How do you handle it when a prospective or even a current client wants a discount on your freelance writing services?
Should you discount your rates as a freelance writer?
I know how it is to deal with clients who don’t take you seriously: “Hey, there’s this other person who can do this cheaper. Can you do it cheaper?”
Sometimes cheaper means they’ll do it for a penny a word when you are writing for three pennies a word. Maybe you want to charge $200 for a blog post, and they say, “Well, I can get that for $50 on Upwork.”
What do you do in that situation? My answer is heed that red flag warning and turn them down.
No, you should not offer a discount!
In my free Facebook group, one of my students recently posted that an existing client who she’d worked with for over a year had found someone who (he said) could do the same work for half the rate. He wanted my student to cut her rate in HALF!
Thankfully she said no.
I want to speak to anyone who’s ever been in that predicament. Say emphatically no. You should not discount your rates as a service provider. No!
If someone comes to you and says, “Well, so-and-so can do it for less,” your answer is, “Then go work with so-and-so.”
Your answer is “My rates are my rates and I don’t offer discounts.” Inside of your head, you can think, Nyah-nyah-nyah-boo-boo!
Do You Want Teenagers to Install Your Furnace, Even if It’s Cheaper?
Would you walk into the grocery store and say, “This broccoli you’ve got is priced kind of high. I could find it somewhere else cheaper. So could you discount it?”
The answer’s probably going to be no. They’re probably gonna laugh you out of the store! That’s an unreasonable request.
When we replaced our furnace, they brought it down to $4,000 from $4,200 because we paid with cash. But that’s NOT a 50% discount. And we didn’t say to them “Hey, we found these teenagers by the side of the road and they said they could put in a furnace for us for $1,000. So can you just charge us $1,000?” It’s not the same!
There are times when you might consider some kind of bulk pricing. But generally, the answer is no, especially if someone wants a major discount or a whole lot of other things outside of writing for your rate that is just for writing.
If they say, “We want you to write blog posts.” and you’re like, “Sweet, that’s $200 a post.” Then they’re like, “Great. AND we want you to do at least four images, two of which have to be custom, AND we want Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram excerpts, AND social media graphics for each. You can do all of that for $200, right?”
The answer to that is no. I’ve done that kind of work. It takes a long time and you should charge more for it.
If a client comes to you and says, so-and-so can do it cheaper, can you come way down in your price? The answer is no.
“These are my rates. If they are outside of your budget, I totally understand. I’d love to be able to work with you. But I can’t offer you that discount.”
Do Not Defend Your Rates
Do not argue with the client. Don’t defend yourself for charging what you charge. Do not give into the impulse to explain.
Some people want to say, “This is my business and how I feed my family. If I offer you a discount, I have to offer everyone a discount and it means that I have to work too many hours and I just find that it’s not sustainable.”
No! Do not get into that with them. Get into that for yourself, if you need to pump up yourself in your mindset and work up the nerve to say no, but you don’t have to share that with your client.
But You Can Justify Your Rates
It can be really helpful to justify your rate, not in a defensive manner, but in more of an expository manner.
If someone says, “So-and-so can do it better for half your costs, can you come down 50%?”
The answer is “No, but let me explain to you why my rate is my rate.”
Then you say, “I have X number of years of experience. I have written in this specific industry for X. You know from your own experience that my content is engaging, clean, and that I’m easy to work with. I’m consistent and reliable. That’s way more than the vast majority of freelance writers out there can deliver. Plus, we’ve had a positive work experience thus far. I’m sure that you are aware of all the strengths that I bring to the table. Whereas you don’t know anything about this new writer except that they are willing to work for pennies.”
“So no, I can’t come down on the price, but if you want to change the scope of our arrangements so that your overall rate will be lower, I’d be happy to work on shorter blog posts.”
Maybe offer an alternative that is not as expensive, but that is still not undercutting you. So justify your rate.
When I justify my rates, I say things like, “I give you three subject lines to test. Everything I submit to you comes with two rounds of revisions or one full rewrite. I make sure that I have internal and external links. I’m familiar with your content so I know how to write for your audience.”
Really say “This is why my writing is valuable.”
Your writing is valuable and it doesn’t belong in the bargain basement.
Don’t Listen to the Voice of Scarcity
You are a talented writer. You know what you’re doing. If you’re listening to this podcast then that means you’re studying your craft and your business. You’re taking this seriously, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of writers on Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, all those chuckleheads you see everywhere.
