Dear Amna– R.i.
I have one particular client that has been stressing me. He pays me less than any of my other clients. He wants me to do over 5 hours of work for £70! I don’t know how to get out, help! How would you solve this dilemma?
This is a scenario I’ve seen happen time and time again both online and in my own workplace. It’s a familiar story: you do a lot of work for a client and at the end of the transaction they want to pay you half the agreed quote, or you give a fair quote at the start and they ask for a discount. How can we deal with this situation?
To me, it is a question about self worth. If you have self worth, you have self esteem and you value yourself. So how do we create self worth? How much do you think you are worth? How valuable are you? We have to figure these questions out and understand how to express our self worth to others in order to work past these kinds of problems. It’s a tough question and something that very seasoned businessmen and women don’t always know how to do. Many don’t even seem to think about it!
In my line of work, we usually quote a fee but if the transaction becomes more complicated or out of the original agreed scope we try to revise our fees. This is often met with objection from the client. When I can see that we are going over the agreed quote, I tell my boss and suggest that we revise the fee. He usually reduces whatever I suggest by 25%. This means that we have made a loss on the project. He does this often and so his clients are always asking for discounts. He is not charging what the work is worth, so the clients won’t pay it!
How Can I Prove My Worth?
Believe in yourself
You are worth what you believe you are worth.
Your clients won’t believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. When pitching, you need to be confident in your prices and show no hesitation. Building confidence is not easy, but there are tricks I use to help me. Like I said in my post about imposter syndrome, sometimes we just have to fake it till we make it.
You know what else helps me feel confident in my work? Looking at other people’s products/content.
When I feel insecure about myself I look at the people around me who are more successful and I realise: my work is better than theirs. I’m not saying I’m better than everyone, but there is a lot of mediocre content that is doing really well.
If you are really providing value to your clients then your work is probably as good or better than a lot of people out there. You will be amazed at the average content people are charging an arm and a leg for. Why are they successful? Because they believe in their work (as average as might be) — they can sell it.
Unfortunately, people don’t often understand the work that goes into providing services they think it’s easy (let them try doing your job for one day!). They will say that it will only take half an hour for you to write that article for example, but what they’re paying for are the skills and knowledge that you have built up over time and worked so hard to achieve. It’s important that we learn how to build our self worth and self confidence in our work in order to be successful.
Repeat to yourself: I AM WORTHY!
Ok, what else can I do?
Believing in yourself is not just a mental exercise, it needs to show through your actions too. If you think you are worth £100 an hour but you only charge your client £50 per hour – well, they will never believe you are worth £100 will they?
R.I, it sounds like your client is bullying you here. I’m not sure exactly what the situation is, but it sounds like he doesn’t respect your work and your time. There are several ways to deal this as I’ve outlined below!
Discounts set a precedent
I have a lot of problems at work when I need to quote for work. I think about the time it will take me to do the work and my hourly rate then I suggest a quote to my supervisor. More often than not, it is reduced. I understand the logic: you don’t want to scare the potential client off or you really want to close that deal. As I’ve learned through various marketing courses, following business coaches and blogs – those people are not your customers. Sometimes people ask off the bat because they are used to negotiating down and that’s ok, but if they persist and don’t value your work they may not be worth your time.
Low value = High risk
We think that we can’t afford to lose that business, but actually you can. Working regularly with clients who won’t pay you is riskier than not working for them at all. The amount of time you spend on low value clients means you are actually making a loss. You can spend that time working on and growing your business.
Focus on your unique selling point
I don’t know anything about you, but one thing I do know is there is only ONE of you. There is only one person who has had your experiences and learned from them. What sets you apart from the people doing the same thing as you? Focus on what makes you unique and make sure your client knows it!
Having a USP creates value for your brand. People are generally happy to spend when they feel like they will get value for their money. In order to find our USPs and market it correctly, we need to be confident in ourselves and practice our self worth. If you don’t value yourself, you won’t value your work. If you don’t value your work, you won’t charge the right price and people will think they can get it cheaper from you.
What if my client won’t pay?
This topic needs its own post. A few tips I would suggest to avoid this situation or deal with it:
- Make sure you have a contract: if you don’t have a contract for all new clients, make sure you draft one now. It’s crucial to have one in place so that if there are any issues everything is clear and set out in the contract. It’s also important to set out a scope of work: what exactly will the fee cover? If you are providing a written piece how many revisions are included? What if your client wants a call after hours? If they do need extra work, how will you charge for this?
