Our language of money (+ step-by-step guide to value pricing)

Why do you do what you do?

Are you motivated by providing for the people you love? Do you just do it for the love of it? Is the collaboration your driving force? Maybe it’s a combination of all these things.

When I “officially” started my business about 6 years ago, my eldest daughter had just been born so I had a lofty, love-driven aim:

I wanted to be a role model.

And that is still true. I do want to show my daughter, all my children, that you can do what you love. But now, I want to show her that you can do what you love and earn money from it. 

I also want to model that wanting to is not greedy, unseemly, money-grabbing, selfish....I could insert any number of (negative) adjectives here.

We seem to think that a driving force of money or financial gain stands at odds with the more “noble” reasons.. 

You might say that you do what you do for the love of it. That you aren’t motivated by money.

Thing is, the hardworking folk at your bank who kindly lent you all that money for your mortgage, they do kinda care about money. And try telling the guys at the tax office that you’d like to pay your VAT with hugs.

Why do love and money have to stand opposed? 

The language we use to discuss money gives us a bit of an insight into our feelings on it, and it’s (usually) the result of our life experience. Think about it: do you ever catch yourself using the same phrases that your family and friends do to describe someone who you perceive to be wealthy?

Sometimes it can have a different effect - individuals who grew up in relative poverty (by this I mean first world poverty, to be clear) may want to distance themselves from their childhood by increasing their financial means dramatically.

Still others find it hard to do so because they’ve been raised to be “happy with their lot”, so to desire more would make them feel greedy.

On the flip side, I’ve met many entrepreneurs who enjoyed a more...well-funded youth, but who are working every hour under the sun to make their own way, earn money that is theirs and not a handout from their relatives.

What do all of these examples have in common?

In all of the above, our relationship with, connection to and language we use when we talk about money is shaped by our life experiences. It’s only natural! 

So, I’m not going to tell you to get thyself to a psychologist and try to banish these thoughts. I’m just going to ask you to bear them in mind, and see how they affect your business.

How does my language of money affect my business? That's a great question. As usual, I’ll give you an example:

Hi John,

How are you? I hope you had a lovely weekend - wasn't it great to see some sunshine?

Sorry for the delay in getting this proposal over to you. I wanted to make sure I covered everything. Anyway, I've attached it to this email. I hope it's okay for you. Have a read through it and let me know what you think - I'm open to negotiation! I would love to work with you on this project (and others in the future!)

If anything's at all unclear, just let me know.


Kind Regards


The above is an email I sent about 3 years ago to a client. Could I be any more subservient? I mean, I'm a big fan of being polite and chatty, but this email takes it to another level!

It’s full of phrases that invite objection. I mean, I actually tell the guy “I’m open to negotiation”. With that sentence, I have effectively said: “I think my quote is too high, please confirm this to me by beating me down on price.”

Which he did.

Does my email look familiar to you? The language and specifics might change, but does the general theme ring any bells? Maybe you pepper your emails with “just”....

"I’m “just” attaching this proposal."

"I “just” wanted to see if you’d received my invoice?"

"I “just” wanted to follow up to see if your product was delivered."

Maybe instead of being generous with your justs, you ask your customers permission for everything.

"I’ll be raising my prices to $XXX - is that okay?"

"May I send you the invoice?"

For me, the Just Police came a-callin’ one rainy Tuesday when I had a sick child to deal with. A request for a proposal came through and, given that I was balancing him on my lap and dealing with tears and snot (mine), I didn’t have time to send my usual Shakespearean plea to accept my quote.

In fact, I think the body of my email consisted of two lines:

Hi X,

That would be £XXX and I could start the work in 2 days. Let me know if you want to proceed.


And they accepted! Not only did I just state my price without all the usual flowery faffing, but I also set the start date myself....for the future!

This was huge to me (not least because their next email asked for my bank details to pay me in advance) as I felt that the balance had shifted and the relationship would start on a even, equal footing.

Is that it? Do we simply need to set a price list and fire off a curt email every time someone wants to work with us?

No, probably not. But for many of us, a little less faff and a little more firmness will go a long way. 

But what about the price itself? How do you work out the rate you charge? Is it always the same? If you're a service provider, this is a really useful starting point....


Is this how you price? Even if you're not a service-based business, pricing your products with more in mind than breaking even is a big step. 

My clients who have product-based businesses often say that the two elements they forget to account for are their own time and turning a profit.

Here's my challenge to you: add a teensy tiny profit margin to your next quote. Even if it's only a couple of percent. And when it's accepted and you receive payment for that job, save that amount of money, however small it may be, in a separate account.

I got that tip from the book, Profit First, by Mike Michalowizc (which I recommend to everyone.) It's an amazing book, and extremely useful for entrepreneurs.

But we're not done yet.

Building in a profit margin to your quotes is really just the first step I want you to take. 

Uh-oh, it's value pricing time!

Value pricing is a pretty controversial topic. Why? Because it means that you don't have a set price for whatever "thing" you sell ("thing" can mean a service, your time, a product, whatever.)

It means you charge different prices to different people...sometimes for the same thing.

It means you charge based on the value to your customer...not to you.

I presented about this topic at a conference in Portugal this year, and I gave this example. Let's say Disneyland got in contact with you about coming up with a tagline, or (re)designing their logo, or creating a product. Coincidentally, a local theme park in your village also got in touch, asking for the exact same thing. The work required would be identical. On your side, it would take precisely the same amount of time.

Would you charge the same?

Before you answer, I'd like you to skip forward a year and imagine the unthinkable. They don't like what you produce and decide to have it re-done by someone else.

Consider the impact for Disney - think about the implications for their printing budget, their merchandise, their advertising, the damage to their reputation...the cost could run into the millions.

And for your local client? Yes, it would be a massive inconvenience, but probably nowhere near as catastrophic. 

I am definitely a glass half full type of gal, but sometimes it is helpful to look at things from a pessimistic perspective. When it comes to ascertaining the value to a client, considering the impact on their business from both the positive and negative consequences of contracting you is crucial.

Here's a handy list of examples of value for clients:

Sometimes, it's useful to think about how working with you can benefit them, i.e. what they can get, win or sell as a result of what you do for them. 

For example, let's say you're a public speaking coach. You coach someone ahead of a big sales presentation. They win the contract. Would they have won it without you? Possibly, possibly not. But is it a risk they're willing to take?

That's your perceived value.

With that in mind, here's a new way for you to look at pricing your services:

How you price your services and your inner (and outer) money monologue don't have to hold you back in business. Just like your own language of money is personal to you, a client's perception of value is personal to them.

Remember: Your client is evaluating whether the value to them is worth paying your price; they are not evaluating you as a person.

Speaking of pricing, this month's Magic Words Club template is all about the money. Specifically - a template for your quotes. As usual, you'll get the editable template for you to customise for your own clients, as well as a PDF showing an example layout.

One last thing: It's the final countdown for having access to all of the templates forever.

Once we hit September, new Magic Words Club members will only have access to that month's template (the back catalogue will only be available by purchasing templates individually.) So get registering!

Sign up for membership here - it's a teeny tiny £15 per month (cancel any time.)