12 Tips to Overcome Freelance Clients’ Cost Objections

Carol Tice

Stop hand gestureBy David Leonhardt

So you caught your potential freelance writing client’s interest. Congrats!

You like the project (it’s an interesting one, for a change!) and it might even keep your mortgage from defaulting next month.

You’ve agonized over the price and finally presented your fee.

The client doesn’t like the price. Now what?

Go back to the client and figure out the reason behind the objection. Then negotiate.

Why clients fight back on price

My freelance writing agency runs into such objections all the time. You don’t have to cave in. There are many tactics you can use to overcome cost objections, but you first need to understand their motivation.
Most fall into three categories.

An “over budget” objection is about money. You need to understand whether the budget can be altered.

A “seems pricey” objection is about both money and value. You need convince the client  you will give them value for their money.

Others just like to haggle.

Anticipate hagglers by being alert for clients who ask for the best price from the start or micro-managers who are often as concerned about pennies as they are about commas. Quote high; they will be happy with the “deal” they negotiate — the price you would have offered in the first place.

Once you know the type of objection you’re facing, you can decide whether to hold fast on the price you quoted or work with the client to get your wage where they want it.

Tricks to get your quoted rate

The key here is to help the client see why you are worth the price. Here are some tactics:
1. Sell the client on a quick turnaround. You can complete the job before they even find another writer.

2. Itemize costs they save with you, such as your knowledge that saves paying for research time or auto-formatting the document.

3. Paying bottom dollar has embarrassed many companies. Remind the client of this.

4. Stress how good you are and how effective your results will be. If you don’t demonstrate value, the client might look for a writer more willing to haggle.

5. Compare your fees to the competition’s pricing, unless you command top dollar. Position yourself as “reasonable” to overcome cost objections.

6. Offer something extra – formatting, a related press release – as a free bonus for signing quickly.

Ways to lower your price — pain free

If it is clear that you DO need to lower the price, but you don’t like slave wages, here are some tactics to try:
7. Identify steps the client can take to reduce your workload so you can lower your price to their desired level. Sometimes this makes the client realize that it is worth paying you full price, after all.

8. Offer a cash-back incentive for speedy feedback or proper input from the client. Client cooperation can reduce your workload, so it might be worth lowering your price.

9. Look to outsource parts of the project to students. Research? Editing? Can you lower your price this way without working for less?

10. Offer a payment plan — three portions works well. This is of no import for large clients, but smaller clients love it.

11. Suggest downscaling the project. If they really have funds for just part of it, offer to do just part of it. This also can make the client decide to just pay full price.

12. Divide a project into phases. Determine what you can do within their budget, and call it Phase I. Chances are  they will pay full price for Phase II later on.

If you remain at a stalemate on price, it’s time to decide how badly you want this job. Just remember that when you accept a lower price, you are raising expectations for the next time and lowering your value forever.

What tricks have you used to push past client objections? Tell us in the comments below.

David Leonhardt has been running THGM Writing Services for over a decade, providing writing and editing services. Most THGM projects are books, blogs, web content and various business materials.


  1. Kevin Carlton


    Dividing a project into phases is one of my favourite tactics for overcoming price objections too.

    I usually say something like: “If you go with someone else you may end up spending a whole lot of money on an entire project and find you don’t get the outcome you want.

    “That’s why I suggest we break this project into phases. This is a safer option as it gives you the opportunity to review my work at the end of each stage before proceeding any further.”

    I’ve ended up with a lot of long-term work this way. And if the client doesn’t go beyond Phase 1, quite often by that stage you’ve got other work lined up to take its place.

    • David Leonhardt

      Hi Kevin. If their cost objection is honest, then this should work. It’s about as win-win as it gets.

  2. Mike

    The best price philosophy I ever heard was on a woodworker’s business card. It read, “Fast, cheap, good. Pick two.”

    This meant you could pick fast and cheap, but it wasn’t going to be good.

    Or you could pick cheap and good, but it wasn’t going to be fast.

    Or you could pick fast and good, but it wasn’t going to be cheap.

    It was a humorous reminder to clients that real value costs real money.

    Mike Johnson

    • David Leonhardt

      LOL. That is often true. Just be careful, because if “slow” is the result of client delays, it can mean sidelining the project, rearranging workflow for all your clients, getting back into the project, sidelining it again and rearranging all client workflow again, and… Let’s just say that I often quote higher for a slow project than for a fast one.

      • Karen J

        I first saw “Fast, Cheap or Good? Pick 2” posted in a quick-print shop in the late ’70’s – and have kept it in mind ever since. It’s a great starting point for the price conversation!
        If “client delays” are the source of your scheduling problems, that ought to be covered in another clause of your Client Agreement…

  3. Lori Ferguson

    This is an excellent ‘negotiation primer,’ David–thank you! Negotiating pricing is the aspect of my business I like the least, so I’m always looking for good suggestions on how best to handle things. I’ve used your ‘price it higher ’cause ya know they’re gonna haggle’ approach to great effect in the past and I’ve also suggested scaling down a project so that the client got what she could comfortably afford and I was still able to pay my cable bill… 😉

    I’m printing this out and sticking it in my ‘essentials’ file–thanks again!!

