Listen to the episode:
When painter Sarah Marie Lacy decided to double down on portrait commissions as her primary source of income, she was severely undercharging for her work, but had no idea what her prices should be, or who would possibly pay those much-higher prices.
Now? Sarah has a six-month waiting list, regularly rubs elbows with CEOs and ambassadors, and is a member of the most exclusive club in Ottawa. In this super-actionable conversation, Sarah and I explore the series of steps she took to more than triple her prices and to start building relationships with her ideal clients.
More from the episode
- How to get invited to fancy parties
- What is the “croissant technique” for networking?
- Practical tips for starting conversations with potential clients
- How to feel confident charging what your work is worth
- The power of having a strong value proposition
- How to deal with the gap you may feel between the social world of your clients and your own
About Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy is an artist, portrait painter and teacher who is endlessly fascinated by the human body in all of its intricacy, subtlety, grace and vulnerability.
Connect with Sarah Lacy
Click here to view the episode transcript!
Sarah Lacy: That’s been a huge thing of just letting myself have that identity of I am an artist. This is a real job. This is actual work. I am allowed to make money. I am allowed to succeed and thrive at this, and I refuse to make myself small anymore
Jessica Abel: What does it really take to become successful as a writer or artist?
There are a lot of destructive myths out there about what a creative career is supposed to look like. We’re told we shouldn’t care about worldly success or money. We’re told that if we’re good enough, everything would magically fall into place. That’s a lie and it keeps us struggling, baffled, and hungry for any shred of information that might shed light on how to keep making the work we love. That’s why I get any two artists or writers or any creatives really together in a room. And it’s a foregone conclusion that the conversation will turn to money and the nitty gritty reality of being a professional, creative.
I’m cartoonist and creative business. Coach Jessica Abel.
In my own life. The studio visit back channel conversations with other artists where we share our insights and hacks anxieties and red flags have been critical to any success I’ve achieved.
And now. I’m bringing that conversation to you. This is the autonomous creative.
Jessica Abel: I’m on record saying that most creatives need to be charging more and working with fewer clients. But the number one question I get when I recommend raising prices is, who would pay me that kind of money? Where would I even find them?
This time out, we’re talking about finding and actually connecting with high value clients.
Sarah Marie Lacey is a portrait painter and her offer was never what most of us would call “low cost.” Nonetheless, it was way under priced.
The amount she was charging was nowhere near what she needed so that she could, one, be paid for the immense amount of time she spends on each individual painting.
And, two, bring in a comfortable living with her work.
Sarah needed to go from four figure pricing to five figure. And that meant getting in front of a brand new audience, one who wouldn’t blink an eye at those numbers.
In other words, not the kind of people she normally runs with.
But in the last few months, as Sarah has gotten very intentional about relationship marketing, she’s met tons of the right people and it’s starting to turn her business around. In 2022, she made 250% more for her portraits than in 2021.
In this episode, Sarah reveals exactly how she’s found her ideal clients, more than tripled her prices and what’s happening next.
We’ll get all the details right after this.
ad 01: MPPS
Jessica Abel: Does part of you suspect that the system is rigged against professional artists, writers, and creatives?
Does it feel like with all the incredibly hard work you do. With all your expertise and experience that somehow success should have…
Hey, I hear ya.
I went through most of my career feeling like success was just one step away. Around a blind corner, and that all I needed to do to get there was. More.
More work, more marketing, more income streams, more… everything.
But at some point, or really, over and over again, I did so much more, I almost broke.
And while I did achieve certain markers of success. The kind of success that I kept expecting to arrive, where I could slow down. And take a breath, really have space to think and do the work I loved the right way. Where I could stop worrying about money for like one minute.
That success kept receding in the distance.
Here’s what I figured out.
Hustle grind. Just keep doing more and more and more. That is the scam. That is the system that’s rigged against us.
What if everything we’re taught in school, everything we absorbed from culture about how artists and writers should live. And the tsunami of advice from online marketing celebs about how to make it as a professional creative. Is just wrong?
And if that’s true, what do we do? How can we fix it?
I’ve got something I think you’re going to want to read about how to escape the cyclical burnout creatives fall into, and how to build a truly sustainable creative career without just piling on more and more.
Check it out at jessicaabel.com/creative-business. That’s jessicaabel.com/creative-business.
Now let’s start the show.
Jessica Abel: Sarah, welcome. Thanks for being here today.
Sarah Lacy: I am very excited to be here.
Jessica Abel: First of all, why don’t you just tell people a tiny bit about your background as a painter and sort of where you were like 18 months ago?
Sarah Lacy: So I’ve been a professional artist for about 15 years now. I’ve always painted portraits. About 10 years ago, I went off to France. I got myself like a fancy old fashioned art education, really dove into learning how to paint and draw the figure. Came back to Canada. Eventually opened a school.
I taught figure painting and portrait painting for five years, and then the pandemic hit. And art schools and pandemics are not a fabulous mix.
And so I knew I needed a new business model. I’ve always done portrait painting, but kind of like as a side thing that I loved.
I wanted to do more of it. The school was eating my entire life. And so the pandemic in a way was like this blessing in disguise of, okay, I can’t run this anymore. It doesn’t make any sense. I wanna get into portrait painting. But then very quickly realizing that like my previous business model didn’t make sense for portrait painting cuz it was just charging too little.
So it was fine as like bonus money on top of the money I was making from teaching, but it was not gonna sustain me for the number of hours it took me to finish something.
I didn’t know how to find new clients. People mostly sort of found me by surprise. And about 18 months ago, I was like, I need to change something or like, this is just not gonna work out and this is really what I love doing.
I kind of got far enough into it that I thought, yes, I like this mix of work better than running a school. Happy to be a little artist hermit most of the time in my studio. But I needed, I just needed more strategy. I needed higher pricing. I needed all kinds of things. I needed things I didn’t even know I needed. And so I was kind of searching for answers and trying to figure that out.
Jessica Abel: Which is when we met.
Sarah Lacy: Which is
when we met And I was like, this person seems to talk a lot about strategy. That’s nice. I need that.
transitioning from running a school to portrait painting
Jessica Abel: Yeah. Which I, I appreciated that from the very beginning cause the first thing we did together was work together in Authentic Visibility, I think. And then you joined the Incubator a year ago. You’re one of my pilot students. Um, and there’s some other pilot students here as well. So I’m looking forward to getting them into this conversation a little bit later on.
The main thing I wanna highlight there though, is like when you were working, when you had your school, first of all, you very reasonably, because this is how things tend to work, thought to yourself, I imagine like, school, that’s how an artist makes a living is by teaching stuff, right?
