Talking about money is always complicated. It can be especially thorny when it comes to talking about it with people who will (hopefully) pay you.
Many new freelancers get very nervous about dropping figures, adjusting their prices, and negotiating their rates with clients.
But this is an essential skill for every freelancer, and you NEED to embrace this.
Here are 6 key habits to implement when talking to clients about money.
It might feel uncomfortable now, but if you practice these habits, talking about your rates and fees will become surprisingly easy.
Treat it like it’s no big deal
If you get sweaty palms, avoid eye contact with clients, or suddenly get tongue-tied when asked about your rates and fees, clients will get nervous.
You are the expert, so if you are nervous, they are nervous, too.
But, if you treat money in a calm, cool, and collected manner, they’ll trust you.
It’s about confidence. Or, if you don’t feel confident, projected confidence.
Remember, you offer the support, skills, and expertise that clients need. They are looking to you for help to make their business successful.
You are offering professional services, and that costs money.
The key is to be like a duck in the water.
As far as they see, it’s business as usual, even though you are paddling furiously underneath the surface.
So, no matter how you feel or what you are facing, be professional and treat money discussions as no big deal.
Attach rates to value
Concepts like “expensive” and “cheap” are relative and contextual.
A contract of $100,000 to a multinational corporation is a rounding error on their balance sheet, barely noticeable.
But, a $10,000 contract might be the biggest expenditure of the year for a small business.
It all depends on the client.
More importantly, expensive vs cheap involves perceived value.
As I talked about in how to get better at sales , clients will feel more confident developing a partnership with you if they understand how your business will add value to theirs.
How much value will your rates provide?
Remember, value includes things like:
- Increased sales and profits
- Improved efficiency
- Elimination of time-consuming programs
- Simplified business operations
- Improved accuracy and less errors
The trick is to have real conversations with the client to figure out what he really needs and wants you to deliver.
If a small business hires you to build a website, you could potentially charge them one fee. Maybe $2,000.
But, if you spend a little time understanding their systems, the technology they use, and how they operate, you could double or triple the cost of the website by providing them with additional value.
What if, for an extra $3,000, you integrate online ordering, and link it to their inventory management and back-office software to help them eliminate 10+ hours a month in manual inventory entry that is annoying and filled with errors?
Suddenly, the client is excited that you are charging more because her perceived value of your work increases.
So, instead of framing money discussions in terms of rates and fees, talk to clients about the value that your expertise will bring to their business.
Establish a ceiling
This is an age-old sales technique because it works very well.
For example, you see it on sales pages for websites (where they list three “versions” at three different price points), or at car dealerships that use a “list price” and allow you to negotiate down.
It’s called establishing a ceiling.
Companies list three different “tiers” on a sales page to make the middle tier (the product or service that 80% of people purchase), feel like a better deal.
Car dealerships (at least in the US), artificially increase the list price, so the customer feels like they “win” when they negotiate down to a lower price.
Everyone wants a deal.
So, no matter the price you charge, simple phrases like, “normally, I’d charge … but for you I’ll charge…” or, alternatively, “Most people charge … but, I charge … ” give clients the impression that they are getting a good deal.
When presenting rates and fees to clients (whether on your website or through direct sales pitches), establishing a ceiling will convince clients that working with you is a “win” for them.
And, assuming you can deliver on your end, giving them the results they want, it is a win for them.
Tie rate increases to renewals or additional services
Employees usually get an annual raise based on their performance and value to the company, but freelancers aren’t in that same position.
Clients will rarely offer to pay freelancers more than their contract, no matter how much value is provided.
So, how do you increase your rates?
Increase them at renewal dates. If you have a semi-annual or annual contract renewal, this is the time to have that conversation.
At that time, you can propose iterative increases for the same work. But, as we’ve previously mentioned, you need to tie rate increases to value.
Another option is to add services.
As you work to grow your freelancing business, continue to invest in developing yourself.
That way, what you are able to offer clients will have increased value.
Maybe you now work in a new programming language, have become a certified blockchain developer, or have learned a new and relevant skill.
As I talk about in how to generate leads as a freelancer , it’s always a good idea to check in with clients periodically to see how they are doing and remind them you enjoy working with them.
You never know if their needs have changed or if their situation requires new work.
So, tell your client about all of the new skills and services you have to offer, and explain the added value for his business.
If he can afford it and you can agree on a price, you can charge him for additional services.
One thing is for sure, never arbitrarily raise rates or surprise your clients. It doesn’t go over well.
Never apologize for your rates
You charge a set rate.
If your rates are in-line with the real value you provide to a client’s business, you should be able to state them confidently without pulling back.
If what you offer is too expensive for the client, that is their problem, not yours.
If they want someone to do it cheaper, they can find someone else.
But, do set rates that are fairly and competitively priced.
Read how to price your services as a freelancer for advice on setting rates.
Phrases like, “I’m sorry, I know that is a lot of money,” or “I apologize, I had to raise my rates…” only reinforce feelings that you are too expensive.
Your rates are a monetary reflection of your value and worth to the client. If they don’t see it, you probably don’t want to work with them anyway.
Get it in writing
It can be as simple as sending an email with a price quote; a formal project proposal with slides, figures, and projections; or an addendum to a freelance contract drawn up by a lawyer.
Either way, never leave costs and figures up to the memory of a client.
The figure they “remember” may not be the figure you agreed to if it isn’t written down.
If you’re sending an email or a project proposal to the client, this is an opportunity to establish the ceiling, previously mentioned, by outlining different “tiers” of services and rates.
Or you may list additional services (with fees) that are available as “add-ons” for her to consider.
This gives a client the ability to choose services and rates that work with her budget and offer the best value for her business.
Whatever you do, have the client sign-off on her choices so you have a written agreement as a reference should questions about services or rates come up later on.
The common themes in this article have been clear communication and focus on providing value.
You just need to apply these 6 key habits when talking to clients about money:
- Treat it like it’s no big deal
- Attach rates to value
- Establish a ceiling
- Tie rate increases to renewals or additional services
- Never apologize for your rates
- Get it in writing
Over time, talking with clients about your rates, and even increasing your rates, will go smoothly and easily.
Always remember, if the client enjoys working with you and you provide real and meaningful value to them, they’ll happily pay for your expertise and help.
And, you’ll build a loyal, consistent client base!
Thanks for reading!