    • David Leonhardt

      Thanks, Lori. As I am sure you know, there is nothing a writer loves more than to know someone loves his work. Even just a how-to blog post. 😉

  4. Micki

    One of my favorite tips is to walk away. If you have hit a point where they are not willing to adjust their budget (even though you have clearly outlined the value and options), and you have used all the great tactics that Carol outlines, then wish them well and walk away. You would be surprised how many will come back and have magically found the money. I have been in sales for many years, and this works in any selling situation most, not all, the time.

    • David Leonhardt

      Interestingly, just yesterday a potential client told me he could not afford me. I wrote back “OK. It’s actually fairly cheap, but I understand. If you change your mind, let me know. ”

      He replied:

      very professional reply and I will retain your info.”

      I give it a 30-percent chance that he will get the funds. We shall see.

    • Katharine Paljug

      That’s a really good point – you have to respect your own work not to negotiate past a certain point. Otherwise, you end up devaluing yourself.

  5. Katharine Paljug

    Love the advice about pricing high when dealing with hagglers. It’s so true – some people aren’t really paying attention to the price, they just want to feel like their negotiating a good deal!

  6. Halona Black

    The problem I am having now with a client is that they are “surprised” at the price for work I already completed — claiming that it was a bit more than expected. I quoted an hourly rate for writing web copy for their home page. I estimated between 2 to 3 hours, but no more than 4. The project actually took 4 hours with rewrites. So now I’m just waiting to hear back. Very frustrating as I hate to have to go back and forth on something that was already agreed upon.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, we’d hope your contract defined that 4-hour upper limit.

      Hope you’re joining us for Freelance Business Bootcamp! This is the kind of thing we’ll be talking about in our final session on client management. AND we’ve got a whole hour on contracts, too.

      • Halona Black

        I was super excited about this bootcamp when you did the training call last week. I didn’t have a contract for this (and I know I should have…). What I do have is an agreement done via email conversations. So I do have written communication proving that I gave them an honest estimate. But, yes, the bootcamp is on my calendar.

  7. Kaloyan Banev

    Majority fight for the price, but many pay in advance. There is one more thing, a lot customers of mine have shared that they have been burned in the past and I know that this is true, but I always tell them that they are burned mainly because they have selected cheap services at first place.

    • David Leonhardt

      Yes, Kaloyan, I get the “burned in the past” argument from time to time, and I suspect that it is usually true. But that is no reason to haggle down the price. That is more a reason to try a small test project first.

      • Carol Tice

        I like how you think on that, David!

        I have had to be the re-education committee for quite a few clients who had bad past experiences with writers. But I find that’s not about lowering price but about creating a lot of clarity and reassurances of what the client will GET for their money.

        My own philosophy of “I write until you’re ecstatic” — rather than defining 2 edits I’ll do and then I’ll charge you more — I think has gone a long way toward reassuring skittish clients that they’re going to have a great experience with me.

  8. Efoghor Joseph Ezie

    Sometimes, offering to add an extra service does the trick as a lot of people love something free. But you need to be sure the extra service you are offering does not consume your time.

    Letting the client evaluate the job from stage to stage is also good as he would have the chance of checking the quality of your job and then be convinced you can offer something really good. Most times, they award the rest of the contract without following you all the way to the end.

    You could as well offer cash back incentive to boost the client’s confidence in you. This most of the times does the magic. The client reasons that you must be good otherwise you won’t be offering the cash back.

    And then, walk away if you have tried your best but the client is not willing to see reasons with you. Over diluting your price could mean reducing your value forever.
    Thanks for this great piece. Do have a pleasant weekend.

  9. MissBlossom

    Thanks for this. I often use some of these tactics, but will book mark it for reference. I always get offended when people haggle with me. I feel (perhaps wrongly) that they are telling me I am not worth the price. I feel it is an insult to my creativity. I am hopeless at haggling myself. I see it as cheap and tacky. I know this is a cultural thing (my parents are middle class Australian and here the price is set and that’s how is stays. Only “poor people” haggle.its a cultural thing).

    I currently work globally and in many cultures it is normal to haggle, in fact the price is inflated to allow for it. I need to get used to the haggling and not take it personally. Your article helps put haggling and showing the client value in perspective. Thank you.

    • Karen J

      Miss Blossom ~ It may help if you use a word with less emotional and cultural baggage than “haggle” ~ think of your business conversations around price as “negotiations” instead.

      Your awareness of the cultural differences is a great start! 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — think Middle Eastern bazaar! I think Americans are not accustomed to haggling culture. But it is a normal part of business.


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