You Don’t Get To Decide What You Pay Me
Recently, I had an interesting chat with a client. He was looking for more writers to add to his team — and like many, his searches led him to a popular freelance site. When he reached out, he asked about my pricing, and it really just all went downhill from there.
Let’s talk about the awkwardness that is the “price talk” with clients.
The Rates Conversation
When you are a freelancer, you get really used to people trying to talk your pricing down — but they almost never start there. At first, they tend to just ask about your rate. If your rate is clearly visible, you should see this as an automatic red flag in most cases, but hey, maybe they really just missed it.
The conversation about your rate has a tendency to take an awkward shift. At some point, the client will tell you about their “budget” or what they “usually” pay — and every freelancer knows that the rest of the conversation will be a waste of time.
When I was asked, I told the client my rate and what the price would be for their request. This client, in particular, decided to go for the I usually pay XYZ route. I told him the amount of content that I could provide for XYZ.
After a few minutes, he said that he was just trying to build up his team and this site seemed like the right place to look.
And, I told him it was. I told him that freelance sites are an amazing way to connect with talented writers at all levels — and at all price points — but this guy just could not take a hint. He kept asking about what circumstances I offered discounts in and stating how he had so much work that he could bring me.
I’m a business professional. I take my career very seriously. I’m all professional all the time. And, I was professional. I am committed to customer service and I write every single message like an imaginary boss will review it as soon as I hit send.
So, what I didn’t say was: you can’t afford me.
But, honestly, I thought about it. After about ten messages where he continuously pressed for ways to get a lower rate, I was completely over it. After the last one, I presented a very clear and insistent message that I did not and would not be providing him with a discount. By this point, I had explained why about five different ways — but, he didn’t care.
When I clarified for the final time that I would not change my rate for him, he only had one thing to say:
The Respect Problem
In my experience, there are generally two kinds of clients. There are clients that understand that content creation is the foundation for all modern marketing efforts — and there are the clients who grew up watching movies about how writers never make money. The first group is always happy to pay for good work because they understand the value of it — and more importantly, they know that they can’t do it.
The second group, however, believes that every writer that they talk to is desperate to have work and can be talked down.
What makes it worse is that this second group has variety. They all have different approaches to convince you to work for less, and I have heard so many arguments by this point that I just mentally check out when people start questioning my rate and asking for options. I respond as a business formality, but the conversation is no longer worth my time.
I know that I can’t speak for every freelancer because I have some liberties at this point in my career. While I have been the person that had lower rates while they built up a portfolio, I have grown my business significantly since then. My portfolio is full. My skills are publicly verified. Writing is not a hobby for me — it is a full-time career. And, because of the way that I have built my business, my account stays in vacation mode about 97% of the week because, if not, I have too many client requests.
I understand that this is not the case for every freelancer, but I do think it exemplifies the lack of respect that people have for freelancers.
I’m a top-rated seller on my site. When people look for written content in any of my areas of expertise, I am one of the first people that they see any time that I leave my profile active. I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying it to help you imagine the lack of respect that comes with filtering down to the top performers on a website where there are millions of freelancers and still having the audacity to ask them to charge less.
It’s insulting, and by this point, it is simply lost time in my workday.
Every client that wants a discount will have their own rationale for why they deserve my consideration. People range from blatantly entitled to giving the age-old sob story. Different attempts hit differently, but the conversation is always awkward.
I’ve noticed that these reasons are some of the most common excuses that I hear.
I Will Bring A LOT of Work
These people are clinging to the belief that writers are all begging for work. At this point in my career, this one annoys me a little more than anything. I didn’t work my tail off for several years to have someone assume that I was barely making it. Your promises of future work mean nothing to me. When this conversation ends, someone else will hire me and pay my rate.
My Budget is XYZ For Now
No one believes in the potential success of a small business quite like a full-time freelancer. I’ve worked nonstop and defied a lot of odds to get to where I am. At no point in this did I ask anyone for handouts or favors. I did what I needed to do to get to where I wanted to be. I worked within my budget, and you can too. Lowering your rates for someone who believes they will one day be able to pay you more is often a waste of time. In many cases, these people have romantic notions of heart being the key to business success. It isn’t. They will give up and stop paying you when work turns out to be hard. Don’t fall for it.
The Currency Dilemma
Working on an international freelance platform, I get a lot of clients that ask me to lower my rates because of the currency exchange. Since my rate is so much higher where they are, they want a discount to balance it out. Personally, I find this very frustrating. My cost of living doesn’t change because theirs is different. I encourage them to find a writer in their area to support local businesses.
I’m Desperate To Work With You
This is one of the new arguments that I have been receiving. A lot of my clients want to work with me because they see all of my five-star reviews or see that I’m top rated and want that level of skill. Unfortunately, they don’t want to pay for it. So, I receive a request about how impressed they are by my profile and how badly they want to work with me, but I’m just a little over budget. Every time, I encourage them to find someone that suits their budget so that they feel comfortable with their investment.
I know this might be hard to believe, but I’m actually fairly lenient when it comes to pricing. I’m not of the opinion that my writing is so powerful or so iconic that someone needs to pay me $500 for twenty minutes of work. The point is that if you can clearly see a freelancer's rate and you know it isn’t what you want to pay, don’t waste their time. The freelance world is huge and there are people at every price point. Find someone that works for what you can afford, and if you can’t find anyone, don’t ask for the service. It’s really that simple.