What Posting a Job on Thumbtack Taught Me About Value Based Pricing

I wanted to record my live sales workshop so I posted a project on Thumbtack. Within a few hours I received 8 bids. Some were low, others high. But most came in at $500.

Here’s what most of the bids looked like:

I was curious to know why most of the bids were the same. The only question providers asked was how the long my workshop was. Based on that, I assume they were using a cost plug pricing methodology to bid the project. This is what it will cost to do the job (time, equipment, labor), plus a 30% margin.

My first thought after receiving the bids was, “Should I spend $500 on this?” I decided the answer was yes and selected a provider.

The conversation with the freelancer sounded something like this:

Freelancer: So how long is the event?

Me: 1.5 hours.

Freelancer: How many cameras do you want?

Me: One with a microphone so the audio is clear.

Freelancer. Ok, that will be $500.

Me. There are lots of bids that came in for $500. You’re the first person I called. If you can do the job for $425 and I’ll give you my credit card right now.

Freelancer: Sure I can do that.

A Value Based Conversation

Now instead, imagine if one of the providers responded like this:

And imagine if the conversation with “John” went something like this:

John: “So Josh, tell me what you want.

Me: “I want to record my sales workshop. I’d like one HD camera. And a microphone so the audio is clear too. ”

John: “Ok, I understand why you’d want that. Curious to know though, why do you want to record your workshop?

Me: “I’m planning to sell the workshop online and also make it available for people that can’t attend.

John: As you probably know, a popular marketplace to sell courses online is Udemy. Is that a channel that’s on your radar?”

Me: “It is.

John: “Do you also need the videos edited into sections or lessons so you can easily upload them to Udemy?

Me: “Oh, yeah, that would be great!

John: Not sure if you’re aware, but on Udemy you can create a promotional video that helps increase sales. Is that something that sounds interesting?

Me: “Yes. Didn’t realize you could do that on Udemy.

John: “Ok, noted. Josh, I read somewhere that something like 70% of consumers say they look at reviews before making a purchase. Reviews are 12x more trusted than product descriptions. So what we could do is interview people after the workshop and include them as testimonials in your promotional video. What do you think?

Me: “Love that! Yes.

John: “Have you considered adding a handheld microphone to the shoot so that your audience can respond to your questions?

Me: “Good point. I didn’t consider that, but yes that would be great.

John: And if you’re going to do that, I suggest adding an additional camera so you can see who’s responding. It makes the video more interesting too because we can cut between you and the audiences. That’s a separate add on but I’m going to put it in the bid so you can determine if it’s something you want.”

Me: Sounds good.

John: Are you under any time constraints?

Me: Yes, I’d like to launch in 2 weeks.

John: Good to know. Unlike many of our competitors that take up to 4 weeks after the shoot to provide you with the edited files, we have a unique process that allows us to complete the job in 1 week.

Me: Awesome!

How to Present Pricing

And imagine if instead of presenting “a price”, John presented options. Like this:

Core Package: Video of event with 1 camera $600

Add On Options:

  • Create individual lessons for Udemy: $200
  • Handheld microphone for audience questions: $50
  • Testimonials: $250
  • Second camera for audience reactions: $200
  • Promotional video: $300
  • Accelerated 1 week delivery: included

Total cost with all options: $1600

If this conversation happened I would have spent $1600 for sure.


Because John asked “why” and “shined a light” on things that would make me more awesome. Plus I’m a “premium” buyer. I’m glad to pay more if I think I can achieve better results. Everyone else just asked “what”, calculated hours and jumped to the solution.

Putting This All Together

If you run an agency or do creative services work this might sound familiar. A prospective client briefs you on a project. They want a responsive website, better navigation and more engaging copy. While they’re talking you start thinking about the solution.

The challenge is that when you jump the gun and think about the solution, your brain turns off to what’s motivating your prospect to do the project.

When you jump the gun you become an order taker. And when you take orders you’re doing what everyone else on Thumbtack does. So why would potential clients choose you? Why would you be able to charge more and not offer discounts?

If you do creative services work the only way out of the commoditization trap is to do what John did. Stop thinking about the solution and start asking questions that demonstrate ways in which you can help your prospect more awesome.

Ask questions that shine a light on things they may not have considered. Ask “why” they’re doing the project. Ask why they’re not sticking with the what they have? Seek to understand the prospects motivation to solve the problem.

Value based pricing is about pricing on differential ideas that help your prospect kick more ass. The differential ideas you bring up in the form of questions must matter to the prospect, not to just to you. If you’re not able to ask questions that shine a light new ideas that matter to the prospect, you can’t price on value because you’re just like all the other vendors on Thumbtack.

When you present price, provide options like John did. One price for the “core” offering (a video of the workshop). Followed by options that demonstrate all the ways you can help you prospects achieve their desired outcome (based on the questions you asked).

Presenting options shows that you understand your prospects world. Options that ladder back to things that matter to your prospect increase the size of deals while providing opportunities to grow business in subsequent phases.

Creating options gives people an opportunity to choose value based on who they are. Some buyers value a Rolex. Other a Timex. Both tell time (the core offering).