Yes, You Can Charge More

Marianne Bellotti
11 min readApr 1, 2022

Artists, hustlers, consultants … low earners think about merit, top earners think about networks.

vector created by pikisuperstar

About a month ago my good friend Hillel challenged a bunch of us to use April Fools as an opportunity to publish something we were interested in but wouldn’t normally write about because it didn’t fit our “brand.” The full list of posts from all the writers is at April Cools Club.

I thought about this challenge for a long time because there’s not much that I want to write about that I don’t write about normally. There are of course a few things I am afraid to write about, not because there might be a backlash … actually the opposite. The posts about management and organizational theory always do much much better than my technical content. The audience for them is larger. At the same time the internet is flooded with would be experts on engineering management and armchair startup advice. Some of that stuff ages really badly. I’d prefer to keep this space technical, with the occasional management column when it feels appropriate.

Then in late February I went to London to get a tattoo done by an artist I had been admiring over Instagram for a while. And at the end he asked me “why did you pay me so much?” which was a question that caught me by surprise. I had tagged an extra 25% onto his price quote as a gratuity because he’d invested so much extra time and made the experience special for me. That was generous, but not absurdly or unusually so I thought. There will be no BuzzFeed articles about the tip I left here. This wasn’t $1,000 on a $30 bill or anything. And… sure, it’s not common to tip tattoo artists in the UK so he was surprised and pleased by the tip, he wasn’t confused about what it was until he realized how much money I’d left him.

More to the point, the last tattoo artist I had worked with put in 1/8 the time, thought and effort and charged twice as much! It seemed ridiculous that one artist with real talent, already getting attention from industry magazines and Instagram rebloggers, priced their services at one level, while a less experienced artist in a different city at the beginning of their career priced their services completely differently. I wanted to respond to his question “why are you charging so little?” but I didn’t because I already knew the answer.

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Marianne Bellotti

Author of Kill It with Fire Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones)