Sometimes as writers, we bend over backward to make our clients happy. Often we will cut our fees, sometimes too low, in order to keep a good client happy. While it’s okay to give a cost break when you can, you have to know when, and how, to say no.

There are times when the client says something to the effect of “Sorry, that’s just too steep for me.” And that’s fine. You as a business professional must determine if it’s cost-effective for you to continue to do the job or if you need to talk to your client further. Here’s what I suggest:

Before you turn down the job entirely, offer your client some alternative payment options. It takes very little time to register with PayPal. It does cost to transfer money using it, so keep that in mind as you’re negotiationg. You could offer to break the payments down into two or three installments. Unless your client’s bill comes to over $20K, I wouldn’t suggest stretching the payments out any farther than three installments as then it becomes more accounting work for you. Offer, through PayPal, to take credit card payments. Do not immediately reduce your rate. Feeling sorry for the client does not pay your bills. While it’s good to offer a discount if you can afford to, don’t make it automatic or you will soon be taken advantage of. You have to respect your skills enough to charge what you’re worth and stick to it.

With all that said, you should understand that there are certain clients (luckily, few and far between) who will try to get your fee down and who won’t be nice about it. You may have come across them already–the ones who will hear your fee and immediately say “I have three other writers who will do it for half that!” Let me point out the obvious: If they did in fact have another writer who charged less, why are they still talking to you? It’s because: a) you exist, or b) you have skills they need that others don’t. Don’t back down and don’t take offense. Just respond in your most professional voice (or email) that you appreciate the information, that you offer X and Y, and mention your payment options. If they balk beyond that, trust your judgment. You can tell a lot about a client by how they respond to the payment negotiations. Decide for yourself if this is one worth negotiating with. If the answer is no, wish him well and move on.

Writers, respect yourself as professionals. Draw your boundaries now. Assume that your skills are just as necessary as accounting, engineering, or any other specialized profession. The moment you start taking yourself seriously, you’ll be able to negotiate a fair fee for yourself.

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