And it worked out fine, but it was actually like a ton of work, right? It was just all hours. It was evenings, it was weekends, all this other stuff. And the thing that allowed you to do was to sort of almost dabble in portrait painting. And it didn’t matter that much how much you were making on those paintings. It was just like, everything felt like, Oh, that’s so great. I made some money on this. And it didn’t, and not until that became the center of your business model, was it something like, Oh, oh no, I actually need to deal with this.
Sarah Lacy: Yes,
Jessica Abel: Okay.
Sarah Lacy: And then having deadlines, right? Like before, it was
like, I run a school if you want me to do this just know that this is a very flexible timeline. People hired me only because they loved me.
Now it’s like, no, I actually need to get things finished within a particular timeline for this to be a sustainable business model. It can’t just take forever and ever.
Jessica Abel: Right. And you literally didn’t know how long it took you because you were doing it here or there. Like you were fitting it in different places. You didn’t have any, you weren’t tracking it or whatever. And at this
point you’re like, no, this takes me, it’s like X hours per square inch or something
Sarah Lacy: Pretty much.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. I mean, it’s really pretty scientific at this point, but it took a while to get there.
That’s the before. So like as we are meeting, you have clients, you have done some commissions, like, you know you can do the actual work,
but you’re like, well, how does this turn into making a living for me? I don’t understand how those things connect.
And so what we initially did was say, all right, well first of all, you’ve gotta raise your prices like a lot. And you knew that, it’s not like that was, came as a huge surprise to you, but I think you’ve actually raised your prices several times since then.
And one of the big questions that’s come up in the Q&A, the, that was pre-submitted is this idea of like, how do you sort of figure out what, like… you sort of make those new prices make sense. And I think the, one of the biggest things you did, we did together in the Incubator early on, was really work hard on, on your value proposition.
Raising prices – value propositions
Jessica Abel: And for anybody who is confused about this word, this term value proposition, what that means is it’s basically a phrase, a sentence, a short paragraph that defines what it is that you… like what are the outcomes that you provide to a client, right? What are the things that through the way you work a client will get these outcomes.
And so for, for portrait painting, the obvious thing is they get a portrait, right? They get an actual painting, but that’s not really where we landed. Can you talk a little bit about what your value prop is and how, like what that process of evolving that was for you?
Sarah Lacy: That was a huge, like, it was so important. It was hugely important because I didn’t know how to raise my prices because I couldn’t figure out like, why does what I do matter? Why would anyone want to pay more for that?
And so really digging into like the legacy piece and that this is like a family heirloom, that this is something that gets passed down through the generations, how meaningful that is for people to have. I hadn’t really sat with that or let that sink in up until we started really digging into it. Thinking about how, how different it is from photographs.
We get so caught up in like photography culture. We all carry around this amazing camera in our phones, in our pockets, but it’s made photography in some ways– not photography, like artistic photography, but the way that photography lives in our lives– in some ways kind of disposable, right? Like I’ve had so many conversations with people about the 7,000 photo camera roll they have, when was the last time you went through it? Do you look at them? You have these hidden memories just all tucked away.
Whereas a portrait is commemoration, it takes that memory and makes it tangible. It makes it something really special that lives with you every single day. And I got like the most amazing voice memo from a client the other week who had finally seen like the high resolution professional photo of her, of the portrait she had commissioned of her mom, and she was in tears and just like summed up so beautifully everything that I’ve really started to understand and I’m working towards.
Cuz she was like, I got this for my mom and it’s fresh for my mom and that’s great. But she was like, I’m not gonna have my mom forever. And when she’s gone I will have this like physical representation of her.
And she’s hugely involved in like my child who, she’s got a new toddler, raising him. So she’s like, and then my kid’s gonna get this too, and my kid’s gonna have this like part of my mother forever. Like this is part of the family now. And she just like, she was so moved by it and it was so important to her. And that summed up for me in ways.
It was just, it’s like I’ve been starting to understand it, but hearing her and hearing the emotion and her voice about it really drove home to me. Like, okay, what I’m doing is important to people and I can sit in that value a lot more solidly now than I could have a year and a half ago.
Jessica Abel: Yeah, absolutely. And I totally agree with that and it reminds me that one of the ways that we get to the value prop, especially within the Incubator, is interviews, right?
Like that moment of this person sharing that with you is way after the fact, but right at the beginning, you did some, had some conversations with clients and it was their language that helped you figure out this part of your value prop. This piece of it.
And this part really aligns with the part of your practice that’s like family portraits, right? That’s about sort of generational connections and so on, right?
So that’s one part of your practice. What’s your value prop for the other part of your practice, which is kind of what we’re focusing on more today in some ways.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. So where I really wanna move into is painting portraits of basically women leaders. They’re super underrepresented in terms of portraiture. And that, that is important because it conveys– it’s legacy on a different scale. It’s legacy for community. It’s legacy for visibility, for representation.
Now I’m losing my words. It’s like one of those things I look so passionate about I like cannot find the words for it.
Um, but that’s really where I wanna be moving is making pieces that become part of like the broader cultural narrative and change that broader cultural narrative. Because there are women business leaders, but then they’re invisible in this sort of like the visual history,
especially in Canada.
They’re absolutely invisible so changing that and moving into that space.
Jessica Abel: It’s so inspiring. That piece of it is so inspiring. And what’s interesting is that piece came from you. That didn’t really come from interviews and things because you didn’t know those people yet, but part of the arc that’s happened is you going and finding people to interview, right?
So that actually in some ways was the thing that opened the door to what we’re gonna be talking about in a little bit, about like what you’re doing now is like literally going out and saying like, I’m interested in this. I’d love to talk to you about this. Not I’m trying to sell you a painting, but I want to find out your feelings about representation of women in government and business.
Representation and how, what that means in terms of power structures and all kinds of other things. And you found a lot of people who really did wanna talk about it at that point. But you had to, you had to sort of start with your own mission.
So there’s two different things. One came out of like, this is from the people who already had the portraits and the way they felt. And this was like, and this is my interest and passion, which came out of your work as an artist painting portraits, not for commissions, but just your own body of work of underrepresented people and really paying attention to the beauty in everyone. That was like part of your artistic vision is part of your artistic vision as in your private practice.
Sarah Lacy: Yes. Yes. So finding a way to marry those two things. And then when I started saying to women like, Hey, this is, this is what I’m noticing. What do you think? And then they’re going, Oh, hey, I’ve never noticed that before. And I’m starting to have people come back to me and say, like, I’ve been really thinking about that since our last conversation.
