This month, I’m offering an online workshop called Build a Better Bio. I realized that May is a time that many new graduates are thinking about what comes next, and putting the best version of themselves on their portfolios and resumes and social media profiles and websites. There’s a lot of autobiography happening this time of year for people who may not have a lot of cash to invest in professional development and would happily take advantage of alternate pricing structures.
I considered offering a sliding scale that would accommodate new grads and others who have limited financial resources. The sliding scale is one of those things that’s become almost an imperative for any business owner who wants to be hailed as having a concern for social justice politics and avoid being chastised for a “problematic” business model.
Well, if it’s problematic to run a thriving business that allows my life to flourish while delivering my best work to clients, I don’t want to be woke.
Here’s why I’m building a business beyond the sliding scale when I offer copywriting workshops:
My Clients Have the Power to Create What They Need
If I offer a sliding scale for my services, it reinforces the idea that you lack creative agency. When I was a debt collector, we had a list of suggestions for people who said they couldn’t afford to pay their bill: ask a friend of family member for money, sell some stuff, get a part-time job, sell plasma (yes, that was actually on the list), get a loan, etc. At the time, I was horrified that someone actually sat down and brainstormed a bunch of ways to get money, but now I realize that the process is pretty empowering. It gives you options, and puts you in a position to decide.
You have the capacity to create the resources you need to take my workshop at the price at which I offer it ($90 as of this writing). You can ask for the cash as a graduation gift, for example. You can get creative and pitch me an barter idea. You can organize a group of friends who also need this work, and pitch me an affiliate arrangement. (I’m way into this idea, by the way. Let’s make it happen.)
Practice flexing your hustle muscle–I know you can do it!
My Clients Don’t Get to Decide How Much I’m Worth
A sliding scale is basically a signal that I’m not confident about my value.
That was hard to write.
Business owners who want to model social justice in business pretend that a sliding scale is about the buyer–that it shows that we honor and acknowledge a range of material circumstances. That we’re taking a stand against life under late capitalism by showing that we care about more than just profit margins (unlike those fat cats on Wall Street, riiiiight?).
More often than not it’s a move that betrays being uncomfortable with selling and claiming worth. The prevailing narrative in social justice work is a heavy focus on centering the needs of marginalized people in our conversations about wealth distribution, and some of us have internalized the message that it’s “bad” to stake a claim to our own value if it puts us in a more dominant power position. So, we undervalue our work to avoid looking like we are the oppressor.
Heavy stuff, I know. Let me put it another way:
Have you ever purchased something from a store, restaurant, or professional service provider that offers a price range for the exact same product? Absolutely not. That would be ridiculous.
I know lots of non-profits that offer a sliding scale pricing for services, and do that because they have grant-based funding models and mission statements based on serving low-income populations.
There are lots of ways besides a sliding scale to work with people at different financial points like offering free resources or building service packages at different price points. One of my favorite feminist businesses, Sabbatical Beauty, offers a loyalty program where customers have the option to re-gift their reward gift cards and discount codes to other members of their community.
Just like I expect my clients to think creatively, I expect to claim my value while also rising to the challenge of building a sustainable business that’s also financially accessible.
All My Clients Deserve the Best of My Work
There’s a reason why casinos comp high rollers, why there are different loyalty levels at hotels, and why people with large investment portfolios have personal bankers. People who spend more, get more. Is it fair? No, but this is life under late capitalism.
Now, I could avoid this scenario by offering a sliding scale where the lowest amount is still enough to make a profit, but that’s awfully shady and manipulative, don’t you think?
If we assume that my clients can create the resources they need to work with me at the level that best represents our commitment to each other, then by the time we start working together, we already have an understanding that we are equal partners in our working relationship. I am not doing anyone a favor, and they are not subordinate to my “generosity.” We are all very clear about our own value, and the work we do together will be that much more powerful.
Your seat in my Build a Better Bio workshop costs $90. Let’s go make some magic.
I’ll teach you the practical writing skills and storytelling techniques that make writing about yourself easy (and, dare I say, kinda fun!) without feeling like you’re bragging or fishing for compliments.
The workshop will be limited to 10 people so that each participant will get direct feedback from me about their writing. At the end of the workshop, you’ll have a piece of writing that you’ll feel good about sharing that represents you in an authentic way that will make other people want to get to know you.