Are you ready to have your mind blown by the concept of day rates?
You should be, because this interview is amazing!
I recently sat down with Sarah of Bracken House Branding and learned all about day rates for services, and after our conversation, I’m 100% planning on using them in my own business after having my first kid (due in July!).
I LOVE this concept, especially if you’re looking to work fewer days per week, or want to work more vacations into your schedule.
You definitely don’t want to miss this episode, listen in or pop through the transcript (if that’s your jam) to learn all about incorporating day rates in your own creative business!
Erin Flynn: Hey there, Erin here, and today I am joined by Sarah Masci. She has 15 years of branding and design experience and is a leader in the online industry for clients who are looking for high quality digital design. As the founder of Book Me For a Day, which is her signature one day intensive program, she thrives on compressing professional branding, web, and digital design into one day versus weeks or months. I’m so excited for you to hear this interview. It is so excellent. Full of incredible takeaways on how to create your own day rate service. Trust me, even if this is not something you’re currently considering, you probably will be by the end. Let’s go ahead and dive into the episode.
Erin Flynn: Sarah, thank you for being here.
Sarah Masci: Thank you Erin. I’m excited to be here. I’m glad to have this conversation with you.
Erin Flynn: All right, so let’s dive straight into the questions. I know people are like, “How the heck do you do this all in a day?” So can you first explain what exactly is a day rate and how have you used them in your business to be successful and actually get things done inside of short period of time?
Sarah Masci: Yeah, so a day rate is really basically someone paying you a flat fee upfront, like ahead of time they’re going to book you for one day, and you’re basically promising them your time for the day. So you’re not really promising them any set of deliverables, although you want to set their expectations with what they can expect to receive. But the key distinguishing factor is that they’re booking you for the day, not the deliverables. So they might want a website, and they will book you for day and you can get three or four pages of that website done, and that’s awesome. If they need something more elaborate than they might need to book you for two days or a day and a half. So again, they’re booking you for the day and the client for this is someone looking for quick turnaround. They want to be involved in the process, and they’re willing to pay a little bit more for that quick turnaround and for the ability to be involved in the process and get the results so quickly.
Erin Flynn: So I would imagine that this attracts the kind of client who I would say they want that quick turnaround, but they’re probably really, really looking for a solution, and they’re like, “This is how I get this done quickly. This is how I solve my problem.” Is that accurate?
Sarah Masci: Yeah. Yeah. Most of these clients are people who they just want it done. They’re not the type of clients that are going to micromanage. They’re not really nit picky. I mean you will have some clients and they like the process because they can be involved. Then you have the other clients who are just like, “Yes, I’ve seen your work. I loved your work, I trust you. I’ve seen your results and testimonials. I know that you’re going to do what I need you to do,” and they just let you have at it and get it done in a day.
Erin Flynn: I have a lot of designers in my audience and I know that you’re a designer, so I’m assuming a lot of people listening are like, “Ooh, I could do branding in a day, or maybe a website in a day.” But are there other types of businesses besides just design that this works well for?
Sarah Masci: Yeah. I’ve seen copywriters, pretty much any done-for-you consultants, so whether you’re a copywriter of BA, there’s a lot of BA’s that are trying to kind of transition into design, or they get thrown into design by the people that they’re working for, and then they realized that they enjoy the design part of their job and so they become designers. So BA’s, marketing strategists, Facebook ad strategists, copywriters. I mean, I’ve had interior designers who have been interested in this. Interior designers and personal fashion designers where they work with clients for a day and help them do a complete wardrobe makeover. So it really can work for anybody who’s doing in person or done-for-you one-on-one services like that.
Erin Flynn: I love it. So I guess the next logical question is how the heck to organize everything that you need to do in that day before that day gets here. Because you, you have to have systems in place obviously, right?
Sarah Masci: Yeah, yeah. So the first time I launched to this, it was just on a whim. It was a very spur of the moment, aha idea. I shared it in Facebook and I had somebody booked me right away, and as soon as she booked me I realized I don’t have systems in place. I’m not prepared. What do I send her? How do I make sure I have everything. So I’ve put together… Over time, I mean, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been running these. And so now I have a full like foolproof blueprint of documents and files and where things go. So I have my clients do homework before the intensive. So basically they book me and then they get a whole onboarding kit, which has links to do my mini branding course because I want them to get clear on their brand vision before our day together. So that come that day, I’m ready to get to work on the brand or the website. And they’ve already done all of… It’s basically comparable to your branding questionnaire or your website questionnaire, but I give them all of that prep.