Like, I’d never considered this piece before. Or last Thursday I was, we’ll get to me and the club, but talking to someone at the club and she was like, all of the portraits in here are of men. How do we, like, can we get some portraits of women in here? Like, what? What
can we do?
having a mission + relationship marketing
Jessica Abel: Exactly. Exactly. And once you see that gap, and there’s like a huge gap in the market there, you can head right into that gap. And we were talking the other day about the literal halls of power, like how, you know, the, the hall, it’s like the hall of power with all the people of power, and they’re all men and mostly white men.
So trying to change that representation that is, that can feel very mission driven and having some sense of like a flag that people can rally around, that clients can rally around, is so powerful as a value proposition. And it’s so easy to talk to people when you have that kind of mission. Cause you don’t have to talk about it in terms of like, Hey, can I sell you a portrait? You’re talking about, Hey, do we have a shared mission here? And that’s just gonna get them interested in working with you, without you having to sell anything. That’s the beauty of relationship marketing.
Sarah Lacy: yes.
yes. Or even just people who are getting on board, they’re like, okay, I’m not that person. I’m not the the person you’re looking for, but I so believe in what you’re doing. I wanna talk you up to everybody who I know who is in that position which is also really important and helpful.
Jessica Abel: Exactly. Exactly.
So that’s what’s happening at the, this is like now, hmm, I would say 10 months ago or something like that. We’re working on this value proposition. You’re creating language to use both verbally, but also like on a sales page for information and so on. And at the same time, you’re doing some portraits.
Your first step was to actually go back to existing clients and to your mailing list and say, I’m open for business. Anybody need a portrait, essentially? Right?
Sarah Lacy: Yep.
Jessica Abel: You didn’t have to go to strangers. You didn’t have to go to people who you didn’t know would be supportive, but you did have to say, Hey, listen, this is happening.
Can you talk about that little piece, that first step?
the first step – reaching out to existing clients
Sarah Lacy: Yeah, I mean that was scary. I’ve never gone back to previous clients and been like, Hey, could you talk about me to other people?
And what they found was interesting is, I mean, most people responded and they’re like, of course I’ll absolutely like mention you to anyone. But I actually ended up getting repeat commissions, which was not even what I was asking for.
That I got two more, three more commissions out of that. I had some commissions from people who had been already kind of thinking about it come to fruition just from saying like, Hey, are you like, are you ready to do this? Do you actually wanna do this? Can we have a proper conversation about it?
Having that then turn into actual commissions. And so in the end, like I ended up booking out my whole year of portraits way earlier on than I have ever done before. It was terrifying, but worked. I was highly skeptical and then it worked.
Jessica Abel: It did work. It worked better than it works for most people. I mean to be totally fair, like that doesn’t always work to that level. I mean, you were just, you had a lot of pent up desire for what you do and that’s fantastic that it did work. But one of the downsides of that is you were working with people you’d worked with before and you felt like I need to give them sort of like a alumni price and you kind of underpriced yourself for a while and got yourself into a bit of a pinch. Right.
raising prices, being firm with pricing
Sarah Lacy: Yeah, so I definitely I priced things higher, but I gave them probably, I think it was a 30% discount on my new prices. Turns out one of them could have, I didn’t know, someone told me later, absolutely could have paid full price, but live and learn.
But yeah, I definitely, that was when I realized like, oh, I really, really need to put my prices up to five figures to be able to be breaking even, unless it’s a very small painting that it just takes me so long. The cost of materials has gone up, especially over the last year or so. But it’s like, it’s a hundred hours minimum. There’s just no other way around it.
Jessica Abel: That’s what it takes, right?
Sarah Lacy: It’s what it takes.
Jessica Abel: and you do do,
drawn portraits. You’ll do pencil portraits and those are potentially a stepping stone. Like you have created a second offer, which we can talk about in a, a little bit, where like it could be a stepping stone to like a larger
Sarah Lacy: so. Yeah,
I think that’s going to be my entry level. And they’re much faster. Like they’re three to 20 hours instead of like a hundred plus hours.
Jessica Abel: exactly. Yeah.
Sarah Lacy: Far more affordable price point.
Jessica Abel: And you also, you tracked your time and you’re like, it is a hundred hours and if it’s a hundred hours and I know I need to make this amount of money. Like you did the math, you said like, this is the amount of money I need to be making. This is the amount of time these things take. This is the amount of time I have in my week.
Boom. This is the pricing. This is my minimum starting level. Right? So then you’re like, five figures. Where the hell am I gonna find those people? So we were brainstorming a lot and I don’t necessarily have the answers specifically, especially not in Ottawa, like where, you know, where are they literally in Ottawa?
where to find high-paying clients
Jessica Abel: I don’t know. But we talked a lot about events and parties. I remember you were talking about like trying to partner with event organizers potentially, and I think you went to a couple events along those lines, did you not? Something like you did demos or?
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. Where I started was just finding, just going to, starting to go to the Board of Trade events, so like Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade. Cuz I thought, okay, if I’m gonna meet these people and build an actual relationship where they’d wanna work with me, I need to at least like, physically show up in the same room.
I ended up never quite connecting with an events organizer or anything like that. Any sort of demos I’ve done were actually invitation through some of the local arts organizations here. and that was much more related to my previous teaching career as opposed to, to getting portraits. But I started planting seeds to do in-person stuff and, and looking into spaces where I could go and do that.
but I really, my first step was to just like, start meeting people outside of my own circle that I knew. Like, who I knew already were not gonna get me any further. Like, I’d maxed
out. who I knew in the city.
how did you approach going to events?
Jessica Abel: How did you pick an event to go to initially and like how did you approach that?
Sarah Lacy: At my first event was like kismet almost. My best friend who’s an interior designer in the city, and so she’s very plugged into like networking events and stuff like that. And so she forwarded me this email. She was like, look like the Board of Trade is hosting a Wine, Women and Wisdom night. And it’s like the CEO of the National Gallery is speaking and this seems like a place where you could meet some people.
And I was like, yeah, that seems like the thing. It was not a cheap ticket that was like the most I’d ever spent on anything. Had nothing to wear. Literally had to go buy a new wardrobe. I spent a lot of this year improving my wardrobe. And, I mean, walked in, literally not knowing a soul. I did not know a single person at this event. And I don’t know, there’s probably, there were 20 tables of eight.
