What are you worth?
will-sampson 230510 webinar

When I try to encourage small custom shops to raise their prices to be more profitable, the biggest resistance isn’t the customers. It’s often the shop owner’s own self-worth.

I’ll hear a common refrain, something like, “I can’t charge that much. I mean I wouldn’t pay that much myself!”

As I politely explain, “YOU AREN’T YOUR CUSTOMER!”

I point out that the only value that matters is the value as seen through the customer’s eyes. If they are buying kitchen cabinets, they aren’t looking at them as a bunch of lumber and hardware. They are seeing that beautiful, finished kitchen and what it will do to the enjoyment of their home. They are thinking how proud it will make them feel when they show it off to friends, relatives, and neighbors. They are thinking about all the frustrations they had with their old kitchen that will melt away with your new installation.

But wait a minute. There’s another reason, another point in the value proposition that too many custom shops don’t think about. Too many of them don’t think of themselves as professionals on a similar level to their mostly affluent professional customers.

Let’s look at that.

Those professionals who are your customers might be doctors or lawyers who went to school for many years to learn their trade. How many years have you spent learning your skills and building your business?

Those professionals who are your customers have likely invested thousands of dollars in their careers and businesses. Haven’t you also invested thousands of dollars in equipment, software, machinery, training, marketing, insurance, and more?

Those professionals who are your customers typically manage their time. Their customers can’t see them without an appointment. They likely charge for a consultation. If they have a billable hourly rate, how does it compare with yours? I’ll bet their rate is higher even though your overhead is more than theirs.

You might not have a pretty piece of paper on the wall signifying a higher level of education, but I’m certain you’ve learned as much or more than a college degree’s worth in the school of hard knocks.

What this all boils down to is a matter of self-esteem. You aren’t charging what you really should (or could) because something is telling you that you aren’t really worth it. You are afraid your would-be client will laugh in your face and walk away without writing a check. That’s just baloney. 

You make a highly desirable product that deserves a fair price to compensate you and your staff for the great work you do and the high level of professionalism you bring to this special custom project. Don’t shortchange yourself. Again, the value of something is whatever it is in the buyer’s eyes. The corollary is that the selling price is also affected by the value as seen by the seller. 

You are worth more than you think. 


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.