Should you go on sale when you work for yourself?

should you go on sale when you work for yourself?
It can be a real challenge when YOU are the product

Should you join in the fun and go on sale?

Sale season certainly gets my heart racing! I love a good deal – who doesn’t?

Going on sale is a decision you should not take lightly when you work for yourself.

Here are some think about before going on sale if you work for yourself:


1. WHY are you going on sale?

It may sound like a silly question but it’s something many don’t consider when they jump on the bandwagon and scream SALE!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have products that you need to clear to make room for new ones? >> Go on sale.
  • Do you have products that you want to discontinue? >> Go on sale.
  • Are you going on sale to attract a new audience? >> Keep reading.
  • Do you have a service based business and want to boost sales? >> Keep reading.
  • Do you feel you should go on sale because everyone else is? >> Keep reading.

Look around at most the businesses that are having huge sales. What are they selling, and to whom? Products that go on sale are usually those with an EXPIRY date. An expiry date can refer to products other than food – fashion changes, technology advances, yesterday’s products quickly become dates – and certain industries can’t pull off “vintage”.

Not every business goes on sale: Louis Vuitton never goes on sale, Apple neither. Why? Because they don’t need to.

WARNING: Frequent sales devalue your product. The market starts holding out for your next sale and your full price looks like a joke.

Should you go on sale when you work for yourself?
Pierre already gave away his ears and left leg!

2. You offer a service, should you go on sale?

When your company structure and business offering looks like mine: Me, myself, and I – going on sale is tricky.

What can you discount? Discounting your services could devalue your work. It could also attract a price sensitive market which can lead to further problems (competing on price as a solopreneur offering a service is dangerous territory).

Selecting your promotions carefully is one way you can go on sale and benefit.

Here are some ideas on how to go on sale without damaging your business:

  • Communicate an exclusive offer to your newsletter subscribers
    After all, they’ve been loyal and given you their email address. Sending them a special offer means you are keeping your promotion focussed and genuine.
  • Offer the first month of your services at a discounted rate
    This can be useful to attract new clients who may have been stalling with getting started. You both win, they get a great deal AND you get paid!
  • Give a complementary product away to a new client
     By complementary product I mean, a book, a teddy bear, an extra call – something that is NOT your core offering. It adds value to services and costs you little but means a lot to the new client. Plus, if you are offering a service it’s something tangible (in most cases) people can attach real value to.
  • Restrict the offer to a small number of people
    This stops you looking like you are desperate to make a sale. Limiting an offer to 1, 5, 20 people creates a sense of urgency, makes it exclusive and have value.
  • Play with the price
    Ok, this is a bit of shady tip … but it works in SOME cases. Artificially inflate your prices so you can easily offer 25% off and still make the money you want to.

3. How should I communicate my sale?

Communicating your sale is incredibly important to it’s success.

  • Keep the promotions you are offering really simple
    REALLY simple.
    The way customers can benefit from the promotion (also known in jargon speak as the “promotion mechanics”) need to be clear and simple.
  • Avoid complicated promotions
    Complicated promotions lead to confusion, incomplete purchase which annoy the customer and you (you’ll get negative feedback, or worse, ZERO results)
    Don’t make people jump through hoops to benefit: “Like my page on Facebook, follow me on twitter, send me a lock of hair, and send me 10,000 words about butterflies and unicorns” … get the idea?
  • Keep the the sale focussed
    Make sure you know who you are talking to. Communicate by email or on a page on your site.
    Set a cut off date and stick to it.
    Be clear about exemptions – offer does not apply to residents outside of XYZ etc
  • Talk about your sale, EVERYWHERE
    Is a banner on your site enough? Is it hidden on a page?
    Talk about it on social media, remind your subscribers, tell your friends on Facebook etc
    WHY? Well, no one else is going to blow your trumpet for you.
    As I always say “Shout it LOUD and Shout it PROUD”

should i go on sale promotion ideas4. What kind of promotions can I offer when I go on sale?

Guess you want to know what kind of promotions you can offer? Well, here are some ideas that I love using – you have probably heard of them before. Promotions should NOT be complicated.

 Promotional ideas for Products:

  •  10%, 50% 70% OFF
    Yes, simple isn’t it? Discounting the product price is an age old promotion that, umm, WORKS!
  • Buy one get one FREE
    Another way of saying 50% off but a great way to clear your stock if that’s the objective.
  • FREE Shipping on your first purchase
    Oh so simple, and what does it cost really?

 Promotional ideas for Services:

  •  % Off  the first month
    This is up to your discretion – you may want to add that they have to sign up for a certain period of time to benefit (3-6 months).
  • Sign up with a friend and get the 2nd 1/2 price
    You get 2 clients buy giving a 25% discount – this way of communicating it means the first person goes out and recruits FOR you … awesome.
  • Extra service for FREE when you buy X
    Throw in a free site audit, or a work book (make sure that offer lets you up-sell to that client at a later date)

 Promotional ideas that work for both Products AND Services:

  • Gift with Purchase
    This one’s easy to do – buy this and I’ll give you this super cool fluffy bunny 🙂

5. Do I have to go on sale?

No. You don’t have to go on sale if you don’t want to.

NOTE: Promotions/Sales are just ONE part of your marketing and communication. Identifying your business goal will help you decide if you need to go on sale.  If you need help with your any of this GET IN TOUCH.

What are your thoughts about going on sale?

