The Pricing Mistake You Won’t Recover From [Free Worksheet]

When I started my business in 2009, my first instinct was to offer a discount on my services to get my foot in the door. When someone was looking for a VA on Twitter, I forwarded them my pitch along with a discount coupon. I gained a lot of clients that way but not one of them is still with me today.
What made my “marketing” blunder even worse was that people weren’t even asking for the discount. I just happily offered to do my work for less than what I knew it was worth.


When you see a pair of $200 shoes you’ve been drooling over marked down 50%, does it make you wonder what  those shoes are really worth?  Even at $100, the store is making a profit so if you wait a few more days, will they go down to $75?  Hell, go for the gold and ask the manager for a deep discount and get them for $50.  Suddenly, those exclusive high-end shoes are nothing more than what you find at Payless Shoes.


If your main plan of attack is to always be the cheapest, start digging your grave now. There is always someone who can and will do the work cheaper. Creating brand loyalty will be impossible in a constant price competition.
Think about it: do you always buy the national brand in the grocery store if you can get the same quality and taste from the knock off brand that’s half the price? Is there any brand that you would ALWAYS buy no matter what?


Yes, there is a way to compete without discounts. Yes, there is a way to say no to low pay.
You know when you see companies bundling products and services or giving you a free bonus with purchase? They’re adding value instead of discounting their offerings.
Is there a way that you can offer a freebie instead of a discount, something that gives real value to your client? A free e-book, a helpful worksheet or even a trial membership to your forum?


Your basic pricing structure is cost plus profit. But there’s much more that goes into it.
Like how many billable hours you’re able to work, what your salary is going to be, what kind of overhead you have, the taxes, fees and association membership you have to pay, and maybe most important, the “deliverables” of working with you. You know, what your client gains from working with you.
This services-pricing-worksheet will help you get started. For more on priging your products and services, check out Priceology!


Dawn Martinello

Dawn is a superhero disguised as a VA for entrepreneurs. Devisor of kick ass answers. Magikal Maestro of Reiki energy. Plant-loving, crunchy mom to a clever 7 year old.




  1. Reuben Swartz

    Great tip for small business owners, especially those starting out. Our business is helping companies price better, and unfortunately, we see this mistake all the time. I encourage business owners, especially service providers, to think about how they can double their rates. That may be easier said than done, but some companies have been able to do it, and the simple act of thinking about it often lets them raise rates 20-30%.

    Yes, you will lose some business– that’s the idea. You will lose your worst customers, who don’t really value what you provide. But you can make more money, working less, and get back to enjoying your work again. (See for a recent blog post on this topic.)

  2. Bluestocking Ink (@bluestockingPR)

    The Pricing Mistake You Won’t Recover From @heathALL

  3. lina

    I downloaded the services-pricing worksheet , but I can’t utilize it. It is protected and read-only. May I have the password, so I can use the excel?

    Thank you!

    • Dawn Martinello

      There’s no password protection on the form. There should be a button that you can click that says “enable editing” – click that and you’ll be set.

      • lina

        No, it’s not working. Do you mind emailing the worksheet to me? Thanks!

  4. Dawn Martinello

    Hi Lisa!

    My same rules for services apply to products. The main take-away from the article is that if you discount anything you are devaluing it. There are definitely times where you can discount without doing (shall we say) damage.

    Something wrong with the merchandise? A discount makes sense because the product isn’t worth the same amount anymore. Need to sell last year’s products that you won’t be carrying anymore, discount away. In these instances, it’s fairly clear that this is a one time discount that won’t be cropping up every few months. Once a client knows that a sale or discount is coming every few months, they will only buy when it’s on sale. Think about the grocery store again: most companies have rotating sales on their products – usually every 3 to 4 months, so if you stock up on what you’ll need to get through to that time, you’ll never pay full price on the product.

    Psychotactics wrote a great article that may give you some great ideas on “discounts”. He describes situations like a company giving away a free massage, or buying one getting one free:

    Hopefully that will give you a good start, but feel free to brainstorm some ideas here with us!

  5. Lisa Diamond

    Any insight to offer about pricing mistakes for companies selling product verses services? Recommendations on when and how to use discounting?

  6. SavvyRelations (@SavvyRelations)

    Great article for start-ups! RT @themogulmom: New! The Pricing Mistake You Won’t Recover From – …

  7. Heather Allard


    I used to make this mistake when I first started consulting, too. Oy. 🙂

    Thanks for a great post and a super helpful pricing worksheet!


    • Dawn Martinello

      I know a lot of people do it Heather. Standing strong behind the rates you’ve set takes practice sometimes!

  8. Carey Suante - Transcriptionist

    Oops! I’ve been making this mistake all along…!

    Thanks for the post.

    I thought discounting my price would be the least I can do to get their attention but I guess not.

    Adding value should be how I give discount from now on!

    • Dawn Martinello

      Carey, there are still times when offering a discount is a good move, but you definitely need to ensure you’re not offering it all the time.

      When I used to sell Avon, I thought people were crazy for buying any product full price because it was ALWAYS going to be on sale within a few campaigns. The problem is that people expect the sale and it sends the signal that the product isn’t worth the regular price.

  9. Melanie Oster (@Dream2theMax)

    The Pricing Mistake You Won’t Recover From

  10. Melanie Oster (@Dream2theMax)

    The Pricing Mistake You Won’t Recover From

  11. Theresa Sheridan

    I made this mistake as well, then I started working with a marketing professional who quickly set me straight. We raised my prices a tad, and I started offering more value and WOW! is all I can say! My income has doubled in just a few short months, the clients are calling me regularly and I realize now that they can only get my designs from ME and like the commercial says, “I’m worth it!”.
    Thanks for another great post!

    • Dawn Martinello

      I’m really glad you liked the post Theresa! People will often question what’s “wrong” with the cheapest product or service so it’s completely understandable that you saw such a huge increase when you raised your prices.


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