Freelancing in any service requires that you wear many hats. In the creative industries, one of the most common hats you’ll require is that of
United Nations Negotiator. You’ll regularly find clients who will ask for some discount. Just as your remit is to get the best deal you can for your work, their role is to do the same for their business. I would never say “don’t ever give a discount!” but you should define clear rules for yourself on when you should and should not. Here is mine.
When I Will Consider Giving Discount
This is a list of suggestions. I’m not saying you should go along with this list, but it is what has worked for me in the past. It’s also prudent to have a general rule about how much you would be willing to give.
When it’s high volume: I mean, very high volume clients and this person will become a significant client that I cannot afford to pass up or it’s such a large job it will potentially secure a long-term relationship. I have a weekly financial value (but I’m not telling what it is) that if they go over this and ask for a discount, it’s an automatic yes – no questions asked.
During the quiet times: If a little bit of discount is the difference between securing a great potential long-term deal and losing it to somebody else when I have a work lull, then I am more than willing to be flexible. Take care here in doing this too often as you might find your schedule too clogged up with cheap work for too long when things pick up again.
The client is in two minds: Sometimes, clients don’t always know what they want and are reticent because they feel they will be in trouble with their line manager if they chose the wrong person. The offer of a discount (usually on a first article) can act as a nice sweetener.
A good client has cash flow problems: Businesses fall on difficult times. When that happens, we all need a helping hand. This will occasionally happen to your long-term clients. It may not work out in the end, but giving them some financial leeway could benefit you with more work when things pick up.
When It’s a Flat “No” to Discount
There are some occasions when I won’t even consider giving a discount.
When they expect to queue jump: I’m sure you’ve all been there. It’s 5pm on a Friday night, your client wants you to turn around a piece of work in the next three hours. Not only that, but they don’t want to pay your full rate. They want to jump to the front of the queue with no regard for your other work or your personal life. If a client wants to be your top priority, they should expect to pay top rate for it.
For “chicken feed”: Your client wants one article from you, just one and it’s going to be little more than 1-2 hours work total. These small jobs will, at times, make up the bulk of your work. When this is the case, you need to maximise your revenue stream for insurance if nothing else.
Just because they ask: There are clients who live in certain parts of the world for whom bartering is a way of life. They are hardwired to barter just as we in the western world have been hardwired to pay the price on the label and not haggle. Understanding cultural differences is important, but so is putting your foot down.
Emotional blackmail: Poverty pleading is a common tactic. I always feel compelled to ask that if they are on such a limited budget, why did they contact me in the first place when I clearly state my rates on my Upwork account and on my services page on this blog? You’ll also hear “our regular writer is much cheaper.” This isn’t a negotiation, it’s emotional blackmail from a bad client.