Monday, February 13, 2012

Defending Your Prices

I used to avoid any potential job where the client stated prices up front that were too low. I would just not apply to the job, or I’d let the project go without any objection. There was plenty of work out there that paid well, and I didn’t want to waste my time.

It occurred to me at one point, though, that negotiation wasn’t necessarily a bad thing—and some of these lower prices represent what the client ideally wants to pay, not what he or she is ultimately willing to pay. I started defending my prices in situations like this—more as an experiment than anything else. Sometimes, it didn’t work—the budget was truly inflexible. Other times, however, it actually did work—and I got some projects I never would have landed if I hadn’t bothered. Here are a few pointers for defending your prices.

Talk about what the money buys you. One of the things I emphasize—particularly when talking to the five-dollar-an-article crowd—is that there are certain things you can’t get when you’re paying that little for writing. You don’t get research, for one thing. What you’re usually getting is work recycled (or sometimes directly cut-and-pasted) from other articles already on the web. You don’t get someone assessing your market and the type of information your audience is hungry for. You don’t get research into topics that aren’t already well-covered. You definitely don’t get interviews. Breaking down exactly what work and expertise the client gets—and explaining why they won’t get that with the low-budget option—can be enormously eye-opening.

Talk in terms of money saved, not money spent. If someone’s trying to find a student or newbie to do their ten-page brochure for $50, it’s not necessarily money wasted—there are a lot of talented newbies and students out there. But the likelihood is higher than if you pick someone with a track record of experience in this area. And if you’re putting money behind the campaign—mailing costs, printing costs, graphic design, etc.—then the message is definitely something you don’t want to skimp on.

Talk about results. I like to talk about successful past campaigns. I talk about clients who’ve dramatically decreased time spent in sales, boosted revenue, or raised their click-through rates or web traffic as a direct result of my work. It helps to occasionally check in with clients to get the results of finished projects—and a few testimonials with specific figures definitely don’t hurt.

This won’t work all the time. But it does work enough that it’s worthwhile to do. How do you defend your prices?


Susan Johnston Taylor said...

Thanks for the tips, Jennifer! I tend to shy away from these types of clients because there are plenty of others who already understand a professional writer's value. But if my workflow slows down, I might try this strategy.

Jennifer Williamson said...

It's worth trying just as an experiment...just to see what works and what doesn't. And sometimes you'll be in positions where you have to defend prices--for example, maybe you're working with a graphic designer and their clients are resisting, and you have to give the designer language to use to overcome that.