Do you want me to tell you what makes a client pay you what you're worth as a mobile DJ? What it is that means that some DJs can charge hundreds or thousands for gigs, while others seem to splutter and fail at the price part of the conversation, and always feel they're not being paid what they're worth?
Of course, reputation, and networking, and who you know, and what you've charged previously, and how much kit you own, and how long the gig is for, and whether it's a wedding or not, and the competition in your town, and a thousand things all affect your ability to charge decent prices... but assuming those things are exactly the same, what is it that separates mobile DJs who charge well from those scraping around at the bottom?
The answer is something called "perceived value", and once you get this and start weaving it into the way you speak to potential DJ clients, you will be able to charge more - it's that simple.
Note that I said simple; not easy. This is a difficult thing to sell, mainly because we have to sometimes teach the client what it is first, before we can show them we have it. What's more, it doesn't always work. But if you don't do this, you'll never get what you potentially could.. for any gig.
How to pitch your services to command higher prices
So let's dig a little deeper. When a client asks "what do you charge?", they already have an idea in mind of what it is they'll be buying. Whether that idea is correct or incorrect, no matter - in their mind, it's correct.
The same as if they want to buy a can of drink... they have a clear idea of the taste, the temperature, and type of refreshment they will get from it. So it follows that they also have an idea of what it is worth to them, meaning they will be willing to pay an amount they believe will get them that product.
If you told them the soda was $100, they would think you were an idiot because the perceived value isn't as high as that (and it is priced better at the store next door). So how do we let customers know that our soda can is special, made of better ingredients, gives them super powers, will stay in their mind forever as a high point, and so on?
We have to start by putting ourselves in their shoes. We have to imagine ourselves as an uneducated customer. So let's start with the expectation that the perceived value of a DJ in the public market is "audible music for people to dance to", then maybe some non-specific "flashy lights" on top.
(Any particular client may know a little more, but we can adjust up better than backtrack down, so let's start there.)
Our job is to change that idea and properly educate them what the real, higher value is... and then show them that we've got what it takes to deliver that higher value. For instance, we could...
- Make sure they know how variable the visual experience can be. The best way I have found to begin that conversation is pictures, for example pictures showing my choice of set-up options. Note that it is just as important to show them options they think they don't want as much as it is the ones they do, so that they understand what could be showing up if it is not addressed ahead of time. Do you just plop a controller down on a provided table and go? Do you have a small stand and cosy setup that's quick? Do you provide all tables, facades, cable management, power supplies, and so on?
- Emphasise that our expertise extends past music. Have you ever sat down with your client to discuss "lighting strategy"? Probably not, and if so you probably got a surprised look, since DJs rarely do this. But it is a fantastic thing to do! Even if you only have modest lighting options, bringing this topic up alerts them of the possibilities you could offer. Pics here work wonders too...
- Present unexpected value options for the microphone part of what we do. You are the loudest voice in the room, and smart DJs know they can use this to their advantage. For weddings this is a given but maybe present options for games they can chose from. For other events, are there sponsors you can offer to plug?
- Let the client know we can "design the sets" for their events. I mention this three or four times during a pitch. DJing is often perceived as showing up with a hard drive full of tunes and picking and choosing as the night goes on, or just playing whatever people request. This is definitely not what you want them to think you do, because as we all know, it doesn't take effort. Designing sets does, and it is specialised. It separates pro from wannabes... and we all know the pros are the ones who command the cash.
There's nothing new here, yet it is uncommon among DJs pitching for work, and the fact that so many DJs overlook it is a major reason why they are paid less than they feel they're worth. Unless what you're buying is a "commodity" (that is to say, it is exactly the same wherever you buy it - like our proverbial can of soda), then you will always command higher prices by effectively explaining what exactly it is that you offer, what your options are... and only then talking price.
Do you use this tecnique or a variation of it in your pitching? What is it that separates what you do from your competition, and allows you to confidently ask for more money? Let us know in the comments...