Jessica Abel: All
Sarah Lacy: it was a lot of
Jessica Abel: you were seated at a table, so you had like sort of an automatic introduction to seven other people. Is that?
find the other person standing alone + how to actually start talking to people
Sarah Lacy: There was like an hour of networking beforehand. You got your glass of wine or whatever you wanted. And then you’d get sat at your table and then there would be, we’d eat for a bit and network at your table, and then there would be an actual panel with questions and things. So yeah, that first hour was like a little bit nerve wracking.
but it’s not the first time I’ve walked into a room full of strangers because I have moved a lot and had to like, figure out how to make friends with strangers in new cities.
And my goal is to, my strategy is to always find the other person standing alone.
Jessica Abel: Okay. That’s a good one. I like that.
Sarah Lacy: Because then you’re two people standing together and you look like you know someone, and then you become like the blob and you find all the other people standing alone and you just absorb them into your group and you stand like a croissant, not like a donut.
Jessica Abel: Okay. I love that.
Sarah Lacy: So cuz if you’re a donut, you’re closed off and no one feels like they can come over and talk to you or introduce themselves and it’s a networking event. You were supposed to talk to other people. Whereas if you make sure there’s space, sometimes people are walking by, you can catch someone’s eye, you can invite them in.
I always, especially at like women focused events, I just started by complimenting people. Like if I saw someone wearing a cool pair of earrings, I would just stop them and be like, your earrings are awesome, by the way. Hi, I’m Sarah. I don’t know anybody.
I was always really upfront that I didn’t know anybody. People take pity on you and it works. So between like finding other people standing alone and like, I have actually built long-term relationships just by finding the other person who’s standing alone and being like, Hey, I’m also here alone. Like, who do you know? Sometimes they know people who aren’t showing up for another half hour. Then you get to meet all those people, right? And everyone is always grateful if you save them from standing alone.
Jessica Abel: Yes. I love that. Such a good technique. I love it. I’m totally keeping that. The other thing I’ve heard about networking events in terms of like introducing yourself to people and talking to people in a way that’s actually gets a little further is
Sarah Lacy: Mm-hmm.
Jessica Abel: if you come up with an sort of opening question that isn’t, what do you do?
Something like what’s the best TV show you’ve seen in the last month? Just something that people will have some answer to or be like, oh, okay. And then you learn a little bit about them and you have this opportunity to kind of get to know them as people a little bit, but you’re not like, all right, what do you do? Let’s exchange cards. Boom, boom. It’s not as transactional.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah.
I’m gonna have to remember that because most people do just open with what you do. Although I do try to direct the conversation of like, are you fro– I mean, especially in Ottawa, it’s are you from Ottawa? Because most people aren’t.
Jessica Abel: Mm-hmm.
Sarah Lacy: a a very transplant city. So where are you from? Like, what brought you here? What do you do for fun?
What’s your favorite, you know, finding out like what their favorite– Ottawa is one of those cities where nothing is Googleable and you have to know someone who knows someone
So like asking like, what’s your favorite restaurant? Because like it’s much more likely to get a good recommendation from a person than the internet. So
yeah, finding those ways to just like talk about other things.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And it’s not that you can’t talk about, you can’t or shouldn’t talk about your work, but that, if that’s what you lead in with it sort of like limits the scope of your conversation.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah.
what is your elevator pitch?
Jessica Abel: Coria asks, what is your elevator pitch? Do you have a way of like, when somebody’s like, well, what do you do? Like, what do you say?
Sarah Lacy: Honestly, I used to have a fancier, like a proper elevator pitch like most people have. Now it’s “I’m a portrait painter”, and because people d– I’m the first portrait painter they’ve ever met. That is sufficient. People are like, what? That’s what you do. That’s so cool. Can I ask you a million questions about art now? Yes, you can.
Jessica Abel: That used to work with, I’m a cartoonist, like that was the same thing.
Sarah Lacy: If I try to say anything else, I kind of watch their eyes glaze
they’re so stuck on the first thing, which is great, but then they just like, they wanna know like, how does that work? How did you get there? What kinds of
portraits do you do? And I kind of let them then direct the conversation and figure out like what excites them about portrait painting? What do they find interesting? And then it’s, it’s tailored to them in a way. It’s like an elevator pitch for every single person I meet to
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And you’re always gonna find opportunities to put your value proposition into the conversation. There’s always a way. It’s like, well, how did you get into that?
Well, I really believe in representation. Like, I really wanna see representation of women and underrepresented people improve in the portrait world. That’s this thing that could come up in the conversation pretty naturally.
Sarah Lacy: Oh yeah.
I often say like, my secret dream, do you wanna know what my secret dream is? And everyone always wants to know what your secret dream is. So that, that works a lot as well because it just, it gets people. It’s very easy to bring up talking about like, kind, because people often ask who hires you?
Jessica Abel: Mm.
Sarah Lacy: Right? Because
Jessica Abel: You do.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah, exactly. I was like, people like you, people like you hire me. Like, I don’t know, there’s no, it’s a really broad range of different kinds of people. And then it’s very easy to say like, the kind of people I love working with are,
or the kinds of things I want to do.
And it depends on who I’m talking to as well, but some people I know aren’t gonna be a client, but they’re extremely well connected people. People within journalism and PR and communications where they know which door I should be knocking
on to be speaking to the person who’s gonna hire me. So my pitch will change depending on who my audience is as well.
Jessica Abel: For sure. Yeah. And I do think that there’s a huge value in being able to describe who you work with because if you can do it in such a way that people are like, oh. Like it opens up, it cracks open like, oh, that’s like me. And they can include themselves into this group, even if they’ve never thought about having a portrait done before.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah.
Jessica Abel: They start to go, oh, no, that’s actually something that I, it could be my thing. Like I could deserve that. Because it is something that feels like people, it’s like a aspirational.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. Just telling the stories behind, like not even necessarily like who is the person, but like so-and-so commissioned this of their kids right before, their son and daughter-in-law, right before their first child, or
got it of their mother for their 60th, or of their grandma for their 90th.
And then people go, well, I have a grandma who’s turning 90. I have a grandfather who’s turning 90. I have a wife, I have a husband, I have children. They just start thinking like, oh, these are scenarios in my life. That’s not completely out of this world. And it helps them put themselves in the shoes of someone who gets a commission.
Jessica Abel: Right. That’s not something on a totally different class level from me in other words. It’s like, this is something that people like me do. People like us hire portrait painters.
Sarah Lacy: Yes.
Jessica Abel: which is very important. Yeah.
All right. So I wanna make sure we have plenty of time for questions cause we have really good questions. But, so I want you to tell the story of the Rideau Club. So the Rideau Club is the most exclusive private club in Ottawa.
the Rideau Club
Sarah Lacy: It’s the only private club in ottawa.
