7 great responses to a client who says you charge too much

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’.

Response 1: “My rates are set in line with my skills and experience”

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!

Response 2: “I don’t usually discount my rates, but if budget is an issue I’m happy to refer you to another writer who may be a better fit”

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.

Response 3: “I’m unable to drop my rates, but can we reduce the scope of work to stay under your budget?”

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.

Response 4: “I understand my rates aren’t in everyone’s budget, but if you decide to move forward on the quote/proposal, let me know”

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.

Response 5: “Totally understand you may want to get other quotes – it’d be great to stay in touch for this project or future opportunities”

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.

Response 6: “Yes, my rates are competitive! Sorry I can’t help with this one, but do keep me in mind if the budget changes in the future”

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.

Response 7: “My rates are high, because I’m great at what I do! But if we’re not a good fit for this project, that’s fine”

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!

Rachel Smith

6 responses on "7 great responses to a client who says you charge too much"

  1. Tom says:

    Yes, I’ve heard so many responses from “choosy beggars” it well, beggars belief. If you can get your dodgy cousin’s mate’s wife to do it for next to nothing, then go give the job to her? Also, “there will be more work in the future” after giving someone a deep discount is like the pokies saying “insert more coins and you might get a jackpot.” You’ll never get ahead that way.

  2. Rachel Smith says:

    Oh yep, the ‘this will lead to future work’ is always a massive red flag!

  3. Great list of responses, Rachel. I feel supported.

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      I’m glad, Sitara – hope one or two helps you out with a tricky client in the future!

  4. Sabrina Rogers-Anderson says:

    Great blog, Rachel! I just had a really difficult case of this recently.

    I’d love to see you write a blog on how regular clients who have run out of budget suddenly start to find small issues with your work until you finally ask them a few questions and it emerges they have no more money. I hate that! It’s trying to put the onus on the writer when it has nothing to do with them 😡

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      That’s a great topic Sabrina – so infuriating that a client would do this, too.

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