Discount your copywriting rates? No way! Try this instead.

copywriting rate discount

Is discounting your freelance copywriting rates ever a good idea. Really?

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”

Ouch.

Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re basically telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. Didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better paying jobs to work on.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority – and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could eliminate a page from the agreement – or reduce the consultation time. Basically, you pull something out of the bid.  This brings down the cost – and you don’t have to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

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14 replies
  1. Jacqueline Morrison
    Jacqueline Morrison says:

    “It’s easy to resent your low paying clients” Yup, been there, done that and it wasn’t fun! Now I don’t discount but I do like the idea of a small discount in exchange for full payment upfront. Thanks Heather, I’ll keep that one in mind for future use.

    Reply
  2. Mike Robinson
    Mike Robinson says:

    Yep – dropping your rates isn’t on if you believe they are what you’re worth. Frankly, if a client told me they only had budget for half then I would offer to write them half the number of pages.

    I do like the idea of being paid up front for a small discount, however. Not sure it would be worth a 50% hit though!

    Reply
  3. Mike Elleston
    Mike Elleston says:

    All the comments are very interesting. I shall remember them for the future. I do not charge a deposit etc if the job is fairly small say up to 5 pages. But recently I had a client who asked me to produce the copy for his new web site. I did it, plus all his revisions, all the SEO bits and he confirmed it all as great. But failed to pay. When pressed he said, he did not like it, could not use and had never received any copy. The odd bit was his website contained it word for word. I keep a careful email trail of everything. My solution was to send in a firm of bailiffs. They came out with the money and their fees. So both of us earned from this wazzock.

    You meet a few in tbis business !!!

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Ouch. Sorry to hear that, Mike. That’s one advantage to getting a deposit – you know that you’ll be paid *something* for your work (even if the client flakes out.)

      It was VERY smart of you to keep an email trail, too. Well done!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  4. Kate Toon Copywriter
    Kate Toon Copywriter says:

    Great post.

    I agree with all your suggestions. I very much believe in sticking to your guns, and ‘you get what you pay for’. I’ve often had clients move on as I’m too expensive only to later come back.

    Another option is to split the cost up, allow them to pay it over more time.

    Or offer them a little discount for a back link to your site.

    One thing I would add is don’t be fooled by ‘this is the first of many projects’ – as after you’ve given in and dropped your rate in the hope of more work, it often never materialises.

    Thanks Heather!

    Reply
  5. Igor Mateski
    Igor Mateski says:

    The way I do sales is first lay out the project with all the benefits listed, list the prices and then give them a list of 2-3 possible payment plans and each has a sort of a discount. But I always make sure I get all the payment up front, and it’s non-negotiable. Here’s a sample
    Monthly fee $500
    Option 1: Full year in advance $6000, pay now and save $500
    Option 2: Trimester payment of $1500 at beginning of each trimester

    I found that when people want to save, it’s usually just a bargaining hunger they want to fulfill, so I have an extra something I can add to the pile. Eg. “If you pay the full annual fee I’ll throw in 3 extra texts”.
    Getting money-discounts is actually not as good cause you end up doing the work and getting less money. Instead, it’s better to hold your ground on pricing and add an extra service. The point is that you try to maximize the dollar value of each client, not to reduce work done per client. I’ve found this is a good way to keep people happy and keep asking for more. With the “I’ll throw in an extra XYZ” you can always open a door to sell a new service. That’s what I did just a month ago, offered a free month of Social Marketing and I now have an open door to pitch for monthly Social pack.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply
  6. Susan B . Bentley
    Susan B . Bentley says:

    Great post! I continually keep in the back of my mind “would you ask a plumber for a discount or a ‘trial’ period?” The answer is always an emphatic no. When a prospect starts with this kind of nickle and diming, you know it’ll just keep happening – just say no and let someone else deal with them.

    Reply
  7. Heather Lloyd-Martin
    Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

    Great comments, guys!

    @Igor – I like your yearly/every 3 month pricing options. They’re easy to understand, and offer an incentive for paying up-front. Plus, your upsell idea is brilliant! Well done!

    @Kate – Yeah, I’ve never heard of a “we’ll give you more work later” promise ever panning out for the copywriter. I’m sure someone has made it work…but no one I know….

    @Susan…Actually, I have asked service folks for a discount (but that’s just me!) 😉 Having said that, I happily paid full price if I was told no – and I didn’t make any promises about “more work later.” A healthy negotiation is one thing. Basing your hiring decision on whether or not someone discounts their rates is another…

    Reply
  8. Mike
    Mike says:

    Great post!

    Especially this part – “Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement.”

    I have found that you can actually turn a potentially awkward/negative situation like that into an awesome-now-the-client-loves-you-forever situation simply by phrasing it like:

    “I totally understand. While I can’t offer you the same package we discussed earlier at that price, I can do X and Y and I would be happy to throw in Z as well.”

    Takes the focus off your service reduction and puts it back into a scenario of you over-delivering to your client.

    P.S. I love your blog.

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin
      Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Thanks for the love, @Mike!

      Yes, I love the idea of throwing in Z (whatever Z is.) Offering clients things that don’t take me much time/effort to pull together – but are huge value-adds to the client – work well as the add-on. Plus, it shows that you are trying to work with the client’s situation. That’s perfect!

      Great feedback! Thank you!

      Reply

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