if it works for William Shatner… or – why I chose “name your own price”

If it works for William Shatner, surely, it will for me.


About halfway through the development phase of my last digital guide, The Art of Earning, I was in an all-out mind battle about what to charge (or to charge at all) for it. This wasn’t a “pick a high number and stick a 7 on the end” kind of deal.

This was a deeply personal book but one I knew could help a lot of people.

And I wanted it to help a lot of people.

In the shower – where else? – it hit me. Name your own price.

Here’s why:

Free is great but investing in yourself is better.

I love free content. And I produce a hell of a lot of it. But at some point, free content becomes something you consume mindlessly. You might find an idea or two “nice” but act on the main principles? Honestly answer the questions contained therein? Nope. No way.

It’s too easy to think the answer is in the next piece of free content.

Investing in a product – even as little as $5 – helps you pay attention to the ideas at hand and take concrete action based on those ideas. Investing in a product is very much about investing in you & your business.

Ben Bernanke isn’t the only guy concerned about inflation.

You don’t have to be chief of the Fed to be concerned about price inflation. While there are many stellar digital programs that deserve to be priced in the top-tier of information, there are many which do not. There are some 50 page pdfs that deserve to be priced at $50, $100, or ever $200. That’s the kind of value they provide. That’s the exception, not the rule.

The Art of Earning is not those books. Yes, I believe that if you apply the principles to an active reevaluation of your relationship with money, you’ll have the capacity to make tens of thousands of more dollars per year quickly. But you’re going to have to do a heckuva lot more work to build your business than I did to write that book.

I could have made the price much higher. Maybe I still will. But I’m happy with the price as it is.

Everyone needs an exercise in gratitude.

Especially me. Had my money workout not been so total & complete, it would be easy for me to look at the smaller payments that come in as proof that people just want things cheap, that a steal is even better than a deal.

But honestly? That’s not my reaction. It’s been one of gratitude. Seeing $5, $7, or $8.44 payments roll in has left me feeling warm – not cold. I haven’t been focused on the difference between the “real price” and the price paid, I’ve accepted the enormous gift of trust & hard-earned coin those customers have been willing to part with.

I’m sure the next question is: will “name your own price” work for me?

Answer: It might.

For name-your-own-price to work for you, you need:

  • A product you can afford to have lower profit margins on. A digital book is a great way to experiment with this model because it’s almost all profit. How could you incorporate a high profit margin product into your business?
  • A reputation of high value. Generally, I would not recommend this pricing structure for those just beginning in business. I have a collection of ebooks and a reputation as a coach & blogger that allows me to trust my customers with pricing a valuable product. Are you building a product/services line that represents high value?
  • A way to capture the leads. I won’t kid you, The Art of Earning has been a great lead generator. Traffic to the blog, sales of other products, speaking gigs, and coaching clients are all up up up since the release of this book. I had a wide & strong platform to support the buzz that I generated through this book and knew how I was going to channel that buzz. If 500 new sales came through your business in a month, how would you continue the customer relationship?

I’m planning interviews with some other entrepreneurs – both product makers & service providers – who have tried this model of pricing. What questions should I ask them? What questions do you still have for me about the name-your-own-price model?

By the way, if you haven’t yet, you can pick up The Art of Earning – and name your own price – right here.

Continue the conversation...

9 comments on “if it works for William Shatner… or – why I chose “name your own price”

  1. Laura says:

    I have my copy of The Art of Earning, still reading and absorbing.

    I would love to know what types of products an artist can offer using this price model. I’m thinking tutorials and patterns, but I’d love to know of other creations that artists have offered on the name-your-own-price model. Also, is it better to make this offer for a limited time, or to always have a product available that customers can price themselves?

    In one comment on DailyWorth, the question was asked how to set the amount to zero for your guide. Is $0.00 a possibility for these types of products for those who want a free product?

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    • tara gentile says:

      Hi Laura! First, thanks for purchasing The Art of Earning.

      Yes, I think tutorials & patterns can be offered as name-your-own-price. But what about digital downloads of your art? (if it’s 2d) Or rendering your art to be used as elements of a website?

      I set the minimum price of my book at $5. I figure that the price of a venti latte is low enough. My suggestion would be to not allow “$0″ as a price because it violates the first tenet of “Invest in yourself” which is very, very important to me.

