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The “Getting What You’re Worth” Story – Part One

GWYW - The Big Secret

I was recently asked, “…what is the back story to GWYW? When did you first think of it in those terms. When did you write it and first present it?”

For those of you who don’t know the answer, I’ll write about it here…

Rebecca and I enjoyed professional careers prior to starting our mobile DJ business, which specialized primarily in weddings.

She was the Administrative Director of the largest and most prestigious architectural and design firm in the world: Gensler and Associates ( There, she arranged and planned all high-level events, dinner, and meetings, and directed the administration of the Denver office.

I had earned my livelihood in the entertainment industry – from theme parks, radio, TV, voice-over, and nightclubs.

All this to say that we were used to being paid well for our work – very well. I believe that was the genesis of “Getting What You’re Worth.”

When Rebecca and I decided to go into business together (because we truly wanted to be together all of the time, and do something meaningful), we not only chose something romantic, but we also intended to replace our professional salaries (at the very least).

We gave ourselves no other choice — no “plan B.” So we committed to that goal. Sink or swim.

I scribbled a business plan out on a legal pad, which, among other things, outlined estimated number of events times a price that would bring us the gross income we desired. The number in 1989 was $575 + $175/hour after 4 hours’ performance time. Our first contract was for $750.00 in 1989.

We soon discovered that $575 was not enough, and that we were working too hard/often, so we raised our prices to $675 base, then soon after that $750, then $950, and by 1994, we were at $1200 + $250/hour after 4 hours – 2 speaker cabinets, sound system only (no up-sells or extra gear).

The price of $1200 caught the attention of vendors and other DJs because it was about 3 times what others were charging. We were unaware of what other DJs were charging … or doing for that matter. We were content in what we were doing and the lifestyle we were enjoying.

A variety of people in the business told us that we were charging too much and that we would go out of business, yada, yada, yada. But, clients continued to call and hire us … and we kept raising our rates.

In 1996, a local DJ association president called to ask me to speak to their group about how I “could charge so much,” and I agreed to speak to the group. I’d never done anything like that. I didn’t know that a mobile DJ association existed. Suddenly, I had to figure out what to tell them. How DID I charge so much? I just did it. But I couldn’t very well tell them that! I had to find a way to explain it.

So I put on my thinking cap and scrawled some ideas on a piece of notebook paper and showed up at the meeting. I had written things that were in my business plan like number of events and weekends, gross income goals, vacation time, justifications based on my experience and pay scale in the entertainment industry, etc.

I truly felt that I wasn’t telling them anything new or anything they hadn’t thought of before … but when I was done, the room exploded in applause and I was inundated with questions.

Continued in Part Two

©2014 Mark K. Ferrell



  1. The “Getting What You’re Worth” Story – Part Two - October 20

    […] Continued from Part One… […]

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