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In a previous article, I covered agreeing payment terms. One of the key points was how to get a new relationship off to a great start. As freelancers, the type of relationship we’re after is as a valuable equal, not a “hired hand”.
When a new client asks you to quote for some work, he may well be happy with your rates but just not able to afford the amount of work he wants done.
Freelancer: Setting up a new site, designing a theme and logo, and writing 20 detailed pages of content is going to work out at about 60 hours (at my rates of $40)
Client: That’s going to be $2,400. My budget was $1,750 – can we make that work?
- The client has just dropped your rate to from $40 to $30/hr
- The client has just converted it into a fixed price project
- The client is haggling with you
Why the Client Might Not be to Blame
Before I discuss some solutions, bear in mind that this might not be 100% the client’s fault. A client is unlikely to haggle with his doctor or attorney over quoted time/cost. If you haven’t made yourself as invaluable to your client as his doctor or attorney, then look over your communication and see what went wrong!
But… if the client is just cheap, and you’re started to see warning signs, think again about going any further. The nature of freelancing is that there are a LOT of cheap and pain-in-the-ass clients out there.
The Worst Things you can do
The worst thing you can do is reply with:
- “OK”. You’ve just agreed that your work was worth $30 all along, and that you tried to take advantage. The client’s going to have to keep an eye on you. You’ve also reinforced the “boss to hired worker” mentality. You’re now resentful of your cheap new client.
- “How about we meet in the middle at $2,100”. “Ah, we’re haggling!” thinks the client. Even if the client agrees, you’re now both resentful and you’ve again reinforced the boss/worker mentality.
In both cases, your work obviously wasn’t worth what you quoted. You’ve devalued yourself and your service, and got the relationship totally off on the wrong foot.
Negotiating is not haggling. When you negotiate, you don’t give things away – you swap and rearrange things until you both come out happy.
“I work with [insert client’s industry here] all the time, and understand that budgets can be tight. How about we look at 10 pages of content only to start with, but they’ll still be the same top quality, as will the design work – we’ll then be at about 40 hours and should come in under your budget. I can also prioritize the articles to make sure that the ones I feel will have the most impact get done first. We can then look at the remaining articles as well as some marketing strategies in the month after. Does that work for you?”
That way, you’ve maintained your value and rates. It’s not unheard of for the client to say, “You know what, let’s just get the whole thing done now at the original rate”
Make a judgement call on the type of person you’re dealing with. You might even get a joke in…
“Unfortunately I can’t negotiate on my rates (If I charged you lower rates I’d have to give you lower quality, and I can’t do that!). How about I promote 10 of your articles through my own social media channels to give you that extra exposure boost?”
The client’s now got two choices
- He can say “no” and go on to find someone else to haggle down. Remember – you’ll build a far more successful business by building long term relationships with good clients, than taking anything that comes your way.
- He can say “yes” and you can move forward in an equal, mutually respectful relationship.
Got any stories of clients trying to barter you down? How did you handle it and what was the result?