Dan Mall, Founder, SuperFriendly. Co-founder & CEO, SuperBooked. Author, Pricing Design.

Dan Mall, Founder, SuperFriendly. Co-founder & CEO, SuperBooked. Author, Pricing Design.

What does it take to get the work you want, and charge what it’s worth?

Dan Mall, Founder of SuperFriendly, Co-founder / CEO of SuperBooked and author of Pricing Design, has a theory. He believes success lies in positioning and pricing. To get the work you want, it’s important to narrow your focus to attract the right clients, price yourself appropriately and speak confidently about the value you deliver. We caught up with him for insights on how shops can set themselves apart to realize long-term gains.

Like anything worth doing, the process isn’t easy. It takes real work and commitment to see results. It’s likely you’ll suffer a few losses. But a few months from now, you’ll be in a better place than if you did nothing at all. Curious how to get started?

More Than Your Average Agency

Not so long ago, shops touted “web design and development,” and were able to charge a premium for it. With fewer shops in the mix, no template sites and few DIY options, it wasn’t a negative to say you did it all.

Today, the landscape has shifted, adding new technologies, opportunities and service providers to the mix. Increasingly, successful shops are making a name for themselves by carving out a unique niche. They're differentiating what they do and how they do it.


Ready to set yourself apart? Join us at Owner Camp for more strategies on differentiation and pricing.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

So how do you go about defining your positioning? How do you get started? Dan recommends asking yourself three questions:

  1. What does your agency do better than any other agency in the world?

  2. If all your bills were paid for in perpetuity, what kind of work would your agency be doing?

  3. What work are your clients asking you for?

The better your answers align, the better your positioning. Dan uses a colorful example to illustrate:

“If you 1) build apps for cat lovers better than anyone else, 2) love building apps for cat lovers and 3) you’re booked solid until the end of next year building apps for cat lovers, chances are pretty high that you’re running a lucrative business that you only love. If instead you 1) do editorial illustration better than anyone but 2) you’d really love to be stop motion animation and 3) your clients are coming to you for WordPress sites, you’re likely either not very happy with your work situation or you’re having trouble making ends meet financially.”

If your answers are way out of alignment, it’s time to rework your positioning. You can put in the work to specialize, try to find something few are doing or start filtering by geography, vertical or any number of criteria.

Pricing with Confidence

“If you’re not positioned well, you can’t price well.” — Dan Mall

Once you have your positioning down, it’s time for pricing. Value pricing is one tool that shops can use to set themselves apart and help close deals. A common trick of the trade is “Goldilocks Pricing,” or offering three options. When you offer multiple options instead of one, you shift the conversation from yes or no to one about value. You’re saying, “Let me show you all the ways we can be valuable.”

Taking Short-Term Losses for Long-Term Gains

Okay, so you’ve refined your positioning. You’ve adjusted your pricing strategy. You’re ready for new, exciting projects and new, exciting profits. Then reality hits. You’re going to lose business. You’re going to lose people. It’s going to be hard.

What kind of losses can you expect? As Dan says, they typically fall into three categories:

  • Losing services: turning down projects to free up room for others

  • Losing clients: losing business when you no longer offer the same services

  • Losing people: parting ways when it’s no longer a good fit

Why do it? To use Dan’s definition, “A [good] investment is a small, short-term loss...in order to achieve a large, long-term gain.”

A Future Worth Fighting For

Simply stated, you can’t stay the same forever. If your current positioning or pricing isn’t yielding the returns you’re looking for, it’s time to make a change. Sure, it’s hard to say “no” to work coming in the door, or to lose clients, people or profits. But invest in your business now, and the initial struggle will pay dividends. Position and price your shop for growth and get the work—and business—you always wanted.