Erin Flynn: Do you ever have problems with people not doing the homework in time or beforehand and then how do you deal with it if they don’t?
Sarah Masci: I mean, what it comes down is if they don’t do the homework, then I can’t be very productive on our intensive. And so these clients understand that they’re paying good money for this day together. So I’m not attracting the slacker client who isn’t going to do their homework.
Erin Flynn: I like that. And I think the key here is that this attracts a person who is ready to get it done, which probably prevents a lot of issues from coming up in terms of indecisiveness and not completing homework that I know a lot of my web designer students are probably like, “Oh I have to get clients to give me content.” And that’s like pulling teeth. But if they’ve only got one day and they have to have everything done…
Sarah Masci: This just happened to me just last week or the week before, I had one client and with everything going on right now in the world, everybody’s a little distracted, and she wasn’t getting her prep work done, and we pushed it out. I gave her some forgiveness and let her reschedule it even though she technically shouldn’t have, but with everything going on.
Sarah Masci: And so then we had our kickoff call and we went over everything. She still didn’t have her copy written for the website, and I was like, “I need it tomorrow morning. I’m going to be starting bright and early. I knew that copy.” So I sat down at my computer that morning to start working and we had a shared Google doc where all her copy was, and I could see her in there typing on the Google doc at 6:00 AM to get ready for our day together. So she made it happen. She should pull it off, and at the end of the day we had a full website done. So these clients, I mean, they’re going to do what it takes because they know that they’ve just got that one day with you.
Erin Flynn: I think this could be such a great solution for so many creative business owners who work with clients who tend to need too much handholding or a lot of extra time to do things. Instead this just weeds down to the people who are like, “I want it. I’m doing it. Even if I have to get up super early and get it done the day of.” These are motivated clients, which I think is such a cool thing because so many times in whatever industry we’re in, I think we’re trying to make the sale. We’re trying to convince somebody of why they need to hire us, and in this case it’s like we’ve got the solution and they’re ready for it. And so it’s just a different type of person that you’re attracting, which I think is so cool.
Sarah Masci: Yeah, and I didn’t even put a whole lot of thought into it when I first started off. I started offering it more for me. I just needed this solution because I didn’t like projects that dragged on for six weeks, six months, a year, two years. I mean, I had one project that dragged down for almost two years when I was just over it. I was done. And so I realized I liked to work very focused, very intensely, and like these quick bursts, and then go away for a week if I want to, or take…
Sarah Masci: Like in the summer, I take weeks off at a with my kids because I compress all of my intensives into just a few days a month and then I have the rest of the month to go to the pool or go to the beach or do whatever with my boys, so I did it for me, but now looking back, clients love it, and I’m always booked out several months in advance because everybody wants to get in on this because they love how quick it is. They love just knowing exactly like we’re going to start in the morning and at the end of the day I can expect to have this much work done and whenever I get on discovery costs with clients, I’m still amazed by how many clients tell me how brilliant the concept is, and they just have never seen it before and they just love it so much. And that’s pretty much what sells, a lot of them. It’s just the whole concept.
Erin Flynn: I love it, personally. And we had chatted last week before this interview, and I like bombarded you with questions because this is something that I want to do, especially once I have my first child and I have a baby. I think for me it would be very difficult to have those three-month projects, but being able to compress something down into a day or two and still deliver something to my clients that’s going to be great quality, great value for them. But it’s just maybe structured in a different way is like, “Yes I need this, and I’m so happy I’ve met Sarah.”
Sarah Masci: I love it. And like I said, just knowing that at the end of the day you’re done with that client and if they want to keep working with you, they’re going to pay you again for another day. You don’t pay, you’re not obligated to keep doing anything really. And just knowing on the weekends I don’t have to be worrying about a deadline, or I did a project on Friday and it was done, and I don’t ever have to think about it again. So even if you have a bad client, it’s only one day, and then you’re done. You never have to work with them again. You’re not stuck with somebody for three months or more on that never ending project. And there’s no scope creep. Like they can’t really keep coming back and asking for changes because your day is over.
Erin Flynn: Yes. That’s another great point because oh my gosh, the scope creep is such a thing. Especially when you have those longer projects where they have all of this time where they might change their mind. They might show their branding to their mom and their mom goes, “Oh, I don’t like it,” even though their moms not the target audience. I know people listening have had that problem, where the client just totally changes their mind and they have to figure out how to restructure basically the entire project and deal with that scope creep and this just… It’s not possible at all. It’s so cool. We’ve talked about how this attracts the right kind of client, but have you had any issues with people not making decisions quickly or does it just tend to force them to?