Jessica Abel: Well by default then, but it is an exclusive club. Like it is a club that you have pay for membership and you know, all this other stuff. You are now a full member. This is not something that a year ago was on your radar at all.
Sarah Lacy: It was a pipe dream. I knew it existed. I’d been friends with the former master sommelier there, but I was like, whatever. Like that’s
Jessica Abel: I could work as a waiter there, I guess. You know, like
Sarah Lacy: Exactly. Like maybe one day I could meet someone who might take me. I don’t know who are even the people who go there. So it seemed like a great thing, but I was like, it was a total pipe dream. Could not figure out how to get, even get in the door.
Jessica Abel: The very first way that you got in the door? What was that?
Sarah Lacy: I had gone to another Board of Trade networking event. You and I had been having conversations about putting my prices up and finding the right people. And this event it featured like the CEO of the year. It was a female CEO and thought, okay, let’s go and just start telling people I want high-end commissions. Because especially the people who work for the Board of Trade, they want to help you figure out where you need to be.
And so I said this to someone and she was like, well, you need to join the Rideau Club. And I was like, that’s a nice fantasy.
How do I even? And she was like, well, you know, like one of my other Board of Trade members, one of the other employees here, like she’s a member.
She could answer questions for you. She points to a woman on the other side of the room and I was like, oh, I definitely made friends with her on the alcohol line already. Cool. I will go and keep talking to her. So I went back and I said like, Hey, like I’ve been told I should join the Rideau Club. I don’t know anything about it. You are apparently a member. Help? Like, what? Where do we go from here?
And she was like, absolutely, happy to answer any questions. Connected with her on LinkedIn and she sent one message like on a Sunday morning being like, great to meet you. Happy to answer any questions you have. Six hours later sent a second message saying, actually I’m hosting event there tomorrow night. Do you wanna come? Sure.
Gonna need to buy new shoes though cause there’s dress code and my shoes do not fit that dress code. So went the next evening. It was a fairly small event. We had a municipal, so it was like a municipal election watch party.
And I went over to, to speak to her. And she was like, right, well I’m actually running this event. I can’t really sit and talk to you. Here’s some people. Like threw me into the deep end, but it was the friendliest group of women. I could not get over it. They all like came over and introduced themselves to me. They were like, oh, we don’t recognize you. You’re new here. What do you do? So excited that I was a portrait painter.
One woman who is the most well-connected woman I think in all of Ottawa, grabbed my arm and was like, you’re not a member and you don’t have a drink. Come with me. And stuck me on her tab for the night. Started introducing people to me. Just started being like, this is a portrait painter. You should hire her. And I was like, you haven’t even seen my work yet, but ok, thanks. She is the kind of person who was trying to lift up everybody around her. That was, that was the beginning of a whirlwind.
I started getting comped tickets to other events because people had met me and they were like, cool, you’re a portrait painter. You should come to this lunch at the Chateau Warier Ballroom on Friday. I’ll comp you a ticket. Okay, sure.
I had to buy more clothes. Um, ongoing theme is, oh my God, I can’t wear the same thing every single time. Someone is gonna start noticing, kinda need to buy some more clothes.
It evolved from there, but there did reach that certain point where I had to decide like am I joining, or what? And I’m under 40. So they have under 40 pricing at the club. It was a lot more affordable. Not cheap, more affordable. And there’s like an entry fee, like it, it was a big investment. And it’s, it’s a two month process to become a member because you have to get through like five rounds of approval.
So I started at the end of, at the beginning of December and I finally got approved like last Friday. There’s like a lunch. They’re like, you get vetted by people. And it, it was a whole thing. And it was really scary making that decision. I will not pretend that I like walked into that bravely. I spent probably three weeks waffling over it between like the beginning of November and then like actually pulling the trigger and saying, okay, like let’s book this.
I had to accept help from people, like, I won’t lie. My dad stepped up and was like, I can help you with some of that cuz this seems like a good step for your career. And then figured out how to finance the rest of it myself.
They let you pay monthly. God bless them. That helps. But also weighing the pros and cons that like, the alternative was advertising in the like local luxury magazine. There’s sort of like a high end magazine.
One quarter page ad is almost $2,000. That is comparable to a membership. So I thought, okay, this is gonna actually get me in the room and I’ve committed to two years there before I decide whether this is working or not.
Because I have a really long sales cycle. My sales cycle is like six to 12 months between meeting someone and then hiring me.
So I’m giving myself lots of time to meet connections and to be in the room over and over and over again.
They have lots of networking events. Like every Thursday there’s networking. There’s like women’s night once a month. So there’s lots of opportunities to maximize my membership and I will be everywhere. They’re not gonna remember a world without me shortly.
I’m making the most of every cent that I’m spending. But yeah, it was, it was a real journey and it took a lot of shifting my internal identity to feel comfortable showing up in that space.
My grandfather was a bank manager with the Bank of England, and so definitely like upper middle class. He was extremely posh. By the time I was seven I knew like, which cutlery to use if I was at a, like a large dinner table, right? That was very important to him that I know how to use the cutlery properly and fold the napkin and all this stuff.
And so I kind of called on that a little bit that like, hey, my grandfather would feel very comfortable in this space. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t feel comfortable in this space. And frankly, my grandfather probably would’ve been like, it’s nice for colonials, I’ll be honest about that. Like for the colonials, this is quite nice.
So I’ve kind of called on that a little bit to just like, I can belong here. I’m allowed to belong here.
Jessica Abel: I love that.
And, and I wanna push back at your statement that you didn’t go into this bravely cuz you did. Because it actually required an enormous amount of courage to walk into this commitment and believe, which I also, cuz it hasn’t turned into money yet. Right?
I believe that this is gonna pay off like in multiples and exponentially. This is gonna be really, really pivotal for you. Especially as we talked about initially, like you are getting five figure commissions for family portraits. Like you are doing really well with your portrait business on that side, but the business portraits, the CEO, the government portraits haven’t quite kicked off yet.
And we knew this would take a while cuz you have to get everybody thinking about your mission, right? And the other thing is like your grandfather had that position, but you have learned throughout your life that being an artist is not a real job. That you shouldn’t expect success, and anything you got was like, you know, you should be happy for any crumbs that get tossed to you.
And so I don’t want you to overplay either that you have this privilege in your background because your actual journey as an artist has been. I mean, just doing enormous amount of work to shed that burden of feeling like you don’t deserve this or that it’s not real, or that it isn’t an actual job, or that you’re not good at it, or not good at having this be your career, I mean. Right?
