How to Negotiate with Clients Over Your Fees
3 strategies to help you get paid what you’re worth
You’ve found a potential client who wants to hire you. But, they say they can’t afford your rates, what do you do?
Remember that you are a business. Any agreement with a client is a business relationship. That means you need to know how to negotiate. If you’ve never been a business owner before, or if you are conflict-averse, negotiating can feel scary and overwhelming.
Relax. Negotiations don’t need to be tense. You are a professional service provider. The client needs your services. You have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating. You need to enter into negotiations with confidence. Desperate people make bad deals.
Here are three strategies you can use when your client tells you they can’t afford you.
Shrink the Scope of the Work
If your potential client can’t afford your rates, you can offer to do less work. There are several ways to approach this.
You can ask the prospect what their budget is. Often, they have no problem sharing that information with you. You can then decide what value you can bring at the price they can afford.
This strategy works best for bigger projects or projects with multiple pieces. I recently met with a potential client who wanted to work with me, but my proposal of $3,500 was too much for them.
They had a budget of $1,500. The initial proposal was for sales funnel consulting and copywriting for the different parts of the funnel.
I offered to write some copy for the top of their sales funnel, including some Facebook ad copy and a landing page.
The client could see if my copy converted or not. If it did, they would have more money to hire me to do the rest of the work I had initially proposed.
The client agreed, and a month later, they came back and hired me for the rest of the project because the initial copy had converted so well.
This strategy is great because you aren’t lowering your rates. The client will see that you are confident, and you are still able to get paid for the value you provide.
It doesn’t work all of the time. Sometimes clients will walk away. That’s fine. Those clients aren’t the right fit for your business.
Make a Counteroffer
Sometimes you just need the work. Every freelancer has been there. When a client offers a different amount than your original price, instead of accepting that offer, make a counteroffer.
The client may have been trying to lowball you. By making a counteroffer, you might be able to secure the work and get paid more than their initial offer.
In my experience, most of the time when I make a counteroffer, the client will come up from their initial offer, even if it is below the amount of my counteroffer.
When you make a counteroffer, you are maintaining control of the process and demonstrating that you are a serious business person who isn’t desperate enough to take any offer.
Stick to Your Guns
I do a lot of one-time projects. I write a lot of web copy for companies. Because I know that I am unlikely to get more work from them in the foreseeable future, I don’t see any value in lowering my prices.
I am at the point in my career that I am confident in my skills, and I know there are lots of clients ready to pay me what I’m worth.
Instead of figuring out a way to take less money, I stick to my guns. Sometimes this means clients walk away. I figure these clients weren’t the right clients for me anyway.
Sometimes clients end up paying my rate.
Every once in awhile, a client who walked away comes back and hires me because they hired someone cheaper and were disappointed with the results.
You don’t have to be rude or apologetic when sticking to your guns. I usually something like:
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be profitable for me to do this project for the rate you propose. X is my best price.
Negotiating isn’t a zero-sum game. It isn’t about winning and losing. Negotiating is about creating a solution that benefits both sides. If you don’t benefit from the deal, don’t take it. You need to protect your profits. The world is full of businesses that want to work with you. You just need the confidence to find them.