If the idea of quoting prices for their work already makes most new and would-be copywriters nervous, well then, the idea of negotiating those rates can bring up some serious nerves.
But here’s the good news: It’s really not that hard at all.
In fact, as you’ll see in a moment, the hardest part…is not talking.
So let’s just dig in, shall we?
You likely already know the general gist of how the pricing process goes. You have a conversation with your client to get a really good understanding of the scope of the project and when they’d like the work completed.
Then, you let them know that you’ll review your notes and send through a quote by a certain time. (As in, “I’ll send that through to you by 5 today.”)
By the way, never—at ANY point in this process—do you say anything about negotiating. Don’t even give a price and say “Let me know if this works for you!” because that implies that there’s wiggle room if it DOESN’T work for them. Just send your price and say “Let me know if you have any questions.”
And then, of course, once you’ve sent it, you wait for your client to come back to you with a “Great! Let’s get started!” or…the dreaded “Hmm…that’s more than we had budgeted.”
Duh duuuuuh. But this is NOT the end of the project or even the conversation—it’s just the beginning!
Remember: You and only you get to decide what you work on, for whom, and for how much. You don’t have to take on any project you don’t want to—including projects that would pay you less than you want to take.
But at the same time, you’re also free to take projects for less than your normal rate if you really want to work with a company, or if it’s a project that seems especially interesting or fun.
(Just be careful about taking work for less than your normal rate too often. Once you’re doing a lot of work at a lower rate…THAT becomes your standard rate.)
If you haven’t thought about yet, you need to know whether you’re open to working for a bit less. If you’re not, that’s perfectly reasonable and case closed.
But if you are, you need to figure out exactly what is the lowest rate you’d be willing to do the work for. And this is going to be very personal to you, based on your financial needs, your schedule, your roster of other clients, etc. But you need to know EXACTLY what that number is. No range, no “iffy-ness.” You need to know exactly what is the lowest number you’d do the work for.
Because if they come back and say, “that’s more than we budgeted for” your response is going to be to ask them what they had budgeted.
(And, by the way, all of this is much more effective over the phone or Zoom. But you MUST know what your lowest price is before you go in.)
If that number works for you, great. You can say something like, “Okay, I don’t normally do this, but I’m really interested in this project and in working with you. I can do it for [THAT PRICE].”
If it’s still lower than your lowest price, all you’re going to say is, “I’m really interested in this project and in working with you, but I’ve run the numbers and the least I can do this project for is [YOUR PRICE]”
And then…BE SILENT. It will be VERY tempting to start talking and fill that silence, but that’s the last thing you want to do. That silence forces them to do the talking and it very gently puts them on the defensive. Nobody WANTS to say no to anyone!
And then what? Well, best case they agree to your number. Great, you’re off to the races!
But if they can’t do your lowest number? Well then, that project just wasn’t meant to be. And that happens! But in the long run…big deal. There are PLENTY of other clients out there.
Also, don’t be surprised if this client ends up coming back to you later once they see what else is out there, or the “quality” of work they get for what they wanted to pay. Sometimes clients need to learn the hard way.
Your turn! Did this make the negotiation process feel a bit easier to you?