Sarah Lacy: Yep. Oh, yeah. That’s been a huge thing of just letting myself have that identity of I am an artist. This is a real job. This is actual work. I am allowed to make money. I am allowed to succeed and thrive at this, and that I refuse to make myself small anymore to fit a overarching cultural stereotype of what being an artist means.
I’m allowed to succeed. I’m allowed to live comfortably. And I’m going to charge the prices, like I’m feeling less and less apologetic about my prices and feeling more and more able to say like, they start at 10,000. That’s, that’s the ticket to entry because I work extremely hard at this. I’m very good at what I do. I have $90,000 art education, like somebody paid me money for that. I’ve worked really hard to get here. I’ve logged those hours. My work is worth what I’m charging.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And more. because I think the keyword here is start at 10,000.
Sarah Lacy: Yes, yes. I’m still getting comfortable with the start at, I’m making myself say it. Still figuring out how to like actually then give that like higher than 10 K quote
Ad 02: Creative Engine
Jessica Abel: I know you’re deeply committed to your creative work and yet when it comes time to make the thing, it’s like you short circuit.
Your inner critic comes roaring out and shuts you down.
You find your attention dragged off by some other shiny new object.
You can’t stop feeling guilty and that you should be focusing on paid work. Your clients, your children, friends, boss, parents constantly demand your attention.
Here’s the thing. There is nothing wrong with you. There’s just a breakdown somewhere in your creative engine and you can repair it.
I want to invite you to join me for the free creative engine masterclass, where you’ll learn which tactics will backfire when you’re trying to get traction on self-generated creative projects and what to do instead.
The four essential phases of the creative process you must implement to produce awesome work reliably. And you’re probably skipping at least one.
The good news hidden in your long history of valley and efforts to make your creative life work.
How to diagnose what’s off track and keep moving on your work. Even when things get really challenging.
And the secret to how to predict and avoid the pitfalls that derail you time and time again.
This class is totally free and you will get immediate, deep clarity into what makes your creative life tick and the specific next step to take to harness the power of your own creative engine. So stop procrastinating and start finishing your most important creative projects when you join the creative engine firstname.lastname@example.org slash engine that’s J E S S I C a a B E l.com/engine.
Okay. Back to the show.
all right. Before we go to Q&A, I want one, I want you to tell one last little story, which is, tell me about the ambassador.
the ambassador of panama
Sarah Lacy: Oh. Yeah, that was funny. It was my very first night at the Rideau Club, and I was standing with all of these women and I’d just been introduced to the Ambassador of Panama, and she pulls up her phone. There were various things about people like having multiple phones. And she was like, look, I don’t have LinkedIn on this phone, but can I get everyone’s number?
And so she, like, she gets one woman’s number, the very well connected woman. And then she turns to me and I was like, Oh, do you, do you need help with your phone? Because I just assumed like I’m the young person in the group.
You don’t, I’m nobody. I don’t even know how I’ve got in this room right now, And she was like, no, no, no. I want your phone number. And I was like, Sure. I will like, sure you can have my phone number like I’m somebody just cuz I happen to be standing with these other women who are somebody. I ended up seeing her at one of my comped ballroom lunches later in the week and she like gave me a hug and she was like, how’s your cat?
And I was like, wow lady. You are good at your job. Like you remembered who I am, that I have a cat. I saw her the other day at a dinner party I crashed cause that’s a thing I do now. And I was like, okay. That was right after I introduced myself to the UK High Commissioner. Like it was just at the dinner party I crashed.
courage before confidence
Jessica Abel: I love it. This is the do something really hard and just don’t die and like it becomes easier. The first time you do something, you’re just like, oh, I’m gonna actually, literally die. But then you do it and you’re like, oh.
Sarah Lacy: I didn’t die.
Jessica Abel: Still alive, I guess. I guess I can do that now. Right? And that’s how you build, like when we talk about courage before confidence, that’s what it is, right? Walk in with courage and then the confidence will come as a result of that. The stuff you’re able to do right now, six months ago if I told you you’re gonna be doing this.
Sarah Lacy: I would’ve laughed hysterically for like a solid 15 minutes. Like you couldn’t have gotten, gotten a word in. Just impossible. And now like, I’m gonna go cuz part of the benefit of the Rideau Club is like you can go and work there. So like after this, like I’m gonna go spend the afternoon working there. I’ve gotta write emails somewhere. I might as well write them in a leather chair as somebody brings me tea
Jessica Abel: I love it. Yes.
Sarah Lacy: But couldn’t even imagine that, right?
Jessica Abel: Yeah. No, it’s
And the other thing that I wanna bring back to everybody here is that this has been step by step. Now, there have been some amazing, lucky breaks, but one of the things that has happened is you’ve noticed the people are really kind and they’re really generous and they’re really interested in you.
And so, as artists and creatives, remember that what you do is really interesting to most people in the world. Just talk about what you do and people are like, what really? What? How? And wanna have that conversation with you. You know, you bring spice to a very boring room sometimes.
Sarah Lacy: Right, like everyone else is just some form of government consultant or like NPR in communications and like, that’s all very cool. But I am a complete outlier.
I’m the only artist and the only portrait painter at that club. And so by default, I’m often a very interesting person. My stories are very different to their stories.
Jessica Abel: And they’ll tell people about you too. They’ll be like, Hey, I’m met this portrait painter. Can you believe that she did this and that? And be able to talk about that. And especially when your value prop is very clear, people can then convey your value prop to other people. Like this is why she’s so interesting.
And that’s one of the great values of having a very strong and very clear value proposition is that those are the words you give people to explain who you are to other people. That’s how that works.
Sarah Lacy: Yep.
Jessica Abel: Well, yay, you. I’m so excited.
Sarah Lacy: Thank you.
Jessica Abel: I can’t wait too see what happens. I know it’s gonna be really just interesting and cool and come up with great things. So let’s take a few minutes to look at our awesome questions. There’s some very good ones here. I wanna start with Rauni’s question, which you have seen already, and I think it’s a really good one.
facing a class gap between you and potential clients
Jessica Abel: In what way do you feel a gap between you and your potential clients? Meaning like a class gap.
We sort of touched on this a little bit or some, some sense of not necessarily belonging. Or also sometimes I think for artists and creatives and writers is like this feeling of almost like resentment of people who have money and feeling like, their problems aren’t real, their problems aren’t my problem.
How do you prepare for being in the room and combat feelings of not belonging there?
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. They do come up.
I have to actually stop myself from comparing, like when someone is standing next to me with their Yves Saint Laurent bag. I have to be like, right. I spent $40 on mine at Bentley. It’s not leather, but it looks cute. So yeah, I do have to kind of like not compare myself.