Sarah Masci: I really haven’t had any major issues with indecisive clients. I did have one client that took a few hours to make a decision on a logo, but they know that going in, and I tell them upfront, I say, “If we spend too long on any one piece of the project, then that’s going to take away from what’s available at the end of the day to to get more work done. So just knowing that prevents them from really getting too wishy washy. I mean it’s still the logo is like the one main thing that people sometimes get hung up on, and if we take a couple of hours to do it, that’s fine. But yeah, I really haven’t had problems with indecisive people and like I said, a lot of them are people who just trust me and have seen my work and know that what I’m going to create, they’re going to be happy with. And so far, so good.
Erin Flynn: Awesome. So have there been any other problems that you’ve run into or that maybe anybody listening you considering this should be aware of before they go head first into offering day rates?
Sarah Masci: Yeah, just really practice ahead of time. Figure out what you’re capable of getting done in a day. You want to test your own skills and abilities and how fast you work. Because I’ve been doing this for 15 years, I’m pretty fast, and I can get a lot done. Typically I can do a four to five page website in a day now, but it’s from years of practice. So getting clear on what you can do is really important. Setting clear boundaries with your clients and really establishing all of the boundaries up front.
Sarah Masci: I did have one client, they booked me with a deposit way back when I first started offering these, and then my rates were a lot lower. They kept canceling or postponing and postponing, postponing, and before I knew it had been like nine months since they originally paid their deposit. Well, nine months later my rates had gone up quite a bit, but they still wanted me to honor what they paid for their original deposit. It was like, “All right, I can’t charge them what I was charging way back then because it’s not my fault they kept not being ready.” So writing that kind of stuff into your contract, making sure your contract clearly outlines what they’re getting, what they’re actually paying you for cancellation, policy, all that kind of stuff.
Erin Flynn: Clients’ expectations. So important no matter what it is you’re offering. All right, so I guess the next question is, people are wondering like, “Okay, well if this is only a day, if I’m building a website in a day, or I’m doing branding in a day, or I’m doing maybe sales page copy in a day, can I actually charge a premium price for that, even though it’s only one day?”
Sarah Masci: Yeah, I get that a lot from people, but you have to remember that they’re also paying for the convenience of getting it done in a day. I used to charge more for my six-month project, or they were supposed to be like a six-week project. It would turn into six months and I charged more for the same approximate amount of website size that I charge for my one day. So I charge $2,000 for my one day intensive as of this recording. I used to charge anywhere from 2,500 to $4,000 for a website on the old model. You know how that goes, and how it gets stretched out, and there’s scope creep. And before you know it, you’re waiting six months to get paid $3,000, whereas now I’m getting $2,000 in one day.
Sarah Masci: But your clients are paying for that convenience to have it done in a day. They want it. Have you ever seen the Matrix where you can have like good, fast, or cheap, you can pick two, you can’t have all three or something like that? And so mine is really you want to be good and fast, and that is a premium price. It’s not cheap. But that’s really where you want to be is the premium pricing because you’re really good and you’re really fast.
Erin Flynn: I love that. So what would you say is the biggest benefit to switching to this model from someone who’s maybe doing a project that takes 4, 8, 12 weeks currently.
Sarah Masci: Just knowing that you can go to bed at the end of the day and you don’t have anything hanging over you, you can literally shut your work down for a week at a time and not worry about anyone meeting you or asking for whatever. So really, yeah. It’s just a freedom to be able to work when I want, and I can plan way ahead. I already know exactly what days I’m going to be working in April, May, June, and then I can decide in July if we’re going to be going on vacation these weeks, then I can plan ahead and not have to stress about income or being able to take time off.
Erin Flynn: You know, that feeling, I’m sure everybody listening does, when you finish a project, you’re just like, “It’s done. I’m done with this work. I’m done with this client, at least for now.” That’s like the best… Can you imagine, everybody listening, having that after working with them for one day and you’re just like, “I’m done. There’s so much freedom.” I just think this is like the coolest thing in allowing you to structure your business basically around your life. Choosing I’m going to work a couple of days and then maybe be available for my kids, or be available to travel. I think this just gives you so much more freedom than a traditional two or three months long project just makes really difficult. Not that people don’t make it work, but it’s just a lot harder when you’re constantly tied to answering clients for a longer period of time.
