The context effect is an aspect of cognitive psychology that explains how the context in which we observe things (such as environmental and other similar factors) influences how we perceive them. For example, when you see your neighbor — whom you’ve always seen as the average guy — suddenly surrounded and admired by celebrities and big politicians, your opinion of your neighbor suddenly changes… even if nothing changed about him.
A notable experiment on how context effect works in psychology is the Beer on the Beach Experiment by Richard Thaler. For the experiment, people were asked how much they will offer for a cold bottle of their favorite brand of beer if they were lying on the beach on a hot day. When told the beer will be gotten from a fancy resort hotel, people offered to pay $2.65 on average. When told, however, that the beer will be gotten from a small, run-down grocery store, people offered to pay $1.50 on average.
Why is there such a stark difference in the price people were willing to pay for the same bottle of beer? Psychology shows us that this is the context effect in action. We have different mental models of a fancy resort hotel versus the average grocery store; one connotes luxury while the other connotes affordability, and people made their decision on how much to pay accordingly.
How to Use the Context Effect as a Freelance Writer
As we can see from Richard Thaler’s Beer on the Beach Experiment, the real cost of goods and services isn’t influenced by actual value. It is influenced by perceived value. This is why people were readily willing to pay almost double for the same beer just because it is coming from a fancy hotel resort instead of from a run-down grocery store.
Many freelancers make the mistake of working merely on perceived actual value. It won’t matter much if you don’t value your own work or you won’t give your perceived value a boost. Here are some tips to increase your perceived value:
- Get Past Clients to Endorse You: Assuming you know your stuff and have been offering and delivering real value to your clients, you can take advantage of this fact to improve your perceived value, too. Request that past clients endorse you and help you by giving testimonials or other forms of endorsements as testament to the fact that you know your stuff. Potential clients will see this effort from your past clients on your behalf and suddenly perceive you to be more qualified.
- Do Regular case Studies Showcasing Client Results: So there’s a client who got a 3,700 ROI from your design? A client who boosted sales by 10 percent by using your copy? A client who got a million dollars in funding thanks to your work? These clients probably gushed in happiness telling you about their results, and you probably let things end there. Now, take things to the next level by asking them for permission to do a case study based on their success. When potential clients see these successes, their perception of you will suddenly increase and you can command a greater income.
- Get Social Proof by Getting Featured on Top Blogs and Publications: Identify and locate the biggest publications, blogs and media platforms in your industry. Get featured in these publications (either by being interviewed, quoted or even writing a guest post) and showcase this fact glaringly and boldly across your site and to potential clients. This will allow former and future clients to see your worth and take you more seriously.