if it works for William Shatner… or – why I chose “name your own price”

If it works for William Shatner, surely, it will for me.


About halfway through the development phase of my last digital guide, The Art of Earning, I was in an all-out mind battle about what to charge (or to charge at all) for it. This wasn’t a “pick a high number and stick a 7 on the end” kind of deal.

This was a deeply personal book but one I knew could help a lot of people.

And I wanted it to help a lot of people.

In the shower – where else? – it hit me. Name your own price.

Here’s why:

Free is great but investing in yourself is better.

I love free content. And I produce a hell of a lot of it. But at some point, free content becomes something you consume mindlessly. You might find an idea or two “nice” but act on the main principles? Honestly answer the questions contained therein? Nope. No way.

It’s too easy to think the answer is in the next piece of free content.

Investing in a product – even as little as $5 – helps you pay attention to the ideas at hand and take concrete action based on those ideas. Investing in a product is very much about investing in you & your business.

Ben Bernanke isn’t the only guy concerned about inflation.

You don’t have to be chief of the Fed to be concerned about price inflation. While there are many stellar digital programs that deserve to be priced in the top-tier of information, there are many which do not. There are some 50 page pdfs that deserve to be priced at $50, $100, or ever $200. That’s the kind of value they provide. That’s the exception, not the rule.

The Art of Earning is not those books. Yes, I believe that if you apply the principles to an active reevaluation of your relationship with money, you’ll have the capacity to make tens of thousands of more dollars per year quickly. But you’re going to have to do a heckuva lot more work to build your business than I did to write that book.

I could have made the price much higher. Maybe I still will. But I’m happy with the price as it is.

Everyone needs an exercise in gratitude.

Especially me. Had my money workout not been so total & complete, it would be easy for me to look at the smaller payments that come in as proof that people just want things cheap, that a steal is even better than a deal.

But honestly? That’s not my reaction. It’s been one of gratitude. Seeing $5, $7, or $8.44 payments roll in has left me feeling warm – not cold. I haven’t been focused on the difference between the “real price” and the price paid, I’ve accepted the enormous gift of trust & hard-earned coin those customers have been willing to part with.

I’m sure the next question is: will “name your own price” work for me?

Answer: It might.

For name-your-own-price to work for you, you need:

  • A product you can afford to have lower profit margins on. A digital book is a great way to experiment with this model because it’s almost all profit. How could you incorporate a high profit margin product into your business?
  • A reputation of high value. Generally, I would not recommend this pricing structure for those just beginning in business. I have a collection of ebooks and a reputation as a coach & blogger that allows me to trust my customers with pricing a valuable product. Are you building a product/services line that represents high value?
  • A way to capture the leads. I won’t kid you, The Art of Earning has been a great lead generator. Traffic to the blog, sales of other products, speaking gigs, and coaching clients are all up up up since the release of this book. I had a wide & strong platform to support the buzz that I generated through this book and knew how I was going to channel that buzz. If 500 new sales came through your business in a month, how would you continue the customer relationship?

I’m planning interviews with some other entrepreneurs – both product makers & service providers – who have tried this model of pricing. What questions should I ask them? What questions do you still have for me about the name-your-own-price model?

By the way, if you haven’t yet, you can pick up The Art of Earning – and name your own price – right here.