How to respond when your client asks for a discount (ideas + scripts)

3 responses to clients who ask for discounts

Handing over a copywriting proposal often comes with a trailer load of baggage. After spending way too long crunching the numbers, you’re plagued with uncertainty once you hit send.

Did you charge enough… for the time it will take you and the value to the client? Did you charge too much…? Can you deliver? Are you worth it?

Sometimes, the yes or no comes quickly. Sometimes, we hear nothing at all.

Sometimes, we’re asked if we can do it for less because…

  • they don’t need the full service
  • they don’t have the budget right now
  • there is the promise of more work after this project
  • they always ask on the off-chance you say yes.

And while many FB group threads would have you outraged and appalled at the audacity of this request (they aren’t your ideal clients if they’re asking for a discount — move on!), let’s be real.

Is it actually offensive when a client asks if we can cut them a better deal?

No. It’s not.

Ecommerce trains us to respond to sales and discounts. We’re rewarded and celebrated for our cleverness when we bag a great deal. Why wouldn’t our clients do the same?

But just because clients ask for a discount doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

You quoted that price for a reason.

You didn’t pull it from a bowl like a lucky dip, or lay prices out like a tarot deck and let a crystal decide, or pick a number somewhere in between the prices you got when you asked FB.

Your pricing isn’t made up, which puts you in a stronger position.

A solid pricing system gives you the confidence to hold firm because you know that total covers your time, your value and is in line with industry standards. (If you need to brush up on your pricing skills, I have a workshop that will help you nail this.)

So how do you handle a client request for a discount?

That’s what this post covers.

First up, take a breath and stand firm

If you’ve spent time calculating your project price and you’ve explained your process, the results and the inclusions of the investment — stick to that number.

If you immediately lower your quote, you let the client know there was in fact some wiggle room worked into your pricing. That, in turn, sets the tone for all future conversations about pricing because your client now assumes your price is never final. It’s negotiable.

Swipe this script

I’m afraid I don’t offer discounted pricing. The proposal I’ve put together considers your requirements, the objectives of the project, the timeframe and the work involved. This pricing allows me to focus my experience and expertise on your project.

If it’s outside of your budget, I have some ideas on how we can adjust the proposal to fit.

And then you share some ideas (which I’ll explain next).

This approach lets the client know that engaging you for a project isn’t like buying at a market stall where the first price is just the start of the haggling game. Having some suggestions ready also positions you as a professional who can be flexible, without compromising the quality of your work.

#1 Reduce the scope

This is the first option to discuss with your client. You don’t reduce your rate. Or remove elements of the project work that are essential to the quality of the result, like the briefing meeting or proofreading.

Instead, you remove entire components such as website pages, emails or social posts.

You don’t work for less.

You do less.

Swipe this script

The easiest way to reduce the project total is to reduce the scope of the work. If you let me know the budget you have in mind, I can make some suggestions for a new project scope.

Before I make some suggestions, I’d like to make sure we’re both comfortable that this solution is a good fit for your needs.

This invites a discussion about what they want in terms of results and from a solution. It also asks your client to share the budget they had in mind. And while some clients will tell you they have no clue about their budget, they’ve already decided your last proposal was too high. So they do have a number in mind!

Gently challenge them to name a figure so you can propose a new, reduced scope.

#2 Prioritise the work

You can also suggest breaking the project into phases, with the highest priority pieces tackled first. This works well for projects like websites where the client might want a large number of pages but only has the immediate budget for a smaller subset.

Offer to write the most visited pages first, with the other pages pushed into a second phase of the project.

Swipe this script

One idea is to break this project scope into phases. We can tackle the highest priority copy first and leave the rest for a second phase. This allows you to stick to your budget, and we both get to test the process of working together.

Before I make some suggestions, I’d like to make sure we’re both comfortable that this solution is a good fit for your needs.

As for idea #1 (reducing scope) this last line invites a discussion about what they want in terms of results and from a solution. This not only helps you prioritise the scope but reminds them of your high-value solution.

#3 Offer a payment plan

This is a spin on idea #2, but instead of leaving phase two of the project until the client decides they’re ready, you spread out the payments in a payment plan.

Swipe this script

I’d be happy to offer you a payment plan for the project total. The first payment of 30% is due up front, then two more payments of 30% each are due X weeks apart.

You could ask for 50% up front as normal, then lower payments or you can break the project into equal payments. Whatever works for you. The best part about this option is that it’s a win for your cashflow too.

I recommend the payment dates don’t overshoot the project delivery timeline by too much as the client is left paying for copy they already have but don’t own the copyright for.

What will you use?

A quick reminder that just because someone asks for a discount doesn’t make them a bad person. It also doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

And now you have three options to help your client say yes without lowering your price.

  • You can do less work.
  • You can do the work over a longer timeframe.
  • They can pay over a longer timeframe.

And your rate is left intact.

I’d love to know how you feel about clients requesting a discount and how you’ve handled it. Share your tips and scripts!

And if your copy quoting process is a mess, grab my Copy Quotes Made Easy workshop and start using a proven pricing system.

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