How would you respond to a prospect who says:
“Sorry, that’s more than I can pay.”
Should you budge? If so, how do you do that without giving away the farm?
Effective negotiating is not as difficult as it may sound. You just need to keep in mind two very important concepts:
- A good negotiator recognizes that each party must feel like they won.
- For every concession you make, you need to ask for something in return.
Let’s take this outside of freelancing for a minute. Say you’re buying a car and you found one you love. Your budget is $15,000. That’s the absolute max you can pay.
Unfortunately, the car want is $17,000. You’re about to walk away, but then the salesman asks you point blank what budget you’re working with. You tell him the truth: $15,000 is your ceiling.
He goes away to talk to his sales manager and comes back with another offer. He can offer the car for $16,000, not a penny less.
However, he’ll throw in a three-year warranty for free. And he can also do a year’s worth of oil changes.
You start thinking about the peace of mind that comes from not having to worry about costly, unexpected repairs. And oil changes for a year is also worth quite a bit to you.
This is starting to sound like sweet deal. So you take it.
In your mind, you won the negotiation. And you did. But so did the car salesman. He sold a car. And the concessions he made weren’t that costly to the dealership. In fact, they’re already built into the price of the car.
So, in reality, both of you won! Because the salesman knew how to create a situation where both parties left feeling happy.
As a freelance writer, some of your clients are going to negotiate your fee. That’s just the way it is.
But don’t see it as a turn-off. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to create a win/win situation.
Ask for Something in Return
The other important concept is that for every concession you make, you need to ask for something in return.
Your client feels the $3,500 you quoted is a bit too high for the white paper she needs. You ask her what budget she’s working with, and she replies that she only has $3,000 to spend.
If you agree to cut your fee, you need to do so under the condition that the client also give something up.
And here’s the key: it doesn’t have to be anything that’s important to you. It just needs to be perceived as something she had to concede in order to get what she wanted.
Continuing with that white paper example, instead of agreeing to cut your fee by $500 and leaving it at that, you should ask the prospect for a concession of her own.
For example, you could:
- Ask for the full payment up front.
- Ask for a larger project. For instance, if this is the first white paper in a series of three, tell the client that you’ll write all three for $9,000, if she’s willing to cut a purchase order for the entire amount now.
- Ask for a longer deadline. If your schedule is tight, this can be a great concession. It will give you the breathing room you need while giving her what she wants: a lower fee.
- Do less for less. If you’re too far apart, offer to write a shorter piece. Or the first component of a bigger project. You’re not cutting your fee. You’re simply giving her less in order to work with her limited budget.
Offer Something of Value
Another approach you could take is to NOT cut your fee and instead offer the client something of value. For instance, you could:
- Offer to submit the draft earlier than the original deadline. This can work particularly well when the client is in a hurry, so faster turnaround would be worth something to him.
- Offer to throw some extra work for free. For instance, if you’re writing the client’s web copy, you could offer to help them define their new messaging platform. When you’re hired to do a web copy refresh, this is something that will need to be done anyway. But if you position it as a separate project—and one you can throw in at no extra charge—you can sometimes get the deal closed at your original fee.
With this last example, you want to look for things that don’t require a ton of extra work and are natural extensions of what you’re already doing.
Another great example would be writing the copy for a white paper’s landing page. Or a short email to promote the case study to prospects. Here again, you’re already neck deep in the story, so throwing in some extra copy won’t take you that much more … yet has a high perceived value to the client.
Remember: There’s an inherent human need to feel like we’ve earned what we have. When getting your way was too easy, the product or service you purchased loses its value.
So don’t give in too easily. It’s bad for you. And it’s bad for the client.
Sounds a bit far-fetched? Think back to that car negotiation example. If the price was $17,000 and you offered $15,000, how would you feel if the salesman said, “No problem, it’s yours for $15,000.”
You’ll feel great for about 5 minutes. Then you’ll wonder how much money you left on the table.
Give these ideas a try the next time a client wants to negotiate. I bet you’ll negotiate a much better deal for yourself.