How To Deal With A Client Who Wants It Cheaper

We’ve all been there. You take the time to sit down with a client and discuss their needs and then worked hard to craft a well thought out quote at a fair rate, then the client says “Can’t you do it cheaper that that?”. You sigh. What do you do? You want the work, especially since you’ve already invested time into quoting them. There are a variety of ways you can deal with this situation. My favorite is this five step approach.

Step 1: Confidently Say No

The first step is to confidently and clearly say “no” or “I’m afraid not”. This is important because it asserts that your pricing is what it is, and is not open to negotiation. If your no isn’t confident (“um… well, I’d really rather not”) then an aggressive negotiator may take advantage.

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Step 2: Reassure Them

Some clients ask for a better price because they don’t have a lot of experience with designers and are afraid of being taken advantage of. You can help to assuage this fear by reassuring them that you have provided them with the best quote you can. Even if their motivation isn’t fear, this helps reinforce that you’re quote is non-negotiable. Want to know more about reassuring clients? You can read more here at FTAdviser

Step 3: Offer To Reduce The Scope

If the client continues to ask for a better price, offer to reduce the scope of the project in order to meet their budget requirements. If the client truly can’t afford the full project, this gives them an option to still work with you. If the client is merely negotiating for the sake of negotiating, they will likely accept your full quote in order to get the work they want done.

Step 4: Offer To Do The Work In Stages

If the client needs the full scope of the project, but still insists that they can’t afford your quote, offer to do the work in stages to give them time to get the additional funds together. If they choose to go this route, be sure each phase is paid in full before moving on to the next.

Step 5: Be Willing To Not Get The Job

The key to successful negotiation is to be wiling to not get the job. This isn’t just a mind game. Unless you’re desperate for the work, it’s rarely worth taking a job at a reduced rate. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard many designers expressing regret after accepting reduced-rate jobs. If, having gone through steps 1 through 4, the client still says they can’t afford the job, it’s time to politely send them away. Michael Harder, a mortgage broker in Adelaide notes that he actively chooses to filter out potential clients when they show they’re heavily influenced on price, instead focusing his energy on higher value clients which increases his overall business profit.


This five step process is very effective for dealing with hard-nose negotiators while accommodating those who genuinely don’t have the budget for the process. Most importantly, it allows you to negotiate with dignity and establishes your rates as fixed.

Here’s an example of how these steps work in practice:

Client: Your quote is just to high. Can you do it for less?

You: I’m afraid not. I always quote with the best price I can. If it’s outside your budget, we could skip the brochure you’ve asked for and just do the business card and letterhead.

Client: No, I really need the brochure, too. It’s a big part of my sales process.

You: OK, maybe we can do the business card and letterhead now, and then start on the brochure in a couple of months once you’ve had a chance to get the funds together.

Client: That’ll work.

OK, so it may not always be quite as smooth as that, but give it a shot, it works pretty well.

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