Tired of Hearing Your Rates Are Too Expensive? Try This

“We’d love to work with you, but your prices are just too far out of our budget. Everyone else we’ve talked to charges much less.”

Yeah, that’s always a fun email to receive first thing in the morning.

What’s your first reaction when you read something like this? Anger? Shock? Denial?

Or do you just shrug, shut down your computer and feel depressed the rest of the day?

Emails like this would grate on my psyche. I would put a lot of work into landing clients. I’d excitedly talk with the prospect on the phone (sometimes, multiple times) and make sure I could help. I’d even soft-launch some budget figures to prevent sticker shock. Then, I’d carefully craft a proposal and wait. And wait.

“I have exactly the skills they’re looking for,” I’d think. “They’d be stupid to go with anyone else.”

To learn that they hired someone else based on price felt like a slap in the face. Sure, I understand budget constraints. But hiring someone for way less money (with way less experience,) was an insult.

Which was my first mistake – I shouldn’t have let my ego get in the way. But sometimes, that’s hard (as you may know.)

But let’s look at it from the client’s side.

Unless you are giving your client something to think about, you’re going to be treated like a commodity. And that means they will look at your prices compared to your competitions’.

– They won’t care that you are a better writer. Let’s face it. Most clients don’t really know what “good writing” is.

– They won’t care (much) about your awards, reputation or outside factors.

If your prices are higher, you will lose. It’s as simple as that.

The key is to stop treating yourself like a commodity and sell your value instead. Here are four ways you can make that happen:

– Take a hard look at your site. Do you have testimonials, case studies and other forms of third-party proof? If not, make it happen.

– Consider your process when you talk to prices. Do you respond to emails that read, “We need a copywriter. How much do you charge?” If so – WHY? Would you ever say that to a doctor? Or an attorney? Heck no. You want to hire someone with the best expertise. Not the cheapest.

– Think about how well you know your target market. Not necessarily the vertical characteristics (I work with mid-size dental offices who want to increase their local exposure.) What I mean is, do you know the stuff that makes them tick? What keeps them up at night? What would make them happy? What would they need to hear from you that would make price not an issue?

– Record yourself during a prospect call and listen to what you say. Do you explain all the steps you take before you start crafting copy? Do you discuss how you differentiate against your copywriting competition? Are you asking questions? Or are you spending most of your time trying to hustle a deal?

Remember, there will always be those prospects who make their decision solely on price. You don’t want them (or need them in your portfolio.) Conversely, there are the people who will hire you, no matter what. Those are cool clients to have.

However, there are a whole lot of people who need more convincing. They need to see more value. They need to “get” how you can specifically make their lives easier. They may want to work with you. They just need be sure before they sign on the dotted line.

The good news is, you can influence their decision (ethically,) if you focus on your value. Once you have your prospect’s attention, she won’t care that you’re more expensive. The only thing she’ll care about is how soon you can start.

Now go out there and make some money!

12 replies
  1. Julia McCoy says:

    Great post, Heather. We’ve heard the too expensive complaint before and my journey through three years has gotten me to a point where we simply trash all emails that state that. We don’t even pursue them. I agree with the “selling yourself” point – through case studies that show proof of your success in action.

  2. ivan says:

    Writing, like web design is a commodity now. The amount of freelancers is immense, so the value proposition has to be REALLY strong to pay top dollar for a copy.

    Will you increase conversions with your copy? Can you prove that? What if you don’t?

  3. Tj says:

    Really, really (did I mention, really) appreciated this article this morning. Good corporations and agencies *know* the value of great writing, and this is an effective way to progress in the negotiation stages around that. Thanks!

  4. Phil says:

    Hello Heather,

    Why not have a plan b for clients that want good work on the cheap? You can always refer some of your top students for the work ;-)

    This way the clients door is still open if they want better copy in the future?

    Best Regards,


    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      @Phil, you bring up a great post! Referring out to less expensive copywriters you know and trust is a great idea. Plus, you may even earn a small referral fee.

      It’s never fun to lose a gig, but at least you’d help someone else make money. That’s OK too! :)

      Thank you!

  5. Don Sturgill says:

    Thank you, Heather. An executive coach and sales trainer really opened my eyes to the process. She was trying to GIVE me a job … and I almost talked myself out of it. Writers need to learn basic sales skills, (even if we think we know all about sales).

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      @Don – ouch, you were talking yourself out of a job? Wow. That must have been an extremely eye-opening experience (and I’m so glad you landed the gig anyway!).

      How did you learn basic sales skills? What resources did you find most helpful?

  6. Katherine Andes says:

    I think it’s key to have lots of opportunities to bid. I usually have at least two or three opportunities to bid each week. Most of those don’t turn into jobs … But one good new client every couple of months is plenty of work for me.


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