What you can learn from a physicist about what you're worth

Maybe it's my southern upbringing, but gosh I hate talking about money with new clients, especially because writing is notoriously difficult to quantify. Ask any copywriter what takes longer—a killer 5-word headline or a 50-word product description—and you'll see why (the killer headline takes way longer). So I loved this nice little story about Niels Bohr, the physicist who basically invented the atomic bomb and quantum mechanics, that I came across recently.

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A company’s machine breaks down. The company’s owner, an old school friend of Niels Bohr, calls in the physicist to help fix it.

Bohr examines the machine. He draws an X on the side and says, "Hit it right here with a hammer."

The company’s mechanic hits the machine with a hammer. It springs into action. The company’s owner thanks Niels Bohr profusely and sends him on his way.

A few days later, the owner receives an invoice from Bohr for $10,000 and gets on the phone with him immediately: "Niels! What’s this $10,000 invoice? You were only here for 10 minutes! Send me a detailed invoice."

A few days later, the company’s owner receives this from Bohr:

INVOICE
 Drawing X on the side of your machine                         $1 
Knowing where to put the X                                           $9,999
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Total                                                                             $10,000

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So what is your experience worth?

(hat tip to the Consultant Journal blog for the story.)