Sell Like a Pro

With clients pushing back hard on costs, it’s tempting to try to attract business by “discounting” your fees. Don’t do it! When you start to haggle over pricing or fees, you change the relationship with the client from one of providing professional services to one of selling a commodity – and that leads nowhere but down. You are a design professional, and you deserve to be paid as a professional.

Ironically, clients may try to bargain for lower fees, but if you concede they will value you and your work less. It’s a no-win situation for you. You can work with the client to find other ways to economize on their project, and demonstrate your professionalism in the process. If the client absolutely refuses to honor your rates, then they are not the client for you anyway. Nothing good can come of a project if the client does not respect you and your expertise.

A consultant I know tells the story of her first big job for a corporate client. The night before meeting with client, she could hardly sleep for fretting about how much she should charge. This was a client with deep pockets, but she was a novice in her consulting field. The interview went well, and toward the end the client asked her how much she would charge for the project. She sucked in a deep breath and quoted a rate that was twice what she valued her services at. The client paused, then said, “Oh no, that’s too little. We will pay you more than that.” She nearly passed out. True story.

The moral, of course, is that if you act like a professional you will be treated liked a professional. Stand your ground. If the client asks, explain – but don’t defend – why you charge as you do. You can then move on to more productive conversations, how to achieve the project with the budget they have in mind.



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