How To Negotiate Your Price With A New Client

by Dawn Fotopulos on February 1, 2013

Small business advice on how to negotiate your price with a new client, especially if they’re offering half your normal pay rate?

How often have you found yourself accepting a job for far less than you’d normally accept because you need the work?  When you’re struggling to pay the bills, you often feel forced to take whatever business you can get.

Most struggling businesses don’t bother to negotiate the pay rate.  However, that is a quick way to bankruptcy.

You don’t have to take someone else’s pricing model as your own because you feel desperate for revenues.

A conversation I had with a dear friend, Helen, holds the answer.

She  just received a call from a new website to publish her well-written articles on subjects from partnership agreements to protecting intellectual property online.  She is already published on several high-profile websites, including  She’s a lawyer and a subject matter expert.  Like you, she knows her business.

She gets paid $500 per month to write and to publish one article on these well-known sites.

The person reaching out to her offered $400 for two articles.

Here are three small business tips I suggested…

First, don’t stress out believing someone’s trying to take advantage of you.

The best small business advice I can give you is, just because someone’s offering you a lower price for your services doesn’t mean you have to accept their pricing model.

However, found money is still found money. While $400 may not be a lot, it still can pay the light and cell phone bills each month. It’s also $4,800 per year. That’s not bad cash flow if you can repurpose content you already have at a low marginal cost.

Helen has thousands of articles in her library to choose from. She’s a treasure trove of information and advice. It would be easy for her to offer content since its well within her core competency.

Second, when you’re offering your service, it’s really about valuing the time and expertise you’re offering.

In Helen’s case, her content is what the reader is receiving, and that’s what the publisher is paying for. If you’re well-known, as Helen is, that’s worth real value.

She already has a following. Increasing the number of relevant visitors is what the publisher is trying to achieve and Helen’s content will help them get there.

But Helen is not a commodity (and neither are you). This new site is not just buying her articles when they’re paying her. They’re attracting her loyal following. In her negotiations, she needs to bring this up.

Third, look at the world from the new client’s standpoint.

They may only have a budget of $400 a month per author. You can work with this. Here’s how:

  • The tension is that the publisher has a limited budget and you don’t want to get ripped off. You have to establish a market-based pay rate.
  • For Helen, she receives $500 per article for everything she publishes. This new publisher needs to know that. This provides a realistic benchmark.
  • If this new publisher cannot match that price, Helen might decide to negotiate the scope.  Instead of producing two articles for $400, she can decide to produce ONE article per month for the same price. This is still a 20% reduction from her normal rate, so it’s a deal for her new publisher.
  • It also cuts Helen’s work load in half and only reduced her gross margin by 20%.
  • If Helen can find a freelancer to edit her articles for $15 per hour, she never has to get directly involved. She will have to check the final product to protect her reputation, but that just takes a few minutes of time.

The difference between a struggling business and a successful business is that success is all about matching the scope of a project to the return or payment for it.

If the client can’t pay your normal rate, reduce the scope. If you do a fabulous job (which I’m sure you will), they’ll want more.

Sooner or later, they won’t be able to do without you. That $400 initial monthly payment can be ten times that in months to come.

In your corner as always,

Dawn Fotopulos

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