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16 Responses to Should you go on sale when you work for yourself?

  1. As a service provider I don’t ever discount my services. What I will do is workout payment plans with clients but the price of my core services never goes down, only up. Here’s why…

    I started my first business more than 12 years ago. I used to discount and give freebies then (something you’ve blogged about before 🙂 and it messed up my business. People came to expect it and they didn’t value me and what I did as much.

    Why did I do it? One reason: fear. I was afraid of losing any potential customer because of price or otherwise. I learned that lesson the hard way.

    Not everyone is your customer, and with 7 billion people on the planet chances are there are people out there who can afford what you offer. If they can’t be found you’re either not looking hard enough or you are offering something no one will pay for. I’ve seen the combination of both happen too.

    • Thanks for sharing Robert – you’ve given me even more food for thought …

      You are completely right – not EVERYONE is your customer … and competing on price is icky and gets you no where!

      I agree that discounting your core services means you don’t really attach the said value to them.

  2. Hi Ameena,
    I totally agree with Robert and he and I have actually talked about this. We’re both tracking up at the moment. 😉 For me, and speaking from a B2B perspective, I tried the discounted rate for the first three months, renegotiated up afterwards only to have an awkward situation because the value wasn’t conveyed clearly. You see, I didn’t offer more services at the higher, NORMAL rate; I provided the same service at a new rate. The client, on the other hand, was expecting more for the increased rate. I took a lot of time to explain that there was no difference in service level, just a readjustment in price. If done correctly, and with expectations clearly laid out, and in my case, for a briefer period of time, it possibly could work. My experience has been that even when expectations are clearly laid out and discussed, there’s often a disconnect. That’s impacted my business model greatly.

    Working with my retail or B2C clients, I watch the ones that routinely discount, offer flash sales and literally beg people to come in vs. those that have annual sales a certain number of times each year. Those that do it all the time train their clients to expect the full monty for less and as a result, they rarely want to pay full price anymore. The more calculating client enjoys robust activity year round and a spike during her annual sales. They’ve been fascinating to watch!

    Apologies for the mini-post, Ameena! 😉

    • Awesome mini-post Erica! 🙂

      Love the examples you have given.

      Clearly communicating the deliverables is important and I agree that it’s really hard to increase the price once you’ve started working with a client. I hate having that discussion with clients.

      I find that working for less that you want leads to being disgruntled and the work and relationship suffers so it’s better not to have started in the first place.

      Really appreciate your great examples!

  3. Dear Ameena,

    I love your blog. That is all.

    In all seriousness, I’ve been thinking about the pricing structure and how to set it. That’s led to thoughts about “sales,” although I wouldn’t consider it sales necessarily. It’s called a discount for bundling services or for being a premium member. Those elements are up in the air because of the technical aspect – a store, a login, et cetera. I’m also weighing if starting a new business is the right direction. If it isn’t, sales and discounts are moot points.


    • Thanks Erin! 🙂

      Sounds like you have a lot to think about!

      Bundling services an interesting thing. My only advice would be to work out the bundle and how much you’d like for that and then work backwards to attach a price to each service if purchased independently. Doing it the other way will leave you super busy and for a lesser return!

      Good luck!

  4. I do have a lot of thinking to do. Actually, each service is a separate component. I was just thinking people might want to bundle them, and I need to account for that. For instance, I offer website reviews/critiques, but someone might want to bundle the service with a consultation or coaching session. I don’t plan to include many action steps with a review – a review would basically be me acting as an editor. For action steps and brainstorming, a paid consultation or coaching session would be required.

  5. This was an excellent article. My husband is dealing with this issue right now. When my husband started consulting a few months ago, we felt desperate he wanted to lower his rate to something CRAZY. Like less than 100 dollars an hour. He used to charge 200 or 300. I convinced him to raise it slightly but now we find out that the company he is consulting for wondered why he was so cheap. DOH!!!

    • Yes, pricing yourself too low can definitely plant a seed of suspicion in the customers mind. It’s very hard to find a sweet spot, especially when you need the money.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and glad you found this useful!

  6. Hi Ameena,

    I’m thinking right now that I shouldn’t be doing a sale for my services (when they launch). I’ve been reading up on what Robert Dempsey has to say, and what you’ve bee writing earlier, and I’m a little afraid that if I use a sale to attract (new) customers, they’ll start to expect a lower price. But, I’ve been thinking about doing the first product / service for free or at a discount, and then they’ll pay full price for the next one.

    I believe that it’s very important to be 100% honest with your customers and have a very good communication and relationship with them, and doing sales for me, would probably mess things up (I’m not good at dealing with prices and saying no) 🙂

    Thanks a lot for sharing this Ameena. It’s a lot of help.

    • YAY! I’m so happy that you are coming around to the idea that you don’t have to work for free AND that you need to charge what you are worth from the beginning!!!!

      Sounds like you have a sound action plan Jens! Go get them!!!!

  7. I like your point about offering a sale ONLY to a select special few. I feel like this is so much more genuine. And it also avoids the whole business sluttery idea you always talk about lol. Thanks for your ideas Ameena. You’re always awesome.

  8. YES no matter what we cannot come from a place of fear with these kinds of ideas. People can sense it a mile away and they still stay away like the plague.

    Come from a place of excitement about those amazing peeps we help, and what they’d really really benefit from… and boom you’ve got a special that will rock.

    Of course, I learned this marketing genius from the master!!

    Hugs and love,


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