(Image credit: Kristopher Roller via Unsplash)
Isn’t it frustrating?
A client wants to hire you for a project. You listen to what they have to say, and carefully learn what exactly they want. You take some time to think about what you should quote them.
You estimate a number that feels satisfying to you and is more than fair to the client, considering how much work you’ll be doing.
So you send the client a quote… and in response, you get a hissy fit.
It can take many forms:
“Er… I actually had a different number in mind.”
“There’s no way this job is worth that much.”
“Can you give me a better price? How about [a substantially smaller number]?”
“I could go to Fiverr right now and hire someone for 10% of this price!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are perfectly good, respectful clients who value your work… but can’t afford your regular fees. They are out there – but we’re not talking about them today.
Today, we’re discussing the hagglers.
We’re making fun of people who get worked up about your (fair) prices. People who act like it’s your fault for needing to feed your family. People who behave as if all other freelancers they’ve ever worked with were ethereal beings who sustained themselves on pure sunlight – and would take only a rusty nickel as tribute.
When it comes to dealing with haggling clients, there is one important point I have to make right away…
Got a haggling client? Don’t play their game
Haggling with a client is like arguing on the Internet. You might think you won… but all you probably did was make yourself look like an ass. Similarly, never apologize for what you charge. You are better than that.
So… if you shouldn’t bargain, what can you do to protect your income and (hopefully) still get the job?
I have 3 strategies for handling prospects who haggle. If someone is trying to knock my price down – while being a dick about it – I always respond in one of three ways.
In this article, I’m going to share all three responses, and describe when each of them makes the most sense.
Option 1. Change the scope of the project
Let’s pretend that your client is hiring you to do a 10-hour design project. Say, to mock up a re-design of 5 key pages on their website. You quote them $1,500, at your standard rate of $150 per hour.
The client says it’s beyond their budget, but they would still love to work with you. They come back with a counter-offer of $1,000 – a number that’s substantially lower… but not so insultingly low that’s you tell them to take a hike.
Here’s what I would do in this situation… I would tell the client, “I can’t do the project we agreed for this price – but here’s the amount of work I will be able to complete.” Not in so many words, but you get the idea.
Here’s a sample email response to a client asking for a discount:
Thank you for getting back to me about this.
I’d love to work with you on this project, but at the $1,000 price point, I would have to rush through it and deliver something that doesn’t meet my high standards. And I believe that your website deserves my best work.
I know that you have budget concerns, but you also see the value in good design – or you wouldn’t have come to me. 🙂
So, to help you do what’s best for your company, I put together a new proposal. It outlines the amount work I would happily do for you at the $1,000 price point.
Even with somewhat reduced scope, I believe there is opportunity to deliver enough value here to make a real difference in your website, and your business goals.
Here’s the proposal: [link]
Let me know if this sounds reasonable?
The beauty of this approach is, it shows the client that you’re a professional who holds firm on price, but always thinks about what’s best for the client. Occasionally, I run into opportunities to use this script – only for clients to tell me that I convinced them to invest in my work at the original price!
Makes me think that I don’t always do a great job explaining the value of what I do…
Option 2. “Bye, Felipe!”
As a freelancer, you have to be comfortable with rejection, especially when it’s about your price. I would get rejected all the time even when I was charging $5/hr – never do that, by the way – and clients still reject me now, when I charge 30 times that amount.
And the higher your fees grow, the more selective you have to become about who you work with… and the more laid-back you need to be about losing a client. OK, maybe not laid-back – but at least prepared.
So when you quote someone your regular rate, and they act like you just devoured their elderly dog right in front of them, that’s fine. It’s normal that some people consider your fees ridiculous and unreasonable. The operative word being “some.”
To these clients, I usually say:
“My regular fee for this project is $X. If it’s more than you can pay, I understand. I wish you best of luck finding a freelancer who would be the right fit for your project.”
That’s it – not much else to it, really. Probably the best thing you can do to deal with a haggling client is stop wasting time and energy on them. Let them find someone else to swindle – you’ve got actual work to do!
Option 3. Refer the haggling client to someone else (IF they aren’t an asshole)
Finally, sometimes the client is genuinely interested in a substantially lower price. Maybe they are used to paying $30/hr and not your usual $100. Perhaps they need to do a quick one-off project, and they don’t care how experienced the freelancer is.
In that case, if the client doesn’t make your asshole radar (every freelancer has one) go nuts every time they open their mouth, you can do them a favor and refer them to someone else. For that specific purpose, I keep in touch with as many good freelancers as I can – some with similar skill-sets, and others working in completely different fields.
As much as I hate the term, referring people is a “win-win” situation. Your client will hire someone affordable. The freelancer you recommended will love you. You will be able to come back to playing video games and binge-watching Netflix… or, you know, working at your normal rate. Everybody wins.
Also, some freelancers charge 10% commission for each referral they send someone else’s way. I don’t do that, but I have no problem with others doing it.
How would YOU deal with a haggling client?
And now I would love to hear from you.
Do you have your own go-to strategy for dealing with hagglers? Did I miss anything in this post? Maybe you’d like to see some more scripts and step-by-step tactics for dealing with price resistance?
Leave a comment below and let me know!