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I got an email last week from a Resistance Member asking about Pay What You Want consulting. 

She wanted to know two things:

  • Does it work? and…
  • How well?

Both fair questions.

As you probably know, I’m currently doing a test run using Pay What You Want pricing for my consulting services.  But before I dig into my results – and more importantly: how I engineered them – I wanted to start by asking a question…

Question: what are the highest paid professions (on average) in the United States?

If you DuckDuckGo this, you’ll find lots of top 10 / top 50 lists.  While the particular order (and averages) vary slightly from one list to the other, they generally fall into three categories:

1. Medical (doctors, surgeons, etc.)

2. CEO’s

3. Lawyers

Curious, I wanted to know more:

  • If these professions have the highest annual incomes, what is their hourly rate?

Here’s what it looks like for lawyers:

.pay what you want

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage [for lawyers] in 2012 was $62.93. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned $26.11 per hour. At the 75th percentile level, the hourly rate was $80.77. The top-paid 10 percent earned at least $90 per hour. The BLS noted that self-employed lawyers typically earned less than law firm partners.” (source, highlighted for emphasis)

And for doctors:

“in 2010 the average doctor earned $80 per hour…”

So to be paid like the top 10% of professionals in the United States, you need to make about $80 / hour or better…

And chances are you need to become a doctor or lawyer…

Is This the Only Way?

Is this the only way to get paid a premium?

To willfully enter a profession that requires mountains of debt and years of grinding it out and ladder-climbing to finally get paid a premium?

To be honest, I thought so.

The stats don’t lie, do they?

Which is why I didn’t think much would come from Pay What You Want consulting.  After all, if people get to choose the price they contribute, no way I could make a living from it…

Except that’s not exactly how things panned out.

Results from 2 Months of PWYW Consulting

In the past two months, I’ve consulted with about a dozen clients.

My client list has ranged from self-employed entrepreneurs, to established tourism companies, to startup telecom companies.

And the list of topics I’ve consulted on is about as broad as the list itself (from lean startup application to PWYW pricing strategy, etc.).

I’ve had a great time doing it and have received some great feedback from clients.  I’m excited to continue consulting as time permits over the next couple months simply because I’ve had such a good time doing it.

But the question most people are wondering is: was it financially viable?

I’ll let you decide:

My Pay What You Want Consulting Results:

Average per Hour PWYW consulting rate in March $143.00
Average per Hour PWYW consulting rate overall (from Feb to April) $165.59
Lowest contribution per hour $28.53
Highest contribution per hour $250.00

Another way to look at it: on a bad day, I’m making four times minimum wage and on a good day I’m making 34 times the minimum wage (or about 4 times the average billing rate of a lawyer) per hour.

3 Lessons I Learned from Offering My Services as Pay What You Want

If you’ve read my most recent book The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing (and checked out the bonuses), then you know why PWYW works.  I won’t go into it here, except to say that the same rules that apply to products apply to services.

Check out the book + bonuses for more info on the psychology behind PWYW.

Instead, I want to focus on a few lessons learned from using PWYW pricing for my consulting work.

Rule #1. Be VERY Clear on What You’re Offering

In the beginning, I offered my consulting services ala carte.

Which is to say: I let the client decide what they want: one hour, two hours, a whole month?  Sure.

This isn’t smart.

The reality is: no one can commit to that much time especially when your return could be so extreme (from zero to whatever).

I tried to mitigate my risk by having clients tell me what they thought the value would be worth to them, then commit 50% up front…but, while this was effective, it didn’t feel appropriate having people predict what the results would be worth to them.

Further, because I offered such a great array of options, it seemed like some clients weren’t sure WHAT they wanted from me but thought, given enough time, they’d make progress.

This is my fault for not being precisely clear on what it is I do (and how I do it).

I quickly changed to 1 hour sessions only (while still leaving big project consulting services open), and clarified what I do:

1. Pricing strategies

2. Client acquisition

3. Product Development framework and timeline

4. Miscellaneous online business startup questions

5. Lean business tactics / techniques / procedures


I also tell my clients to have a precise issue or question they need resolved.  This means I can actually create positive change (whereas in the beginning I was mostly helping people figure out what questions to ask, which is generally a slow and painful process – and while invaluable, the client may not always realize just how valuable it is).

By getting very clear on what I was offering, I’ve improved the client experience tremendously and I enjoy the process more.  Win-win.

Rule #2. Keep it it Simple (Stupid)

When I first started using PWYW consulting, I had it set up so people had to schedule a free 15 minute consulting session with me to decide if they wanted to do a paid consulting.

