big win-win situation.

Jessi:
Absolutely. Okay. So how do you do it? How do you take all of this stuff that we've been throwing at you and actually use it to create packages? You start somewhere and I think starting small. It's not gonna be perfect the first time it is going to change, however, that's okay. That's part of the evolution and iteration of a business. I would advise creating a package if you're interested in package pricing, one package based around what you really enjoy doing, considering your financial goals and your time and energy and whatnot. But what would your ideal package look like? Think about that. What would you be delivering? What would you be writing? And create sort of a model package based off of that as a starting point, knowing that it's not set in stone and it can iterate and it can change, but that at least gives you a place to start. You don't have to completely tear your business to the ground and build a whole bunch of new pricing and services and all of that just start somewhere.

Marie:
Absolutely. The next thing that we want you to do is track data, track time in your business. So how much time are you spending on everything in your business, including the client work. And you can like break it down to this package because like Jessi said, it's not gonna be perfect when you first estimate what you want your packages to be, when you first create them. And so when you track your data, then you'll have a real sense of how much time and energy it actually takes you to do that thing. And it doesn't mean you need to like ball up the package and throw it out the window. It just may mean you need to adjust the price, or maybe you remove this one inclusion, or things like that. So track your time.

Jessi:
Yep, absolutely. And make sure you are detailed about what the package includes. I know we mentioned like don't stuff it with a bunch of stuff like random things, but you do wanna make sure that you are listing out what is included that ties into the central offer. So when we offer someone a retainer for content, they need content on an ongoing basis, that includes a brand voice intensive. That's part of our onboarding process. It includes two rounds of revision for every piece of copy we deliver. It includes a monthly strategy call to make sure that the copy we're creating is on target. It includes the copy itself at the level that they purchase, so a certain amount of copy per month. All of those things are inclusions that tie directly to the core central offer. And we wanna make sure that those are listed out so that when we're having sales conversations and someone says I have ongoing copy needs. What does that look like? How does supporting me in that way? Look, I can easily say, oh, well, these are the things that it includes. And it's all very tied into that one need that they had of ongoing content support.

Marie:
And then the last step is determine your price. So I highly recommend that you check out episode 77, the previous episode about how to price yourself, because we go into more detail here, but at a minimum, just make sure that you are getting what you need from these packages, both financially and in a way that protects your energy and your creativity, right? Because maybe, you know, you can do a hundred of these things at a hundred dollars each, but maybe you don't actually have the energy to serve a hundred clients within whatever timeframe. Right. The other consideration you can take is what is the value and the return on investment that your package is actually going to bring to your clients? That is actually a major consideration in terms of pricing yourself. But that is a full other episode. So back up one and go listen there as you go through that process.

Jessi:
Yeah. So your homework today is to go through that. How did, how do you do it? That we just went over? So think about building an offer. Just one, don't worry, building out like 10 offers for your business. Just focus on one for now, build it out, build out the inclusions and price it, give it a price. If you already have offers in your business, if you already have packages that you think work well for, you now is a really good time to do an audit on them. So if you already have packages, your homework in that case is to take a look at your packages and just make notes of what works and what doesn't make note of where you might wanna take some stuff out, reword some things, maybe adjust the pricing, just do an analysis of where your packages currently are, so that you can make some data driven decisions about how to change them moving forward.

Marie:
Exactly. So hope this has been helpful for you.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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