What are you worth?

Philip Morgan


“I changed the tracks underneath the train So you can’t find me again And you can’t trace my path And you can’t hear my laugh I changed the tracks underneath the train” – Lucinda Williams, “Changed the Locks” This question is a good 'un from my post opt-in survey:

How do I show a potential client immediately that I am much more than a website designer and social media manager? Additionally, how do I get them to want to pay me what I’m worth?

Thank you, anon, for this question. :) Let’s handle the second part. You’re not worth anything. Neither am I. :) But you can definitely create stunning amounts of value and get paid for a healthy portion of what you create. So can I. That’s how capitalism works, for better or worse. Value is not intrinsic or inherent, it’s contextual, and you and I don’t control all aspects of the context. We create value by understanding the context, creating value within that context, and accepting that we can’t control the entire context. What’s your worth as a human being? Infinite. What’s your worth to the market? Well, that depends on you placing your services within a context where they create lots of value, and that takes us to the first part of your question.

How do I show a potential client immediately that I am much more than a website designer and social media manager?

It’s worth asking why your prospects believe that you are “just” a website designer and social media manager. The common reasons why can include:

  1. That’s the obvious conclusion most people would draw after viewing your portfolio, case studies, or other description of your previous work.
  2. Your online footprint (website, LinkedIn profile, etc.) flat out states that you do website design and social media management work.
  3. Most of your new opportunity comes from a group of people (past clients, business network, friends, etc.) that have a limited or outdated view of what your focus is and so your potential clients are referred based on an outdated view of what you do.
  4. You paint a more complex or nuanced picture of what you can do for clients (ex: “I’m a website designer and social media manager with a multidimensional, customer-centric approach to helping your brand attract raving fans”), but it’s too complex for them to really understand so they reduce/abstract it down to a conceptual “handle” that’s easy for them to grasp and that handle is “website designer + social media manager”.

There might be other reasons why your prospects don’t understand your capabilities, but those are the common ones. Each one has a potential remedy:

  1. Delete your portfolio and start over.
  2. Change what you say about your work on your website, LinkedIn, etc.
  3. Inform your network about your new focus, capabilities, etc.
  4. Get rid of unhelpful buzzwords or jargon in your description of your capabilities and replace them with language that bluntly states how you help your clients (ex: "I help my clients get 30% more positive product reviews on popular review sites like X, Y, Z.")

If these remedies sound simple, it’s because they are. They might not be easy though, because they are based on some underlying work that is often not easy:

  1. Developing a clear focus, so that you know what being “much more than a website designer and social media manager” actually looks like. Maybe you have this clear focus, but if not then please know that it can’t just be a vague yearning for more. You have to clearly identify what this next step looks like. It makes life easier for you if that next step fits into a pre-existing genre that has an easy-to-understand label: brand manager, digital marketing director, etc. You can invent your own genre, but that’s much harder. If you have the appetite and needed risk profile for inventing a new genre, please go for it; it’s really rewarding work!
  2. Earning visibility for your new area of focus, so that prospects who need what you offer can find you. In some cases, this is as simple and easy as informing your network about your new focus, and in other cases you have to – like the mycellial network that precedes mushrooms popping up seemingly overnight – spend years steadily saturating your market with an awareness of your focus.
  3. Earning trust from prospects that you are able to accomplish what you claim you can accomplish for them. This is where you start to think about how you can demonstrate expertise, and the common tools center on case studies and content marketing. The less-common tool that I advocate is small-scale, scrappy research.

This is where I wish I was in a realtime conversation with my questioner rather than a one-sided response to the question because we could move out of the realm of the general framework and into the realm of specifics, but alas, this general framework will have to do for now. Thank you for the question, anon! Keep building; keep taking risks y’all, -P