Then, they had to decide how much time they wanted and what they wanted to focus on, etc.

This isn’t good.  There are too many variables and too many steps.

It also wasted my time (as each 15 minute session turned into a 30 minute free session with few results as there was no preparation done beforehand).

I quickly realized I need to create a standard 1 hour consulting service – you get my time for 1 hour and I’ll answer any and all questions, help you get unstuck, etc.

At the end, I’ll invoice you.  The invoice is blank – you decide what it’s worth.

This is simple, clear, and erases confusion.

My rates have gone up since doing this.

Rule #3.  Pay What You Want Pricing Does NOT Mean Paying is Optional

I received a couple requests from people who straight up told me they don’t have money to pay me for my services.

That’s called pro-bono consulting.

I don’t do that (with a handful of exceptions).

Pay What You Want pricing means you must pay something, although I’ve gone as far as to trade services in some cases with clients who are strapped for cash.

Again, I had to get very clear with my copywriting on my consulting page and make it explicitly clear that PWYW consulting is not free consulting.

Since then, I haven’t had a single issue with anyone paying.

That’s not to say some people contribute much more (or much less) than others.  As you’ll notice, the range of prices varies, which is fine – that’s exactly the point of PWYW – that people can choose the price that’s fair for them and that they value my service at.

At the end of the day, though, if you want to make consistent money while still being generous, you have to be very clear that PWYW does not equal free.

Can PWYW Work for Your Service?

That’s a question I help people answer in my book: The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing.

Obviously, not everything can work using this pricing model, but some things can.  And some things can benefit GREATLY from it.

Could I have ever charged $250 / hour for my time just two months ago?

Maybe, but I’ll be honest with you: there’s no way I would have been confident enough to do so (regardless if I provided results that warranted the price).

But now I am.

Which is another bonus of offering your products or services as PWYW: it helps you rapidly validate your product or service’s worth.

Now, if anyone asks for a fixed-rate consulting price, I know exactly what I would charge (and can say so with confidence in my abilities and track record).

And yes…

That means I get paid more than the median hourly rate of both doctors and lawyers –some of the highest paid professions in the United States.

And I don’t say that to brag, but to prove a point: Pay What You Want pricing works, and can be extremely lucrative if you’re willing to put yourself and your work on the line for it.

Yes, it’s scary.

And that’s why so few will try it – and what makes it so worthwhile for those of us who take the plunge.


Hope this article was helpful for those of you interested in using PWYW for their consulting services.

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a message in the comments below.

p.s. interested in learning more about Pay What You Want pricing?  I created a free 7 day email eCourse.

You can sign up right here.

Started, Finished, and Shipped in Cape Town, South Africa.

Writing Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes


Stay on the Path

Categories: Instigate
Comments: 10

There it is.

It’s happened again.

It always seems to at times like these…

Everything is going great – I hit a new high (more praise, more readers, more anything) and I feel amazing…

Momentum is building in the right direction (up and to the right) and it feels like nothing can break me…

I’m on top of the world for a moment…

And then I see it:

A picture of a group of people I would call my friends (at least in the Facebook sense) at a party together.

I wasn’t invited.

Or another of my peers shares a success – and it’s much bigger than the little win I was all excited about earlier.

My ‘win’ doesn’t feel so important anymore…

Or a new list, ranking, top whatever comes out and I see people I recognize highlighted.

I’m nowhere to be found.

Sometimes it feels like I’ll never be…

2 Choices, 2 Paths

Have you been here before?

That place where you see yourself in relation to others and you become critical of yourself and them?

I know I have.  More than I’d like to admit.

And it doesn’t matter that it is so clearly irrational (comparing our first season to another’s 5th, comparing our first year in business to another’s 10th, comparing sales, shares, or likes to the mainstream leaders, etc.) – it still happens.

Only 2 things can happen at a moment like this – only two choices and two unique paths we can take:

Choice #1: Go With It

The first choice is easy: you go with it.

This is the comfortable path: the paved road with a slight decline, good shade and a cool breeze.

This is the path of least resistance. 

It is frictionless.  There’s no drag.

If we let it, the mind will go here automatically with little effort on our part.  It’s self-perpetuating:

Comparing ourselves to others leads to self-loathing, which leads to anger, which leads to critiquing others, which leads to more comparison, which leads to more self-loathing…

You get the point.

When we choose this path, the downward spiral is inevitable.

The end: inexorable.

Choice #2: Go Against It

The second choice isn’t so natural or easy.

The second choice is to recognize what’s happening – The Enemy has started another campaign to undermine our recent success – and to move in defiance.