  2. MJ says:

    You should ask Rebbeca Fine because her Science of Getting Rich for Practical Geniuses course has been set your own tuition since she started it about 7 or 8 years ago and she says people have paid $2 to $1000 for it. I took it a few years ago and it was really good.

    I guess that pricing works for her, but maybe it doesn’t really matter, she says she didn’t set up the site to be a business but it happened by accident when she wanted to share an old book that helped change her life. I’m a musician and keep thinking maybe I can try this too but so far I havent.

    (If it’s not ok to put my affil link to her site in the website box, please remove it.)

  3. Steve Rice says:


    Thanks for sharing your thought process behind name your own price method. It’s really helpful.

    I didn’t know you well when I purchased my copy, but I checked in to you with Bridgette at Intuitive Bridge and she recommended your book.

    Something inside of me (intuition?) told me I needed this book. I read it in 1 day, and was so impacted, I’ve become an affiliate. I am going back and gleaning additional info from the book and really working on changing my mind about money long-term.

    This is a great tool and I love that it has benefited so many people, helped grow your business and brings you joy and gratitude.

    I experienced the same thing when I see smaller commissions come through, it fills me with thankfulness, because I know that my customers will get great value and it may change their lives/businesses.

    Excited about your new live event, hope you can expand them around the country (hint: come to Chicago or Milwaukee) ;)

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. K00kyKelly says:

    I always feel weird about the set your own price model. I remember there was name your own price e-book that I didn’t end up getting. I got too weirded out by deciding the price that I just skipped it all toghther. I can’t even remember what it was, but my inner monologe was going wild: I wouldn’t by it for X, so I should just pay $10 and be done with it and then another part of me going, but technically I can afford it. I’m not making a choice between this and being able to eat or even being able to go out this weekend and then but this is how people get in trouble… they tell themselves that they can afford things and deserve it. But paying people for their work is important. …and so on.

    Something about this book being about the relationship with money kind of broke me out of that. I have a strong desire to do what is “fair” even if that doesn’t exactly have a meaning and varies a lot from person to person. Somehow knowing you set a bottom price of $5 changes the way I feel about it.

  5. Marie Noelle says:

    I know it’s a weird choice but my first product, a short workbook on how to write a communication plan, is a name your own price product.

    I did set a suggested price ($8) with a minimum price at $2. Most people gave between $8-10 for it, no one gave the minimum price.

    Even if this workbook was my first product, I’ve decided to go with this model because I didn’t want the price to be a problem for some people. I think my minimum price of $2 is affordable for everyone but the content of my workbook worths more so I didn’t want to fix the price at $2.

    I knew it was a little bit “dangerous”, especially because some people might know me because of my blog but I’m not a well-known like you are.
    However, if I could go back in time (in June), I would do the exact same thing!

  6. Lea says:

    Hi Tara,

    This is such an interesting topic! I purchased the art of earning from you and I paid $10. The price didn’t feel equivalent to the value I place on you or on what you have to offer, but it did make it possible for me to buy it without checking my budget. This amplified the whole sense of abundance that the guide inspired in me. I feel gratitude toward you for sharing your wisdom and hope to invest a more gracious sum in your coaching services in the new year!

    You know, I just tried a version of this pricing game. I have a client who uses a sliding scale to charge for her dance classes. As she is a client, I always pay on the high end of her scale, yet I had been cutting costs for her on my end (graphic/web design). So, I decided to present her with a sliding scale pay option on the last job that I did for her. (Not quite name your own price.) I haven’t received the check yet. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds!

  7. You should totally interview Radiohead. This price model worked out great for In Rainbows.


    The question of pricing mystifies me. I’m planning an ebook myself and I have no idea how to price it. Your interview will be hugely helpful, as you post has been already. I look forward to it.

    But seriously. Radiohead.

  8. Leah says:

    Wow – not sure how I missed this most interesting concept of naming your own price (albeit alas Mr. Shatner) – I thought priceline was the only one that could do ‘this’ – I simply never thought of offering a product with this method in mind – which makes me ask myself – where the heck have I’ve been!?. [Please don’t answer that peeps] In the voice of the Captain… I.. Must…Review…Rebecca Fine…REM (The Smiles) and my own product (art) pricing! but STAT.

    Yet another mind-blowing Tara-provided thought to ponder upon. Can I say, ‘you rock!?’ more than a million dollars!!!? Oh Heck Yeah!