How do you handle it when a prospective or even a current client wants a discount on your freelance writing services?
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. Or maybe it’s the other end of the spectrum — maybe you want to charge $200 for a blog post, and they say, “Well, I can get a good one for $50 on Upwork.”
What do you do in that situation? Well… if you’re asking me, my answer is “No, you should not offer that 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 situation. Say no, emphatically. You should not discount your rates as a service provider. Especially not by half. 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.” Rant inside your head however you want.
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 or other special circumstances. If you really want to cash-flow something, it might make sense to offer a 10% discount for a bulk project when paid in full up front. But this should be your exception, not your rule.
Generally, the answer when someone wants you to lower your rates is no, especially if someone wants a major discount or a whole lot of other things outside of writing for the rate you set 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. Not unless that’s what you typically include in your $200 fee. I’ve done that kind of work. It takes a long time and you should be compensated 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 a discount that steep.”
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.
It can be really helpful to justify your rate, not in a defensive manner, but in more of an expository manner. The goal is to show why what you charge is worth it.
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 show 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 arrangement so that your overall costs will be lower, I’d be happy to work on shorter blog posts (or whatever adjustments make sense).”
Offer an alternative that is not as expensive, but that is still not undercutting you.
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.
You are a talented writer. You know what you’re doing. If you’re reading this post, 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.
If you’re spending two hours a week writing for this person, and they take off for bargain-writer-ville, 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 doing some quality marketing with no results.
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.
Undercutting the value of your services really damages your psyche. It makes you think, well, maybe your writing really is 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 it’s “I can come down, but I won’t be able to produce images.” Adjust the scope to meet the budget, then they decide.
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.
On the Facebook post with my student, the group rose up and told her she did the right thing by turning him away. (YES! My group is full of smart writers!) 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 turn in crap, if anything at all.
The group predicted that he’d come back to her and say, “Oh please, I was so stupid. Will you please come work for me again?”
And you know what? HE DID.
But when that happens to you, you have the fun job of quoting a HIGHER rate than before.
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 rate is $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 a cheap replacement. What’s gonna stop them from ditching you again?
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 have 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.
This is how an in-demand writer acts.
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 Ink Well Guild on Facebook. You can come find us.
I encourage you to keep making smart business decisions not based in fear.
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