Words by Nikki Anderson-Stanier, Visuals by Austin Smoldt-Sáenz
The first article in this series explores how I planted the seeds for a successful research business, starting with writing articles, offering courses, and then kicking off free mentorship sessions. This is the second installment, where I walk through how I decided on my pricing model.
I started my free courses and mentorship with a voracity I couldn't believe. After not being super interested in many full-time roles a few months prior, I was at once entranced.
I loved teaching people user research at the beginning and more advanced levels. It was so gratifying to have a mentee come to me with a problem and for us to work through it together. More than that, it was amazing to watch them work through a similar problem on their own.
It felt like I was giving people something they could use repeatedly. I wasn't just helping them solve their problems but changing their mindset and helping them to think differently. Those hour-long 1x1 sessions raced by. Before I knew it, three months had passed.
My struggle with pricing
At this point, I was still doing my mentorship and my courses on the side of my full-time job. I was also creating templates for my students and mentees to use.
After some time, my husband turned to me and asked me why I was doing it for free. Why don't I try charging? Maybe it could be something more.
From when I was younger, I struggled with asking people for things—whether for help on homework, a spare pencil, or a specific birthday gift (even when asked). I constantly felt like I was burdening people.
Well, come to find out, that insecurity nestled right into my husband's question.
I felt terrible whenever I considered asking people for payment in exchange for my money. It dredged up so much self-doubt, like:
- Am I good enough to charge people for advice?
- Should I even be charging people for advice?
- Who am I to charge money for my time?
- What if people don't want to work with me anymore?
- What if people think it's stupid that I am charging for my time?
- What if I get ostracized from the community, and no one ever wants to talk to me again? (Yes, that thought crossed my mind)
These thoughts circulated for months in my head, banging around and causing many headaches.
Did I want to charge money for my time? Well, the answer was yes.
I dedicated a lot of time to my students. My 1x1 classes were long, and everyone got weekly feedback on their homework. Sometimes that meant listening to eight hour-long interviews a week and providing tips and improvements.
My mentees got a heightened level of feedback. They could submit anything, and I would get them detailed feedback within 24 hours. This meant that mentees could send me something every weekday, and I'd spend the time looking it over and providing comments and suggestions.
It was a lot of work. And a lot of time. Not only that, but I was helping others ad-hoc by reviewing work on LinkedIn or answering someone's questions via email.
It got to a point where I felt like, between this and work, I wasn't doing anything else with my time. As a result, my social life floundered. It was time for boundaries—but I still wanted to help people. So finally, after months, I cracked.
pricing—especially when you are pricing yourself—is not an easy
process. It takes a lot of work and exploration of any insecurities you
might hold on to your value and worth.
Founder, User Research Academy
Figuring out a pricing model
I am not a business expert and certainly not a pricing model expert, but that was the first thing I had to do when starting to charge. I still hate determining pricing to this day, but it's part of the game. Slowly, I have become better at this.
The first thing I did was recognize I wanted several tiers in my business:
- Free content that was forever free and accessible
- Low-level price ranges
- Mid-level price ranges
- High-level price ranges
This breakdown is still one I use today. You can find a lot of free content from me because I believe sharing is caring. All my articles, the majority of templates (although some are behind an email wall because, hey, that's part of a business), my bi-weekly newsletter, my podcast, and (limited) emails or LinkedIn messages I send to people with questions are all free.
It was essential to keep knowledge accessible, but I also recognized that my time was just as important, so I used the amount of time people got with me to help me determine what went in my other tiers.
✻ Lower-level price content
Back when I started, I offered a few lower-level priced services. These included services under £100 and usually meant limited time with me or smaller services.
Under this price range, I offer services like a case study starter kit, a whiteboard challenge course, skill development webinars, and a user research membership.
These are all pre-recorded or template kits, except for the user research membership, which has group time with me!
✻ Mid-level priced content
I defined mid-level price content by courses or services that took much longer to create or had more 1x1 time with me. These services or courses can range anywhere between £100 to £1,000.
My user research course was the first thing I decided to tackle under mid-level pricing. I was getting hundreds of people to sign up for my course's waitlist. At the rate I was going, it would take me years to get through all the people who wanted to join.
I finally bit the bullet and decided to make it into a self-paced course. Yes, it took away the personalized aspect, but it allowed many more people to learn. It was one of the best decisions I ever made because instead of the eight people I could support, the course now has hundreds of people benefitting from it.
Although it was difficult to move toward a less personalized setup regarding courses, it gave me more time to give to my higher-priced content.
✻ High-level price ranges
This tier was the most difficult for me to set up because it holds services that are over £1,000. However, these are my most personalized services. Like I said before, I give everything to these services.
For instance, in my 1x1 mentorship, my mentees have access to me every weekday for six months. That's about 130 days of me in your back pocket to help with any questions you might have, documents you need feedback on, or struggles you encounter. Some of my students send me multiple pieces of work or questions a day.
My group masterminds are similar, but instead of bi-weekly 1x1 sessions, there are bi-weekly group sessions. And I’m not able to give personalized feedback, but I help daily with questions or struggles between sessions.
How I decided on my pricing
As you might tell, I decided on my pricing based on my time, which has taken me some time to admit is valuable.
For my self-paced courses, I ask myself:
- How much time did I spend creating the course and content?
- How much long-term value can the person get from the course (through lifetime access)?
For my more personalized services, I ask myself:
- How much time do I dedicate to the person (on a weekly average)?
- How much value is that person getting from me on a daily/weekly basis?
- How much personalized feedback is this person getting from me?
- How much 1x1 time to ask questions or get input is this person getting from me?
These questions help me determine the different price ranges for my particular content and services.
If you want to get into coaching or consultancy, I recommend this approach. First, determine your hourly rate and calculate, on average, how much time you will have to spend on the content or service. This approach means you are getting paid fairly for your time and will avoid breeding resentment.
Also, I do a ton of market research and highly recommend looking around at similar people. If they don't have their prices listed, you can shoot them a message and ask!
I do have one last comment on pricing. Because I have decided to charge people, I now can't help everyone I used to. Some people I am unable to help with my more personalized content because of the price.
That was a tough pill to swallow, so I have been strict about producing as much free content as possible. While I may be unable to help everyone with my mentorship, I still ensure my free articles and templates have as much actionable content as possible.
Additionally, I have various parity discounts people can use on my courses if they live in a country where the exchange rate is not excellent. This choice took some time, but I feel very good about it. Although it doesn't help people specifically with certain high-ticket services, it might help them get access to one of my courses.
Overall, pricing—especially when you are pricing yourself—is not an easy process. It takes a lot of work and exploration of any insecurities you might hold on to your value and worth.
However, money is a critical factor if you’re interested in running a business. I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't charge for my time. And if you’re interested in starting your company, know that your time is worth it.
Tune in next time for the ins-and-outs of how I market myself and my business!
Nikki Anderson-Stanier is the founder of User Research Academy and a qualitative researcher with 9 years in the field. She loves solving human problems and petting all the dogs.
To get even more UXR nuggets, check out her user research membership, follow her on LinkedIn, or subscribe to her Substack.