by Rachel Smith
23 April 2021
The longer you freelance, the more chance you’ll come across a client telling you that your rates are high. That you charge too much. That you’re way more expensive than Jo Blow on Upwork who is happy to take $5 per blog post.
Yes, I’m exaggerating, but it does get a wee bit tiring having to justify yourself and your rates. You shouldn’t have to justify them at all.
That said, I’m not one for burning bridges – I’ve often had clients walk away from me due to high rates but then return after they’d hired someone cheaper or received a better understanding of the market and what a good freelancer charges.
So here are some diplomatic ways to stand your ground when someone says, ‘You charge too much’.
There’s a much-shared meme out there that says something along the lines of ‘If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes’. And it’s true.
People are paying for what you bring to the table (whether that’s expertise in their niche, specialist knowledge, hard-to-find skills etc). Yes, they can go for a bargain-basement option, but hiring a cheaper or less experienced writer is a risk that could end up costing them more. And many of them know it!
If you’re without much work, a client trying to low-ball you can leave you feeling a bit stuck. Do you discount in order to secure the work, or stick to your guns (and your rates)?
Sometimes I will discount a tiny amount on a big job, especially with clients who are clearly born hagglers (even a small discount is a ‘win’ to them). But holding firm and offering to find them someone else often works in your favour too – because if they’ve started the process with you, they may back down rather than deal with the hassle of starting over.
If the client won’t budge on what they want to pay and you still want the gig, this can often do the trick. You negotiate what you can complete for the client’s budget, and let them know what falls out of scope. You could add that they may wish to do those tasks in-house or come back to you when they have budget to complete them.
This tells the client that you know what you’re doing and are fully aware of what things cost. I’ve often done this with projects and had the client find the budget for the rest of the tasks once most of it is finished.
If someone ruffles my feathers and is a wee bit confrontational in telling me that I charge too much, I generally say something along these lines. It’s a classic ‘ball’s in your court’ response. I’m not negotiating. I’m not discounting. The price is the price. Are they interested or not?
This response is firm and professional and probably one to use if the client is throwing up some red flags (that they’ll be a pain in the ass) or you’re fully prepared to walk away.
We’re all operating in a competitive space and there’s no point ignoring that fact. If the client wants to shop around, you can’t stop them.
This is a great response that tells the client straight away that you’re not desperate, there are no hard feelings and you’d like to keep the door open to work together in the future. And they might come back to you if they’ve gotten a good feeling from your interactions.
I’ve used this one many times, and although it can seem like it’s putting a stop to any further conversation, many clients out there respect you for it.
For example, I told one particular agency multiple times that I couldn’t work for the rates they offered, but if the budget changed or they had a client with a higher budget to come back to me. They did, and now they’re one of my most lucrative anchor clients.
Inserting a bit of ego and cheekiness into your response isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you’re dealing with a fun brand or a client who you know has a good sense of humour.
This response shows a bit of personality, tells them you know your worth – and also lets the client know that you’re not going to be a pushover (about anything!)
Have clients told you that you charge too much? How do you handle it? Share your thoughts in the comments!