This path leads us up the windward side of a mountain, against jagged and loose rock, with no steps or trail to follow.

This is an uncomfortable place to be.

This path is difficult because it requires us to recognize the state of things – the status quo, the tribe, the safe average – and willfully say “No, I’ll have no part.”

And it doesn’t stop with saying it, you must actually do it.

This takes courage (and grit…and hustle).

What’s Your Mission

This idea of choosing a path reminds me of the movie The Book of Eli.

The Book of Eli takes place (like all good action movies) in a post-apocalyptic future.

The world’s been devastated by who-knows-what, and all that’s left is a desolate, urban wasteland filled with bandits, marauders, and hooligans, each trying to get their piece (even if it means killing you for it).

And then there’s Eli.

Unlike the rest of the world, merely living to survive, he’s on a mission – to deliver a book.

He doesn’t know how he’s going to do it – the path is long, uncertain, and unclear – but he knows he must.

He understands his why and moves through this wasteland purposefully.

  • He doesn’t choose the path based on convenience, or comfort, or ease.
  • The actions of others do not affect his path.
  • His feelings do not dictate direction.

Because he understands his mission – his why – he always knows which path to choose: the one that brings him closer to accomplishing is mission, no matter how painful, uncertain, or unnatural.

There’s a scene, in the beginning of the movie, when Eli is confronted with a choice.

He sees two people get attacked by a roving gang of bikers.

His compulsion is to help; to influence the outcome of this rather dire situation.

Instead – against his natural impulse – he sits down and (in quite a bit of pain) he repeats to himself:

“Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.  Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.  Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern…”

Stay on the Path

How hard must it have been for Eli, in that position, to not intervene?

He didn’t do it out of cowardice (the rest of the movie confirms that).

He did it because his mission took precedence.

Each of us, like Eli, is on a mission.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, writer, artist, inventor, warrior or leader (and every person in the world is at least one of those things), you have a mission.

This mission differs person to person.

The path manifests in different ways for different people.

My path will not be your path, nor your path your neighbors.

2 things are important to realize here:

#1. It’s Okay.

It’s okay that our missions differ.

That yours is different than mine.  And that each path will unfold how it must, in its own time and way, uniquely to you.

#2. Your Mission is Paramount.

Not his.  Not hers.


Superficially, this sounds selfish.

But dig beneath the surface and you realize nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s Not Your Concern

The life of an artist, entrepreneur, or writer isn’t a post-apocalyptic, life-and-death game of survival (although sometimes it feels this way…).

But regardless the setting of your personal story, one thing is very clear:

Once you wholeheartedly commit to your mission, there will arise a million distractions, hurdles, and obstacles along your path.

They will manifest in an infinite number of ways, not least insidiously as the self-defeating, self-perpetuating spiral of comparison.

Which is why, at moments like these – and any other moment in life that seeks to dislodge you from your purpose and throw you off course – it’s important to remember the truth:

The party you weren’t invited to?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

The big win the other guy had?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

The top-50-whatever list you weren’t featured in?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

All of these things will come in time – if they must.  If that’s where your mission and your path takes you.

But if not, so be it.

It’s not your concern because it’s not your path.

Embrace your mission, stay the path, and keep creating.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

How about you?

Yours in the trenches,

Tom Morkes

* * *

Started, finished, and shipped in Big Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.  Fueled by Cape Brewing Amber Weiss and The Decemberists The King is Dead album.

Total writing time: 5:13  (true story)

“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success…”  – Jiro Ono (Jiro Dreams of Sushi)

*   *   *

a map of the gilisFor the past two months, my wife and I have been traveling around South East Asia.

We’ve spent the majority of our time in Indonesia, with a one-off stop in Singapore for a long weekend (flights were $9 and we needed to renew our Indonesian visas, so it was a no-brainer).

Toward the end of our time in Indonesia, we made a trip to the Gili Islands, just off the coast of Lombok.

There are three Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short), Gili Mano and Gili Air.

Each island has its own unique atmosphere (Gili T is more party, Gili Mano is basically undeveloped, and Gili Air is that quiet middle ground, more suited for honeymooners or people who prefer less crowded locations but all the essential amenities one might need while visiting an island paradise – like Wi-Fi).

We decided to spend the majority of our time on Gili Air.

Artisanship on an Island Paradise

I knew this place was different the moment our wooden boat floated up to its sand and coral beaches.

Unlike most Indonesian cities (and most SE Asian cities for that matter), instead of being greeted by hundreds of taxi cab drivers looking to take all our money (we stand out here), we saw a dozen horse drawn carriages lining the street with not a single moped in sight (again, for SE Asia, this is bizarre).

