Have you ever been told, “We want to work with you, but we don’t have the budget. Are you open to negotiating your rates?” Some would even go as far as, “Are you willing to work for free in exchange for exposure/a good review?” So… what do you do when a client asks you to lower your rate?
Since starting my blog in 2008 and opening my business soon after, I have been asked countless of times to lower my rates. Some said they don’t have the budget. Others said I’m a Filipino and shouldn’t be charging as high.
To be honest, for years I believed those reasons. Whenever a potential client would contact me then say they can’t afford my services unless I lower my rates, I immediately bow to their requests. My reason being it’s better to have a client that pays than having none at all.
Besides, I’m just a blogger… I’m just a Filipino — I have no right to charge high.
My thinking changed when I had an email conversation with Reese Ben-Yaacov. I “found” her as I was looking for mentors to help me grow my virtual assistance business. She came up along with other mentors I eventually took classes/mentorship programs from, like Serena Carcasole, Elena Herdieckerhoff, and Melyssa Griffin.
One of Reese’s emails asked, “Is this something you worry about?” The email basically talks about how you can compete with freelancers who charge super low rates. I took my chance and replied to her email. I didn’t expect she’d reply, but she did!
Thank you for all your informative posts on becoming a VA. I have been a VA since a 2008, but I can’t seem to charge over $7 simply because I’m from the Philippines. When clients find out that I’m from the PH, they immediately assume that I have to charge low. I’ve never found a client who’s willing to pay more than this – and I’m damn sure I can provide top quality work!
Problem is, they never give me a chance to let them try my services because they’d say that Filipino VAs charge much lower.
Any advice on this?
To which she replied:
Charge more! What services do you offer? Tell me more about what you do and who you do it for. Xo
We had quite a conversation and I learned from her that for anything you do, you have to know and recognize your value.
I have been providing my services — both for my blog clients and business clients — for over 8 years and have invested on various trainings throughout the years. All my previous clients think I do an amazing job. So, it is just right to charge for the value I provide.
And so I followed Reese’s advice and just charged more.
I started with my existing clients. Some accepted my new rate, others decided to end their contract with me. While it was disheartening to have to end certain contracts, I just reminded myself that when one door closes, another opens. For every project I lost, I opened up a slot for a new, better paying project.
Side Note: This is where budgeting comes in. When you implement a change like this, make sure that you are prepared to make adjustments to your budget since your income will most likely drop for a certain time. If you’re already freelancing, then you should know by now that you need to be able to manage your finances well. If you’re still struggling with this, maybe you should take a step back and ask yourself if you’re really ready to freelance.
I lost three projects when I implemented my new rates. THREE! And I lived on just one project for a month and a half. However, instead of sulking, I made my wait for a new project productive by advancing my skills. I took courses, joined a VA Summit, and tirelessly read through the blogs of influencers.
A month and a half later, an opportunity came. I was hesitant at first, but I decided to go for it and charged my worth. As expected, the client negotiated for a lower price. I said no (nicely). A few weeks later, she came back to me and re-negotiated. It was tempting, but I still stuck to my rate. Because the client needed my skill set and she knows (from recommendations and testimonials) that I can deliver quality work, the client booked me! Yay!
Prior to getting mentored by amazing VAs in the industry, I would usually accept lower offers as soon as a potential client presents it to me. However, I learned from my mentors and from experience that:
- First and foremost, never negotiate your rate. You can, however, negotiate the scope of work. Note: YOU have to negotiate the scope. Do not let the client dictate the project’s scope and the cost.
- It’s easy to grab whatever project we can get. But, remember that it’s better to suffer short term (no income for some time) than work long-term with a toxic client who doesn’t see your value.
- But, before you start charging more, be sure that you can give more value too. Invest on workshops, online courses, and local trainings!
What do you do if a client asks you to lower your rate?
Decline the offer nicely. I would usually say something in the lines of:
Thank you for expressing your interest in working with me on this project! I understand that you’re working with a budget and this is a large investment for you. If, in the future, you are ready to take your business to the next level, please feel free to get in touch!
Sometimes, though, I offer discounts–but only to long term clients. I do this when:
- I ask for a testimonial
- I am celebrating my “anniversary” with the client
- The client books another project
This shows my clients that I truly appreciate working with them and that they can look forward to discounted rates for repeat work.