Sarah Masci: Yeah, and one of the other things I actually forgot to mention, one of the really great benefits, is once I started doing this, and I only was working one or two days a week… My kids are all in school five days a week. So it’s not like I have babies at home with me. They leave in the morning 8:00, and they’re home at 3:34. So I have all day every day to work. So even though I’m only intensives one or two days a week, I now have three days a week to focus on other more scalable revenue streams. So I’ve been able to create digital products, I’ve been able to create courses, I created a membership, and none of that would have been possible under my old business model when I was felt like I was working all day every day, jumping between four or five clients a day, I never had the time or the brain capacity to focus on creating something for myself and for my own business because I was always creating for my clients. I have more income coming in from other revenue streams that never would have been possible.
Erin Flynn: So I’ve mentioned that I’m going to be testing out this model soon since I’m expecting a baby, and what you’ve mentioned is I do this thing where I switch back and forth between working with clients because I tend to do very large complicated strategy with my current clients, which is great, and it does take time. But when I’m doing that I can’t be creating a course at the same time. I can’t be giving as much attention to people in my membership at the same time. I can’t split my brain that way, and I imagine when I have a child it will be even more difficult. So I just feel like this model gives so much freedom, and yes I will have to change my business working with clients and how that works quite a bit.
Erin Flynn: But I think that for me going forward, that makes a lot of sense. And for my clients it can work really, really well for them too. It’s not like I’m giving them a lesser product, I’m just giving them a slightly different one, and attracting a slightly different audience that doesn’t want to work with me for three months. They want to get online, or they want to make changes quickly, which is totally fine. It’s just some slight repositioning to make something that was going to work so much better for me so I’m not trying to do too many things at once.
Sarah Masci: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, as when we’re trying to do and juggle different clients, and course creation, and families, and all of the things, it’s very overwhelming and exhausting. But yeah, it’s just nice to be able to spend a whole day and focus on that one thing and not have to shift your focus and your brain at all.
Erin Flynn: What would someone who’s currently considering a day rate model… How should they get started? What should they do right now? What would be a good action step for them to take after listening to this?
Sarah Masci: I think the first thing that I recommend everyone do is validate if it’s going to work for you. And in order to do that, think about… First of all, you’ve got to be in a position where you have clients. You need to have clients in order to make it work, obviously. So it’s not the best fit for someone who is brand new and has no idea how to get clients because your focus really shouldn’t be on sales and getting clients at the beginning. It should be more based on your reputation and pulling in those repeat clients or referrals. But then you want to really test out your skills and your abilities, and figure out what you are capable of doing in a day.
Sarah Masci: And it needs to be something like sure, we’re all these magical unicorns who can do all different things. But if you’re going to be offering a one-day intensive, it needs to be something that you really, really, truly enjoy doing. Something that you’d asked to do a lot and something that you’re good at and that you can do pretty quickly, because that’s really what’s going to make it work. And if you’re going to spend eight hours a day on something, like you don’t want it to be something that doesn’t really fulfill you. So I just recommend testing out…
Sarah Masci: One of my first ones was someone… She had a punch list of a whole bunch of different things she wanted done. She was a previous client, so I had already built her website, but she wanted a whole bunch of edits, and the thought of going through her punch list and her email and itemizing every little thing that she wanted done, I was just like, “Well, just give me a day, and I’ll just do it all. Just pay me a flat day rate and I’ll get it all done. That way I don’t have to waste an hour writing a proposal for you. We don’t have to like do all of this back and forth.” And so she was on board with it, and so I did it, and it was done. And then I did that again for a couple of other clients, and that’s what validated it for me. So I knew what I can do, I knew how fast I could work, and those were repeat clients and a few referral clients.
Erin Flynn: That’s excellent. So let’s wrap that up in a bow and say test things out and see what you’re asked for and what you can deliver in a day, and then maybe start to formulate what your actual service would be from that. Does that sound concise?
Sarah Masci: Yup. Yeah, so figure out what that perfect offer is, and then also figuring out what you’re going to charge for it.
Erin Flynn: All right, Sarah, thank you so much. I’m sure we ran a little bit long because this was so good, but I think that we have some awesome takeaways as well as the next step for everybody. So thank you again so much for joining us. I’m excited to get a day rate in my business, and I’m sure all of my listeners are too.
Sarah Masci: Thank you, Erin. I appreciate it.
Erin Flynn: All right, listeners, so if you want to learn more about the life changing magic of day rates, check out Sarah’s free training here. (affiliate link)