Courtney and I had done our research, though – Gili Air is only a few square kilometers, meaning everything is in walking distance.

So we started walking.

We had no set plans or booked reservations – we normally wing our travel and this was no exception.

As we walked along the half-cobble, half-sand roads, we were greeted with the standard set of Indonesian idiosyncrasies (smiles, laughter, offers for a place to stay or eat, and lots of ‘mista’ and ‘boss’ thrown into their sentences for good measure), and passed by dozens of independently owned and operated shops.

One shop in particular caught my attention.

gili air artisan

- How do you NOT stop here? -

A little hut, just off the side of the main road (there’s really only one main road in Gili Air), with a sign that read:

Gili Air Artshop Made to Order. Looking is for Free, Smile Included.

But it wasn’t the warm, inviting sign that drew me in; it was the man sitting outside the shop, hacking away at a coconut that did.

His name is Nin.

Nin is an artist.  He carves, paints, and constructs things from wood and other natural materials.  Today, he is carving a necklace out of a coconut.

Watch him work for just a few minutes and you realize a few things:

1. Nin is a professional.  This is his life.  It’s what he does every day for hours a day.  His craftsmanship shows.

2. Nin is an artisan.  He works with his hands to bring his vision to life.  And he’s skilled at it.

3. Nin’s workshop is sustainable in the perfect sense of the word.  He uses discarded wood and coconuts to make his art.  This isn’t for marketing purposes – it’s out of necessity.

Naturally, I had to buy something from Nin.

gili air artisan

- Nin hard at work -

He charged me 200,000 Rupiah for a coconut necklace.

As a point of reference, that’s less than $20 US.  As another point of reference, that’s more than it cost for one night on our beach front bungalow, and about 2 times as much as dinner for two at a high end restaurant on the island.

Depending on how you view it, it might seem like I got ripped off.  Relative to prices on the island, 200,000 Rupiah is quite a bit of money.  And I never bartered (something you’re supposed to do in Indonesia).

Of course, after watching him work, I didn’t want to.

He spent three days carving this necklace from a coconut shell.  Every day, I watched his progress, forming something from (essentially) nothing.

When it was finished, I wondered if 200,000 Rupiah was too little.

The Artisan in the Digital Age

I tell this story for a reason.

First, to point out that artisanship still exists.  All over the world.  And many people just like me are willing to pay a premium for it.

And second, to beg the question:

  • What does it take in the digital age – in the age of pixels, gigabytes, and high resolution – to create something artisan?
  • Is it even possible?
  • Is it worth bleeding over our work when there’s nothing to physically hold at the end of the day?

The Message and the Message Spreader

In the beginning of this essay, I quoted Jiro Ono, a sushi chef made famous from a little documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro’s an artisan.

He lives and breathes the perfect sushi dish.  He’s been doing it every day for over 70 years and will continue until he physically can’t.

Jiro charges over $300 a meal.

He does because he can – because people want to see a master artist at work.

We’re naturally drawn toward those who perfect their craft, who’ve weathered the inner creative battle for decades and come out on top.  And we’re happy to pay a premium just to be in their presence (Jiro’s sushi shop is booked months in advance).

Again, this might solidify the idea that artisanship only exists in the physical realm…

Until I think about how I heard of Jiro.

I’ve never met Jiro in person, nor been to his sushi restaurant.

It was a documentary – a digital download – that brought his work to my attention.  It was this medley of pixels, gigabytes and high resolution that shined a light on his work and his philosophy.

The digital world made this message possible to spread.

And no other medium could have delivered the message with more impact.

We’re Waiting to Pay You a Premium

As entrepreneurs, creators and instigators in the 21st century, a very big part of what we do is online.

Yet instead of killing off what is left of artisanship, I honestly believe it’s helping to grow and expand the roll of the artisan (just listen to some of the interviews I’ve done with true digital artisans like AJ Leon and Dan Adams, among others) .

The artisan storyteller; the artisan craftsman (online and off); the artisan message spreader…

The roll of the artisan is expanding.

The question isn’t one of accessibility or ‘how’ – anyone can be one if they choose.

The question is: are you willing to put in the hours, days, and years (and the sweat, blood, and tears) to create the perfect product or service for the people who matter – the ones who want to hear from you?

My advice?

Start today – before you’re ready.

Because we’re waiting.

And we’re willing to pay a premium.

Started in Gili Air; thrashed in Sydney; finished and shipped in Perth, Australia (while listening to the song Perth by Bon Iver)

Total Writing Time: 3 hours and 8 minutes

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