Freelance Work: The Lucrative-Discount Way to Win Top Clients - Make a Living Writing

Freelance Work: The Lucrative-Discount Way to Win Top Clients

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Freelance Work: The Lucrative-Discount Way to Win Clients

Are you struggling to get freelance work?

I know I was. I got started chasing freelance work as a side job to earn extra money.

But I really didn’t know how to get clients…other than content mills and bidding sites. I learned a lot from some of those gigs, but the pay wasn’t good.

Sound familiar?

Then something unexpected happened that changed the way I get freelance work.

I was at the grocery store (before COVID-19), and noticed employees handing out free samples and coupons to get people to try some new products.

And it gave me an idea. What if I could get freelance work by offering a one-time discount, and get those clients to pay top rates after that?

It took some trial and error to figure out how to position my discount offer, and then get more freelance work at higher rates. But it was worth it.

It’s a lot easier to get clients now. After that first project, they don’t even blink at paying me $75 an hour…a rate that seemed impossible writing for content mills.

Want to learn my lucrative-discount way to land top clients? Here’s what you need to know.

1. Set your discount rate and standard rate

Decide what you are willing to work for and the how many revisions you’ll do at that rate. (You don’t want to make $20 for hours and hours of revisions.)

Here’s what I did the first time I tried this…

  • Be clear up front. When the next possible client approached me for a low-rate project, I agreed. But I made it clear this was an introductory price only.
  • Overdeliver. I wrote a short blog and made sure it was edited and submitted well before her deadline. I also followed up with her to make sure it was what she needed. I got paid and waited to see what would happen.
  • Raise your rate. When my client got back to me about more freelance work, I reminded her the first assignment was a one-time price. She actually laughed and agreed to my new rate 2.5 times higher than the discount. And that turned into a long-term client.

2. Know your niche before you pitch

Identify a specific writing service you can offer prospects in your niche. Study their website and social media channels. Organize your portfolio or create some examples, and that’s enough to start pitching.

Here’s another example of how to use the discount method…

  • Define your niche and ideal client. With so many freelance writers trying to get the same jobs online, I decided to approach local small businesses. Before I went, I researched their websites and noted what needed to be improved. I even wrote short pieces as examples to share. FYI…this works pretty much the same for landing freelance work online.
  • Reach out and introduce yourself. I made in-person appointments and was prepared when I went. But you can do this via email by pitching, too. In fact, the response to in-person meetings was a lot like pitching via email, but that doesn’t mean you give up.
  • Offer a discount. When the conversation turned to “I don’t know…maybe later,” I offered my one-time discount. And it turned out to be a great way to get people to try my services just like the samples in the grocery store.
  • Deliver results. One client agreed to hire me to write new copy for two of their product pages. I gave it a rewrite. Within a few days, they called to say tons of customers responded with positive comments. I charged 2.5 times more on the next project, made $500 and got ongoing freelance work from this client.

3. Pitch your idea

Whether you reach out to a prospect in person or via email, show them you’ve studied their online presence and have ideas to help them improve it.

  • Be prepared. You won’t do a good job pitching ideas in a face-to-face meeting or on a call. And you can’t write an effective pitch if you don’t study up on the prospect first. You don’t want to be scrambling in a meeting, or ramble on in an email.
  • Project confidence, be yourself and help prospects feel comfortable working with you.

4. Discuss rates…but don’t offer a discount yet

When they ask about the cost, tell them your regular rates and what this include such as planning, project, word-count, and number of revisions. Don’t offer the discounted rates unless they seem concerned about the cost or not interested. Don’t be pushy, though.

How much should you charge for freelance work?

It depends on a lot of things. For example…where you’re at in your freelance career, your niche, and maybe your geographic area, if you’re focusing on local clients.

Here’s what I recommend to set your rates:

  • Know your niche or local rates for freelance work. Do some research to see what typical rates are where you live, or ask freelancers in your niche what they charge.
  • Ask lots of questions when you agree on a project. Who’s your target audience, typical customer, or ideal client? What’s the goal, objective or desired outcome for this project? Wordcount, length, voice, style, medium (blog, social, website, webinar, print) the content will be published, etc. Be sure you know what they want/need.
  • Make a good first impression. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your value and turn this prospect into a well-paying client. You need them to know that you’re worth every penny of your usual rates.

The discount method in action…I landed a one-time assignment to write some content for an attorney’s website. I completed the project ahead of schedule, then booked ongoing work at 2.5X my original rate.

5. Overdeliver

Write the perfect piece and send it early.

This is a critical step to getting the discount method to work. If you deliver cheap work, they’re probably not going to hire you again…and not at your premium rates.

Here’s how to make sure you crush that first assignment for a new client:

  • Pick a small project you can complete quickly. A blog post, webpage rewrite, bio, or product page, for example.
  • Write, rewrite and edit. Your hourly rate may not be that great on the first project. But if you overdeliver, guess what? Chances are pretty good you’ll turn this into a long-term client with the freelancer’s version of a grocery-store sample.
  • Give yourself time to do this right. No last minute articles you slap together. You need to earn that bumped up rate. You have to prove yourself while you have their attention. You may not get a second chance.

Offer a one-time discount to book higher-paying freelance work

Even the discount method doesn’t always help you land a client. But don’t get discouraged.

  • Be gracious.
  • Stay in touch if it makes sense.
  • Don’t burn bridges.
  • You never know when someone may change their mind and need you to do some freelance work.

Using the discount method helped make getting clients a lot easier for me. And now my client list is long enough, that I stay busy and feel good about what I get paid to write.

Do you discount your freelance rates to get clients? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Jen Jones is a freelance writer and mom of three amazing adults. She’s also passionate about spreading awareness and hope to families with special needs.

Grow Your Writing Income.

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17 comments on “Freelance Work: The Lucrative-Discount Way to Win Top Clients

  1. Paul Jones on

    Excellent article Jen. Great tips. Never thought about discounts. Now I know how to encourage clients that may be interested in my services but cagey about the cost. Thank you!

    • Jen Jones on

      Hi Paul,
      Honestly, had I not seen it in the grocery store, I probably wouldn’t have thought of it, either. It seemed worth a try and has definitely worked for me. Good luck!

  2. Nicole DiMella on

    I’m a freelance image researcher and permissions professional working with publishers and authors, and I often have trouble communicating the value of my services. Recently a potential client said my rates were too high for their budget. Cross your fingers – I’m going to try this now!

    • Jen Jones on

      Hi Allen,
      I was really surprised at how many places were willing to try my services when they felt they were getting a “deal.” Offering the discounts helped get my business going and I still use to persuade new clients.

    • Carol Tice on

      I’ve seen people do well with LIMITED QUANTITY, steep initial discount. The trick is to oversell that, where some pay full rip because you sold out your discount. Offer to the first 3-5 people to take the deal, then it’s full rip. Meanwhile, you’ve gotten a lot more exposure for what you do. So it’s a marketing cost, the revenue you give up.

  3. John Burnell on

    I’ve been a full time freelancer for 18 years and think this is very good advice. I’d like to expand it by advising freelancers, especially new or aspiring ones, to use discounts very sparingly. To sustain in this business, you want to be known for and chosen for your quality and ability to meet deadlines, not because of your low rate. Let someone else win the race to the bottom.


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