While you may have certain prices and policies that are the usual way you work with clients, at times clients will ask you to make certain changes or exceptions, and it can be hard to decide whether or not to agree to these changes. Following are some common scenarios and how to deal with them. You have to judge whether you want to accept a proposed arrangement, or come back with an alternative proposal, and then any agreement can be like a negotiation.

In general, it is best not to change your usual policies, since you have been following them with most or all of your other clients and you have found these policies work. Still, there are times when it is reasonable to accommodate a client’s request.

– A long-time client – or a new client – claims financial difficulties. He or she claims to have run into financial problems or has had upheavals in life, so he or she hopes to pay less or pay on a deferred basis. As a first step, decide if you trust this person’s claim. If it’s a long-time client, this is probably the case, but with a new client, the claim may or may not be. As some writer associates have found, sometimes people will plead poverty or hard times to get you to reduce your prices, while they may have no difficulties paying for other products and services. If you don’t trust the person’s claims, explain that these are your prices, and you have your own financial commitments and make your living doing this, so you can’t reduce your prices, but you will be glad to help them when they are ready.
However, assuming you trust that the person is having difficulties, it makes sense to work out an arrangement you both feel comfortable with. One simple approach is to offer a discount to help out – such as less 20-40%, which can help the client and leave him or her favorably impressed to want to work with you again, or perhaps give a testimonial for your product or service.
Another approach is to get at least a percentage down – say 10-20%, defer the rest, and work out a payment plan, such as 10-20% of the total each month until paid in full. In this case, get a signed agreement form, so it is clear the person still owes you the money and how much.
Still another strategy is to consider barter, if the client has services or products you can use. In this case, arrange the barter based on the value of the other person’s products or services if you were to buy them, and value your own services in the same way.

– A prospective client says that he/she thinks your prices are too high or that others have said this. Here I think the best strategy is to stress the value of what you are offering and point out the level of experience you have had that makes your service valuable. You can also point to testimonials you have gotten and indicate that you have had these prices and arrangements for many years. This strategy can be especially effective if you are offering a unique product or service which is hard to duplicate. This approach may not always work if the prospect is determined to pay a lower price or not get your product or service, but it is often better to stick to your guns rather than undercut your own income, since you have other clients who are paying the full price, so you don’t need to work with clients who don’t see the value in your work.
This scenario is like someone going to a store and asking to pay less for a Rolex watch because they can get other watches for less money. If you are in the business of selling Rolex watches, you don’t want clients who think that the Rolex costs too much money; you don’t want to undermine your value proposition to sell for less. Likewise, as a writer, once you determine how to value and price what you are writing, look for clients who will value what you do.

– A prospective client offers to write a testimonial in return for a special deal from you. Unless you are starting out as a writer and need some testimonials and recommendations, this is generally not a good arrangement. It is a variation on the prospective client claiming your prices are too high, but now the prospect is offering you a carrot – a testimonial – in return for paying less – or even trying to get you to do something for free. In this case, your strategy would be much like the way to respond in the “prices are too high” claim. Stress the value of your services or product, and at the same time point out that you don’t need any more testimonials; you already have them from people who have previously bought your service or product. If the strategy works, great. You convinced the client to pay full price for your services. If not, you have turned down a client you don’t need who doesn’t value what you are offering.

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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, who has published over 50 books on diverse subjects, including business and work relationships, professional and personal development, and social trends. She also writes books, proposals, scripts, articles, blogs, website copy, press releases, and marketing materials for clients as the founder and director of Changemakers Publishing and Writing and as a writer and consultant for The Publishing Connection (www.thepublishingconnection.com). She has been a featured expert guest on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN, talking about the topics in her books.
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