But then I do try to just remind myself that they’re also just people. Sometimes I just have to boost myself. I’ve done interesting things. I am equally accomplished just in a very different kind of way. That I’m not, I’m no one’s inferior. And just because they have money, like money is only one, one thing.
And, and I think it’s really just trying to, when I’m in conversation with someone, focusing on the fact that they are just another person, bringing it right down to like, I’m just trying to connect with one other person here. It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing. It doesn’t matter what they do. It doesn’t matter how much money they have in their bank account. How can I connect with this person on a really human level? And that’s when I’ve started to discover people.
Like I was talking to women in the other week who didn’t bat an eyelid at my 10k plus prices, but also was like I only shop at Reitman’s, which Canadians will know what I’m talking about, but it’s just, I don’t know, it’s like JC Penney. She’s like, I refuse to spend more than that on clothing. Right? So finding people like that, it’s just, it’s a very varied room and that my assumptions probably don’t stand up actually.
And so questioning my own assumptions about what it means to have more money than me. And just questioning my assumptions constantly and then trying to focus on like, this is just another person.
We’ve probably watched the same shows on Netflix. There’s probably a lot of parallels here that like, if I just focus on the money piece, I’m gonna miss that.
Jessica Abel: Another thing I talked, I’ve talked with Rauni about, Rauni is also in the incubator, and has a similar profile for her ideal client, she’s a silversmith, is this idea of like people in this kind of club, rich people, they have problems that you can solve, right?
Like one of the problems you solve for people with the means is how do I properly commemorate something that’s really important?
And Rauni does the same thing, creating things like trophies or various kinds of silver pieces that are commemorative of very specific kinds of life events.
And that problem of like, how do you buy a gift for somebody who has all the money?
buying something expensive is not special.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah.
Jessica Abel: So how do you do something? How do you actually make that special? How do you show your care for somebody? That is one of the kinds of problems that are very, I think, very vivid and very strong for people who have
lot of money,
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. That, like what do you buy for someone who’s already bought themselves everything they want.
Jessica Abel: Right.
Sarah Lacy: and
most people– and can’t.
And most people won’t commission a portrait of themselves, but are always delighted when someone else commissions a portrait of them. Because it’s like you’re saying, I believe you’re, I believe you are art. I believe you are worthy of being art.
Hard to top that as a compliment and a gift. So yeah, it does solve that problem. Meaningful gift giving.
how do you connect to wealthy clients if you don’t have wealthy friends?
Jessica Abel: Very much so.
Mary has a question, which is somewhat related to this, which is how do you connect to wealthy clients, or with wealthy clients, if you don’t have wealthy friends?
Now you’ve demonstrated how you’ve done that, but your initial steps, let’s go back to what the initial steps were. Initially, you didn’t know anybody at all in this circle.
Not that none of your clients have money, a few of them do, but, um, they
Sarah Lacy: Not locally.
Jessica Abel: They aren’t local and they weren’t in this like women business leaders group that you wanted to be involved in. So that was a whole new market for you.
Sarah Lacy: Mm-hmm.
Jessica Abel: And you just, we talked about these networking tips, like just showed up there, right?
Sarah Lacy: I just showed up. And felt really uncomfortable for a brief period of time.
And then figured out like how to just, how to talk to strangers, and start building those connections, and build friendships not just for business. I think that that’s been part of it is not thinking of people as like just a stepping stone to somebody else, but building like actually meaningful, memorable, useful relationships.
You know, sometimes I meet someone and we may, our worlds might be very different, but I’ve discovered, stumbled upon something, it would be useful to them. I send it to them. Connect them with that piece of information. So building those kinds of, even if they’re more professional, being useful to people so that people think of you as like someone who is useful.
Jessica Abel: Good to know. Right Fun to know, and good to know. Useful to know. Yeah.
Sarah Lacy: Yes. Yeah, exactly.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And to go back one step before that, that was when our brainstorming phase where we’re like, where are these people? And we really had to think about like, literally, where are they? And that’s step one in terms of meeting groups of people you don’t already know is like brainstorming, okay, where do they hang out together so there’s enough of them that like I’ll meet some people who are cool, who are interesting and who wanna be connected with me. So depending on the area you work in, what kind of work you do, it’s gonna be
Sarah Lacy: Mm-hmm. .
But I think starting with your loc– if you are looking for, to get outside of your own sort of bubble, starting with your local Board of Trade is probably a pretty good place to start in that even if you just go to one event, they will know where you should go. Like they’re a great resource in that sense because their job is to know where a different factions are all hanging out. So you could at least get that information and go from there.
value prop pt 2 the key to finding high paying clients
Jessica Abel: I’ve got a couple questions here that are sort of similar. I’ve got one from Bethany which is what if your audience isn’t used to high ticket offers? Bethany is a book coach and an editor, and most of the writers she’s talked to state that they either can’t afford four figures or higher or that there’s, since there’s no guarantee they’ll be published and they don’t wanna pay that.
And then I have another question from let’s see, Mary. How do I get high paying ghost writing gigs? And Jennifer, about getting higher end wedding photography.
So the answer for all of these is your value prop, basically, going through that process of really figuring it out. So like if you have clients who are like, what I want is to be published, and you can’t, I mean, nobody can guarantee publishing unless you’re a publisher, right? That’s not something that you can promise as an outcome. You need to be finding out what outcomes can you actually deliver consistently. And then putting that as your value prop. And then you find clients who want that.
The people who wanna be published and all they want is be published and they don’t wanna go through the work of whatever else it is that they need to do to get there.
Those are not your clients. Other people are your clients. People will pay a lot of money for book coaching that does not guarantee any particular publishing outcome when it’s around, like you getting your ideas out in the world, you’re actually finishing the book you’re doing whatever the things are that you really focus on.
Similarly, if you’re doing ghost writing, you need to be thinking, who needs ghost writing and who’s willing to pay a bunch of money for it? Who really has that need? And what is it about me as a ghost writer that’s different from any other ghost writer? How can I do it better? How can I do it differently? How can I match up? Do something that’s gonna be like, it’s gonna actually feed that particular outcome that the person wants.
how do i do this without being all over social media?
Jessica Abel: Same thing with a wedding photographer. This person is asking, how do I do this without being all over social media all the time? Good question. You definitely, that’s not required, especially for higher end stuff. I mean, with wedding photography, you probably need some social media because you need to be showing what you’re doing. Right.
And a lot of this is about status and being able to show your wedding and so on. But having a local like local search, dominating local SEO search because you have a value prop that has to do with your local area and how you’re special there. You’re different from other people there. How are you different? What is it that you are different about?
