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  • Jenny Stallard

Black Friday: Advice from freelancers on rates and making offers

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Today there are two words dominating the internet, social media, our inboxes and even our newspapers and magazines – Black Friday. If it’s not a percentage off, it’s free delivery, one day only, limited stock, limited time, buy now… the noise is overwhelming as a consumer.

I’m writing this on Black Friday, and as you read it you may well have had a morning or day of hearing those words… and sighing with a heavy heart as a small business. Because we hear the noise even louder, I think. And we can be left wondering if we should join in, should have joined in, or if we’ve done the right thing by not joining in.

I was considering an offer of my own for a while – unsure what to offer and whether it was the right thing to do for me and my business, I started thinking I couldn’t be the only one who was deliberating.

Wondering what other freelancers thought, I decided to ask some opinions, on the ever-helpful and useful Freelance Heroes community. The comments came thick and fast, and there were some really interesting takes on this topic.

‘Colour Friday’ is the indie business take on Black Friday, championed by Holly Tucker. Many people said they support it, including Anne Morgan at Bijou Concierge, who has written posts about it on her own blog.“I support Colour Friday which is the indie business Black Friday alternative. It's primarily aimed at product based businesses but no reason why service based businesses can't get involved,” she says.

I wrote in my November newsletter about whether we should offer to work for free asking whether exposure can pay the bills – and it’s something that Rebecca Thorne, a copywriter for small businesses at chatted about when I asked.

“I don't believe in straight up saying you should or shouldn't do things like this because as you yourself pointed out in your newsletter about working for free the other month there are situations where it may make sense to do. But I think heavily discounting things, particularly services, just because it's black Friday can lead to some potential clients questioning whether they should pay your rates the rest of the time. That said, I think there are marketing things people can do around this time of year more broadly, particularly around events in December like Christmas and other festivals, the new year and Small Business Saturday (which is an alternative event with an emphasis on people supporting small businesses). For example, I have recently launched a course about marketing accessibility and am offering some bonus support but not a discount that's only available to people who buy before a few days after Small Business Saturday. And I think when you've got something new you're doing, something you've changed or something where you'd like to get some people buying it sooner rather than later doing limited time offers can be an effective marketing strategy.”

I like the idea of an added extra - I might try that next week!

Another Freelancer, Jo Jeffries adds: “I guess it's up to the individual as to whether they do or don't think there's a market for it. The only real comments I'd make would be a. Don't undervalue your work. and b. do put a limit on your offers, so you don't get overwhelmed with work. Point b is a mistake I once made - there's nothing like working until 1am every night on the run up to Christmas!”

It can be about product versus service, many argue. I’m inclined to agree with that. If a product is priced the same, and it’s a tangible item, all year round, to reduce it on Black Friday makes more sense. By reducing rates on coaching, for example, or VA services, or copywriting, are we saying that today they are worth less?

With that in mind, VA Victoria Glass (Code Vector) adds: "It really depends on the audience and the type of service. Definitely needs to be thought through, rather than doing it because everyone else is. Potential clients may wait for your offer announcement instead if they were interested close to a holiday season. For services especially, you need to nail down the terms so you don't lock in a client at cheaper price forever. Obviously all this doesn't matter if someone is desperate for customers.”

Crowdfunding expert Jo Breeze adds: “I’ve been really enjoying seeing all the small businesses explaining, kindly, why they’re not able to offer Black Friday offers to compete with the big brands. I think a lot of people simply don’t realise the way pricing works, and how small the margins are for a lot of small businesses and independent creators - surprisingly, an event like this can be an opportunity to pull the curtain back a little and give customers a bit more insight”

That’s very true – you can do Black Friday your own way! Use it to promote your business, without reducing prices, perhaps.

You can feel the pressure to make an offer on Black Friday because you want to know that business is going ahead, even at a reduced rate. But think twice – not just about the money you are taking away from yourself, but how that will feel. You see, for me, this is also about the feels of the situation. Lowering prices can make us feel like we’re compromising, like we are saying our work or our time or our skills are worth less for 24 hours. It can feel like a moment of failure – I know for me it did. To think that I’d suddenly charge less for a day made me wonder what clients (new or existing) would think of my attitude to my own work.

Some people had quite short and sweet answers, which I would like to end with as they’ll give you food for thought, especially if you are now in a quagmire of wondering ‘what if I’d done an offer?’. Paul Reilly says: If your service is something that people actually need, then it has value 365 days of the year.

While Liv Lucie said: "Black Friday deals on services? No."

And Paul Reilly, who runs Red Copters arial photography leaves some food for thought with: "If your service is something that people actually need, then it has value 365 days of the year."

Follow me for more freelance advice and tips on Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok @freelance_feels

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