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Freelance and consulting: When a prospect insists upon underpaying

Common wisdom is that prospects who refuse to pay our price and try to negotiate it down do not respect us. The solution is to stand up for our worth. They will either see the light of day or they won’t. If they won’t, we’ll be free to find better clients.

However, as I talk to potential clients, I suspect the problem is often quite different. Prospects oppose our price because their time, not ours, isn’t worth the expenditure.

Sometimes we are talking to the owner of a small business. They don’t have the money to pay someone else so they do most of the work themselves.

In the case of freelance writing (and probably other services as well), they are willing to save money by using the cheapest writer possible.

It’s amazing how cheap it can be on the internet when using online, international freelance sources. Many of these postings rigorously demand perfect grammar and punctuation. How demanding!

The reason I charge more is not because I happen to live in America. I don’t think being a proud American, by golly, has anything to do with it.

The reason I charge more is because I offer so much more. I set the bar so much higher. I generally bill by the project rather than by the hour, but my hourly rate works out to be quite reasonable because I provide much more than mere proofreading.

I end up spending a lot of time verifying facts, revising, making phone calls to verify quotations (we’re talking marketing copy here, not journalistic reporting and yes, I verify quotations and quite rightly so), revising, proofreading, and revising.

In addition, I offer a marketing perspective. Some web content is just the facts, but even here, I do search engine optimization as specified by the client. More marketing-oriented copy requires consideration of positioning and even sloganeering.

Some prospects are never heard from again, once they hear the price (which isn’t so high, unless you’re comparing it to some of the ridiculous rates offered online).

I suspect that even though they present themselves as so busy and so under pressure, the pressure is to do more with less money.

People who want to pay less end up doing more work themselves.

Why do they even bother with the low-cost alternatives? By the time they explain the assignment, get it back, edit it beyond the “perfect” grammar and punctuation they have received, run it through Copyscape, and follow up on many of the details that I take care of, they have saved themselves almost no time.

If they allowed themselves to spend a few extra bucks, I could make their lives so much easier.

And with long-term, recurring assignments, I would learn ever more about their business and how their process works.

Which would make their lives even easier.

Guess their time has very little monetary value to them.

Addendum: This article ended right here until my husband read it and asked an interesting question: What do you do to get prospects to accept your price?

Certainly I’ve identified benefits (above) that may convince prospects to proceed and I insert these benefits into the conversation. However, they may simply not have sufficient funds or approval to spend whatever funds are in the budget. If this is the case, I prefer keeping the conversation brief and not allowing my self-esteem to get sucked into it. It’s rare indeed to turn around substantial price resistance.

Originally posted 10-29-12

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