To Sell More, Open Up About Costs

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Running your own small business or side hustle can often feel like that old saying about swans: calm about water, but furiously paddling underneath. Your instinct is likely to conceal all the work and investment you pour into your product or profile. After all, you have to appear like a competent adult worthy of being paid. New research suggests we might not need to rely so much on showmanship, however.


Researchers from Harvard Business School and the University of San Francisco have just published a paper on cost transparency and how it affects sales. When sellers voluntarily share with customers what it costs to deliver their product or service, consumers became more than 20 percent more interested in purchasing their offerings. As coauthor Ryan Buell puts it, "Cost transparency represents an act of intimate disclosure and fosters trust. Heightened trust enhances consumers' willingness to purchase from a business."

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This might include sharing the cost of craft supplies or produce on your website, or publicizing how many different artisans or suppliers one purchase supports. This also applies to knowledge work: A client isn't just paying for one service, they're paying for access to years of schooling, practice, and expertise. All of that can help you figure out what you should (and can) charge.


According to the study's authors, "the proactive revelation of costs can improve a company's bottom line." Even if you're asking for more than the customer or client expects, you're building a relationship by showing how far their dollar will go.