Clients Think You Charge Too Much? Here's How Top Designers Handle It
There’s a delicate balance between the amount of value you offer and how much you charge for that value. If you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you’ve already struck it, and have come up with a fair price for what you’re offering.
But what if the client doesn’t agree? It’s not easy being a New York Times freelancer in a Fiverr world. How do you override those objections?
If you’re too eager to please, will you end up working for someone who doesn’t value you? If you’re too inflexible, will you lose all your clients?
That’s why we asked some of the top freelance graphic designers in the business how they handle client objections.
Image by Cursive Q Designs
The first tip, supplied by Canadian font and logo designer Jeremy Vessey, is that you should start by creating a unique service that’s hard to find anywhere else. “I’ve been fairly lucky in that the majority of people who contact me are looking for something created by me.” He says. “So most of my clients don’t want me to chop my price in half or anything.”
If they do, he draws a hard line, but not so hard that it alienates customers. “I usually stay firm on pricing, only shifting down about 15% max.” But it helps that he has plenty of options. “I would say that I only take on 30% of the clients that contact me. If my interests aren’t aligned, I usually refer them to another designer. If their budget is unrealistic, I’ll usually tell them that my schedule won’t allow for projects of that scale.”
Mike Rogers of Station Seven and Creatives in Transit agrees. “I’ve learned from experience that if a potential client gets hung up on price, it is typically an indicator that they will be a difficult client to work with.” He says. “Whereas if a client values your work enough to pay your asking rate, they tend to also have more faith in your design decisions and vision for the overall project—a better outcome for both parties.”
Web designer Heather Lounsbury had to learn the hard way. “When I started doing custom web design work, my fees were dirt cheap. I didn’t know what my services were worth and I wasn’t confident in the value of what I did. I got a fair number of custom jobs, but I also got frustrated over pouring hours into jobs for such low compensation. So … I settled on a mid-range fee that I think better reflects what I have to offer and the work I do.” She’s learned to stand firm on her prices, as well. “I always quote for the project up front, stick to my prices, and if a client is not willing to accept my fees, I’m just not the designer for them.
“Yes, I have fewer clients, but I have found my recent clients easier to work with. They know what they want, are willing to pay a fair price for my work, and have been a joy to collaborate with.”
However, Vessey offers a compromise, a useful lesson for designers without a glut of clients. “One tactic I’ve used is based on drafts/revisions/concept options. If you aren’t in the position to be turning away a lot of work this may work for you.
“For example, if you normally charge $1250 for 4 Logo Concepts with 3 revisions and if their budget only allows for $600, you could then offer 2 Logo Concepts with 2 Revisions. This cuts your work load in half, but you maintain your “Hourly Rate” or “Project Rate” to some extent. Last but not least, take a 50% upfront retainer and don’t send the client the final files until you’ve received the remaining 50%.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. In the words of Janna Hagan, “If you never have clients tell you that you’re too expensive, you’re probably not charging enough.” And when that objection comes, don’t be too eager to please. If you immediately start slashing your rates, the client will probably just take that as a sign that they can push you for even more discounts.
It also helps to prepare an explanation for why you charge so much for your projects. In fact, coming up with that can teach you a lot about your own business — especially if you have to defend it against competition from other designers. For example, if a web design client asks why you’re charging double the price they were quoted on a job board, you can explain that where the other client will most likely plug their content into a WordPress template, you’ll work twice as hard to create a better-looking and more secure site, with a better hosting plan, from the ground up.
Finally, remember that you can’t win them all. Clients who insist everything be cheap will probably always be cheap. Do you really want to end up stuck working with someone who doesn’t understand the value in design? Those are always the most difficult clients, because they expect to be able to give you the run-around for slave wages.
“Dance for me if you want this.” Image by Theilr
But as the designers we spoke to have repeatedly proven, no matter how unconfident you might be during these early stages, there are clients out there who will recognize your worth and pay you a living wage. It may take longer to find them, but it’s worth it.
Are you a freelancer who struggles with cheap clients? Got any other questions, comments or suggestions? Leave us a comment.
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C.S. Jones is a freelance writer, artist, and photographer.\r\n\r\nIn the past, he co-founded an art gallery and worked at a product photography studio. These days, he does photo tutorials (and gigs), online copy, and content marketing for a living. He also writes about webcomics at Webcomicry.com…View More Posts