- Stop working: pencils down, refuse to continue until your invoice has been paid. Show that you are serious and you won’t be undervalued.
- Take a deposit: Ask for a portion of the cost up front. 10-20% depending on your industry, when I was getting married a lot of the vendors requested 50% with the rest paid just before or after the wedding.
- Invoice regularly: in my industry, we invoice our clients when the deal is completed. If it’s a long project I know many other places that send interim bills on a regular basis (monthly for example). This will help avoid a situation where you have done all the work and you are pressured to take less.
Advice from Business Owners
Consider your prices fixed
I asked one of my blogger friends, Sarah Duncan (businesswoman and blogger at businesswomenthrive.com), what she thought about valuing work? She had this to say:
Don’t allow people to undervalue your work. You don’t go to a store and try to bargain a price. You either buy it, or you don’t.Sarah Duncan
Her words really rang true to me and is exactly how I see it. The more we believe in this, the more we value our work. If you provide services (and not products), it doesn’t mean that the end result is less valuable because it’s not tangible. The same goes for digital products. You have put time and effort and you are providing something that your client doesn’t have: the skills, expertise and time.
If you are knowledgeable and good at what you do, you need to charge for your work and your clients need to respect your rates. If they don’t, they aren’t your client. Another piece of advice Sarah provided was something she read elsewhere: if someone wants a discount, ask them what services they want deducted from the package. It’s as simple as that! If you’re not going to pay full price, you can’t expect a full service.
Recognise your value
Entrepreneur and social media manager Flo of CherishingFlo also imparted some useful advice:
I’d say be clear about what you bring to the table. Confidence is key. A lot of people want to pay less because they don’t see the value in what you’re doing. So make sure you recognize the value and can portray that. And it a client doesn’t want to pay, move on.— Cherishingflomedia (@cherishflomedia) October 28, 2020
As above, Flo is spot on – if your client doesn’t want to pay, move on.
Being an Arab Muslim, I have to say that certain communities are worse than others. One businessman told me that for some reason people from our community expect more for their money. It’s something my parents complain about all the time! My dad hired a law firm to draft a power of attorney once and he complained to me saying, “I called the lawyer to ask some questions and you know he put that time on the bill?!” Yes, dad, they charge an hourly rate – of course they did! A lot of people I’ve come across feel very entitled to your time/services.
With people like this you have to be a little more firm and establish your boundaries. As soon as you give in on something, they will always expect that from you and won’t respect your boundaries. If you give in and discount your rates, those discounted rates will be the value they assign to your work. Even with people you know, I don’t think it’s fair t to be expected to lower your price. I have some family and friends who own businesses and I always insist on paying full price (especially if they are just starting out). Sure, you might piss some people off if you don’t give a discount, but your bills aren’t going to pay themselves! If you want to give a discount or “mates rates” do so by all means, but don’t feel bad if you can’t afford to or don’t want to.
In a nutshell
The main points I learned from my own experience, research and talking to others:
- Confidence is key: if you sell yourself short, the client will not see your true value and will always expect a discount.
- Emphasise your USP: people will pay more if they believe they are getting something different or better value than the alternatives.
- Provide value: create an excellent product/service to match your prices, great customer service goes a long way.
- Remember: You are worthy!
Unfortunately, difficult clients are the reality of providing a service. It’s something that will come up time and time again, but the more we coach ourselves and develop our self worth and self confidence the easier it will be to deal with such clients and focus on our “ideal” clients. Look at this experience as a learning point, next time it happens you will be better prepared.
I am not a business guru by any means (I don’t really know a ton about business and marketing), but I have seen this problem come up time and time again in my work. Be selective with who you accept work from. Do a little research if you can, talk them through what you can offer them and see how they react. Often just a few conversations will tell you all you need to know. Stand up for yourself and know your worth!
Have you been in a situation where you’ve had to prove your self worth? or have you ever felt undervalued?
It is very important not to undervalue ourselves. This is an article worth reading again. 😀
Thank you! It’s something we need to keep reminding ourselves!
This is such an interesting post. I love that you’ve written this in an agony aunt style. It’s great to be able to explore all options and understand our own worth!
Jessann Hathaway says
This is a concept that a lot of service providers need to grasp. Great read, Amna.