Do you have any like, any thoughts about that? I mean, I think we covered it pretty thoroughly earlier, but that’s the thing that was coming up with looking at all these different things.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah. Yeah. I think especially with… I mean, writing I’m not even gonna pretend I know anything about that. But for wedding photography, I mean there’s definitely like a bit of an overlap. And like I’ll say, like, I occasionally get clients who have found me on social media, but then they just like, they stalk me for like six months and then eventually hire me.
Um, so it’s not just social media. But I found that when I am at a networking event, the first thing people do when they find out they wanna see my work, they flip open Instagram and they’re like put yourself in so that I can sit here and go through your Instagram.
So having enough on there, doesn’t matter how often you’re posting, it’s just like a very quick portfolio. They don’t want your website. They, they want your Instagram.
They just wanna see lots of pictures. So I’d say social media is useful in that sense. Instagram makes a nice portfolio that everyone, and then people can save it, right?
They can follow you instantly. Know where to find you. Again, that’s how people have been using Instagram for me.
Jessica Abel: But you’ve been reducing your Instagram and your social media content marketing a lot. Like you’ve actually mostly replaced that with this relationship marketing, and you’re doing a low ebb of putting out just every once in a while so you show up in people’s feed and LinkedIn on an Instagram.
Sarah Lacy: Yep. My goal is once a week, I don’t often hit that goal. I would say that like, you know, every couple weeks, once a month, I like post something new. The world remembers who I am for a moment. Yeah. It hasn’t been… no one’s paying me $10,000 off of Instagram really. That’s the end of the story.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And they, again, they may need to go to Instagram to go like, oh, this is what I would be getting if I paid $10,000. But they don’t need like it’s not a sales technique. It’s a sort of research resource.
Sarah Lacy: yep. They use it as research. They use it as a quick way to go through my portfolio to see what process is like.
can imperfect action be detrimental?
Jessica Abel: So I’m gonna do, I think two more questions if you have time. So Leonie asks if you’re at the bottom of the ladder aiming high, meaning, I think, charging very little, not having a lot of clients. Can all of the imperfect action of getting yourself out there be detrimental if it’s being seen by those future high paying clients? In other words, how does one parachute in without paying your dues over the years?
So I guess it’s sort of like balancing this idea of like putting out low cost stuff and then later wanting to pivot to this higher cost thing. Sort of an interesting question.
Sarah Lacy: Yeah, I always find that one really tricky because it is really hard to like just walk in the door with a very small portfolio and just getting started and be like, now pay me $15,000. That’s hard. Maybe finding ways to start doing portraits that take you less time so you can charge less to build up a portfolio.
And like it does, it does start to grow naturally though I will say that, that like my prices have gone up over the years without me even trying to actively, strategically do that.
People are happy to pay more. Even like people who have started with me at the beginning have grown to a certain extent with my higher prices.
I have now made a leap where like, yes, a lot of my previous audience can’t afford me. And I knew that that was going to happen, and I consciously made that choice.
But I think there, see if there’s a way to like make a smaller version of what you wanna do, that doesn’t take you as much time. Your materials are cheaper. You can charge a more entry level, and not cheap, but like affordable, more entry level price point, and then see how you can grow that from there. I used to do much smaller pieces, like my initial portraits were much smaller and took me way less time to do.
minimum viable product
Jessica Abel: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think that if we, when you’re starting out going towards a higher end offer, and this is a couple people ask questions about like how do you get to this higher end offer? How do you deal with this pricing thing? Like you do start with what we do in the Incubator, we call it the MVP, the minimum viable product.
And you start with something that’s essentially a pilot. You start with something that you’re testing the market, you’re testing the language you’re using, the value proposition. Is it compelling? You’re doing a little bit of putting your toes in the water and also getting, getting testimonials, getting information so that then you kind of look at this and say, look, is this working for me in this way?
For the most you get to the end of that and you’re like, I need to double my prices. That’s what happens then.
But I, I’ve also talked to people who are earlier in their career, they don’t have a lot of track record. Getting some sort of a few pilot clients through your process, using their testimonials, their referrals to grow from there. It’s okay to be undercharging for a while, as long as you recognize that and you’re willing to double, triple your prices later on when you have the track record that you can stand on essentially.
Sarah Lacy: And one piece of advice I’ve heard from a lot of other painters and portrait painters is do, do a couple at one price range and then like the next few put it up like 10 or 15% and see how that works. And then like the next couple, put that price up 10 or 15%. It’ll get you to grow in like a, a more manageable way at the beginning as you’re testing everything out and building out that portfolio because you do need to have like, I would say at least 10 pieces saying like, I can do this consistently. Here is a variety of what I can do.
Jessica Abel: Right, and let me translate this also to other media cause it’s not, this is very true also if you’re offering services of some kind, you need some results. You need to show that you can actually produce the outcomes that you’re talking about in your value prop somehow. So you need some clients to run through your process.
And if you have need to knock down your prices and do a pilot for a while to get a few people through, that’s fine. It’s fine. I mean, it can be hard to manage in terms of time and having enough money coming in, but it’s fine. One danger of doing the 10 to 15% increases is if you start at like $500, you’re gonna be at like $700 in four years.
Right. You have to at some point look at it holistically and say, what does this really need to be? And not be afraid to make really large jumps. And we, we talked too about the idea of like with people who worked with you before, you might give them a little bit of a break, but only to a certain point. Cuz at some point it’s gonna hurt your ability to make a living.
Sarah Lacy: And I made it clear that like, I will give you a cut this time, but next time my prices will be higher. Because I have to.
Jessica Abel: Exactly. Exactly.
All right. I think we’re gonna leave it there.
Sarah, this was so great, so helpful. Thank you so much for being so honest. I know everybody was really appreciating that.
Sarah Lacy: So glad. Thank you everyone.
Jessica Abel: Thank you so much for joining us today for the Autonomous Creative.
Our show is produced by Matt Madden, our production coordinator is Lousine Boyakhandjyan, and our production assistant is Rhiannon Sunday. Music is by Matt Madden, and I’m your host, Jessica Abel.
You can find all our takeaways as well as any links and extras we mentioned today plus transcripts, in the show notes. Find everything you need at acpod.show.
If you enjoyed this episode, I hope you’ll subscribe. And it would help us immensely if you would take a second and pop over to apple podcasts and leave us a rating and review. It just takes a few seconds, but it’s actually a huge help to us and to our guests to get this podcast suggested to new listeners.
We appreciate your help so much. And we’ll see you next time on the Autonomous Creative.