A huge amount of your competition is people who are not as good as you, who don’t take it as seriously as you do.
I want you to understand the value of what you do and not give in to this impulse, not to feel any pressure to lower your rates because what you do is valuable and it is worth what you’re charging. It’s probably worth more than you’re charging, arguably. And there are people out there who will pay it.
In this situation, writers can get afraid. “I can’t lose this income. I really need this job. Maybe I should discount it.” Don’t listen to that voice! That is the voice of scarcity.
Scarcity is the voice of fear and fear makes terrible business decisions.
Don’t make your business decisions based on fear. If you lose this client, that means you have more time back under your control to get out there and find a better client.
Off-Loading Chuckleheads Frees Up Time for Marketing
If you’re spending two hours a week writing for this person, you have now recaptured those two hours to go out and market yourself. If you market yourself for two hours a day for an entire week, it’s gonna pay off pretty quickly.
I’ve never known someone who spent 10 hours marketing and got nothing.
It takes some time. It may take a week or so. But the returns on just that little bit of investment are gonna pay off quickly. It’s going to be worth it.
It’s not worth it working for less than you are worth.
It really damages your psyche. It makes you think, well, maybe you really are only worth half of what you’re charging, which is a lie. Once you get in that habit, you start believing the lie, this story that you are not worth more.
Don’t fall into that trap.
If someone comes to you and says, well, so-and-so can do it for cheaper, can you do it for cheaper, then most likely your answer needs to be no. If we’re talking like a $25 difference or something, I may be willing to come back and say, “Yeah, I can come down a little bit on the price. It means that we’re looking at 800 to 1,000 words instead of 1,000 to 1,200 words.”
You adjust the scope so that it fits.
Maybe, “I can come down, but I won’t be able to produce images.” Adjust the scope to meet the budget, then they decide if you are responding to that.
Make sure you emphasize what you do bring to the table and why it’s in their benefit to pay more and to keep working with you.
Increase Your Rate for Reformed Chuckleheads (for Protection)
On the Facebook post with my student, we said, you did the right thing, turned him away. He’s going to go work with that other person. When he’s back in two weeks, you charge him more than you were previously charging; he’s gonna come back to you because that other writer’s going to be crap.
He’ll come back to you and say, “Oh please, I was so stupid. Will you please come work for me again?”
But now you say, “It’s a 50% rate increase.”
If you were writing $100 blog posts for him and he found a cheaper chucklehead to do the work for $50, but the other person turns in garbage so he comes back to you, he comes back to your new rate.
“Unfortunately, my rates have gone up since our previous agreement ended. If you’d like to work with me, I’d be thrilled to take you on. But my new rates are $150 a post.”
Immediate 50% increase.
And why do you do that? It’s not out of punishment for him. It is out of protection for you.
This is a boundary. This is you saying you can’t just drop me anytime you want and expect me to be readily available to run right back into your arms. It doesn’t work that way.
That rate increase is your protection.
If he’s serious about working for you, he’ll come up with the difference. If he’s going to continue to be a jerk, you’re better off without him.
But if he does work with you, you are making more money for the same amount of work and you are alleviating some of that fear, because this client can’t be trusted. They ditched you once for garbage. What’s gonna stop them from ditching you again?
Good Writers Don’t Beg for Work
If they really want you, they have to earn you back.
It can be a really crazy mindset shift for some people to get into that place of feeling like you had to be earned.
That you don’t have to go out and beg for work because the reality is that good writers don’t have to beg for work. And you’re a good writer, so you shouldn’t be begging for work. You should act like you are an in demand writer.
And if this flaky client wants a spot on your calendar, he’s gonna pay for it, especially after proving to you how flaky he is. It’s just good business. It’s not personal.
If you have any questions about this, I recommend that you get in my Facebook group. We are the Inkwell Guild on Facebook. You can come find us.
I encourage you to keep making smart business decisions not based in fear.
This is my new course on how to write anything for any client. It’s really robust. We talk about the major writing skills that you’re going to need for both copywriting and content writing.
I’m also including 12 modules that go in depth into 12 different types of content that your clients want you to write. If you’d like to learn more, then check it out online at copyconfidential.com.
FYI, there is a secret, unannounced bonus that’s not on the sales page yet, for Client Bound. If you enroll in Copy Confidential, you get Client Bound for free! It’s pretty cool. I hope you check it out.