Watch Your Language: Clients & Pricing

Watch Your Language: Clients & Pricing

Want more pricing help? This is day two of our five part series on pricing clients. You can find the rest of the articles on the Pricing Bootcamp splash page

When first meeting with a (potential) client it is important to establish yourself as capable, competent, and professional. In the early stage of giving a quote or proposal to a client it is easy to slip into conversation where unrealistic expectations or promises are tossed around in order to seal the deal. In some cases this level of candid conversation can come back to hurt you later in the project.

First Contact

First off, let’s create a basic outline of goals to accomplish during your initial client meeting.

  1. Become familiar with project requirements.
  2. Offer insight and suggestions when applicable
  3. Set up next point of contact (Sending quote or proposal)
  4. End Meeting

And that’s all. Your first meeting should be an info gathering and credibility establishing mission, nothing more. Avoid making any commitments or estimations at this point in the game. If you can confidently toss out an estimated price range then feel free, but keep in mind the moment you do so, that’s the baseline the client will operate from.

If you find a client is pressuring for you to toss out specifics you can firmly state “the proposal will include all this information” and then give them an ballpark date to expect it’s arrival. An example line to use is “I like to be as accurate as possible on the first try, so rather than give you a number now, I’ll go over what we’ve talked about and send that proposal right over.” Or something like that.

Red Flags in Client ConversationRed Flags in Client Conversation

“It shouldn’t take you that long”

If a client says this to you, flip the red alert switch, because you need to shut that attitude down immediately. They are hiring you for a reason, because they either don’t know how or they don’t have they don’t have time. You run your own show and it is important that you counter these sorts of comments with “I can have this completed by _____” or something to that effect. Don’t let them trivialize your work as that will directly impact how much they might be willing to pay, they have to recognize that your skills are a commodity. Not to mention talk like this gone uncontested can lead to unrealistic deadlines.

“No problem, that should be really easy”

So your potential client has asked for something that is rather easy to put together. That’s great, but don’t let them know that because that affects their perception of the level of work you’ll be doing. It might be easy for you because of the amount of practice you’ve had in that area, but the client is hiring you for a reason, they can’t do it themselves. Be objective when listening to requests and avoid discussing how difficult you think a task might be. You can be confident in your ability to accomplish something, but don’t trivialize the effort that goes into it with words such as “easy”. You worked to get to this point, that’s why it’s easy.

“I’m flexible”

This should be changed to “We’re as flexible as our contract says we are.” Don’t over commit yourself to rounds upon rounds of revisions just because you feel that’s what the client wants to hear. Set a specific number of revisions or hours spent on a design before additional fees are incurred. The last thing you want is a client that gets hung up on design and is on revision 19 just because you said in the proposal stage that you “are flexible”.

“We are willing to negotiate the price to fit your budget”

Think about buying a laptop. When you go in with a $1000 budget, tell the salesperson what hardware you would like, they never respond with “Sounds to me like this $2000 laptop would fit your needs perfectly. I know it’s twice what you wanted to pay, so in order to make sure this sale happens I’ll work with you and sell it for $1000.” The computer guys wouldn’t undervalue their products and neither should you. There are ways to handle price objections more gracefully. A better approach is pointing out what the client can get with their money. This is where the use of pricing tiers is useful, it gives the client options to work with inside of their budget without making you reduce your fees.

The Golden Rule of Client Communication

Golden Rule

Never feel like you have to come up with an arbitrary price estimate in the first conversation. It’s better to give an honest and realistic price the first time to avoid disputes later in the process. Use your proposal or quote to make the first statement about project cost, so you have it in writing. The pricing conversation is one that needs to be written down, live and die by your proposals and contracts.

Want more pricing help? This is day two of our five part series on pricing clients. You can find the rest of the articles on the Pricing Bootcamp splash page

Posted Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 · Back to Top


Add Comment

15 Comments 5 Mentions

  1. Montana Flynn Author Editor

    Huge help to me and my new business, I actually am going to use these tips right now as I pitch a possible client over the phone.
    .-= Montana Flynn´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-12 =-.


  2. Ezra Sandoval Author Editor

    Great article. I already follow these rules and the work great. I find it hard sometimes to not tell a client that it will be easy. That is defiantly the one that I have to work on.


  3. Callum Chapman Author Editor

    Great article, some very helpful tips!
    .-= Callum Chapman´s last blog ..10 High-Res Fabric Textures =-.


  4. Connor Turner Author Editor

    “If a client says this to you, flip the red alert switch, because you need to shut that attitude down immediately.”

    I would even be tempted to altogether leave a client with this attitude from the get go.

    In my experience, it will be extremely difficult to change their already high expectations. Web design and development takes time and patience. Unfortunately, few people understand that.

    Great article by the way. You’ve brought up some great points that I plan on using to polish my initial client meeting procedures.
    .-= Connor Turner´s last blog ..Seenster Alpha Goes Live =-.


  5. Tim Smith Author Editor

    Great Article! I’ve heard and been through some of these. I hope the newbies take advantage of articles like this. Thanks.
    .-= Tim Smith´s last blog ..Blogging is a Drag =-.


  6. Brant Author Editor

    Nice article, I would agree with Connor. It is much easier to walk away from a client in the beginning. It has been my experience that even if you are able to change the clients attitude about one thing it usually doesn’t change their personality. Then you end up with a difficult client and usually end up breaking off the relationship at some later point. Better to avoid it all together.
    .-= Brant´s last blog ..Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference =-.


  7. Angela Wilson Author Editor

    “quote or proposal to a client it is easy to slip into conversation where unrealistic expectations or promises are tossed around in order to seal the deal. ”

    This is way more difficult when you have sales people trying to “seal the deal.”

    Many times they have no CLUE what you can and cannot do – especially when it comes to social media marketing. They just see dollar signs. That makes the end product incredibly difficult to fulfill at times.

    From a freelancer perspective, I learned a LONG time ago to walk – no, RUN – away when my gut tells me a client will be difficult. They cause more headaches than they are worth, and typically bad mouth you whether you do a good job or not.

    Thanks for this series!
    .-= Angela Wilson´s last blog ..Online Promotion: What Authors Are Doing Wrong =-.


  8. Ayush Saran Author Editor

    “Don’t let them trivialize your work as that will directly impact how much they might be willing to pay”

    that one really stuck with me, Ive seen it happen over and over how they reconsider what they were willing to pay before and after the initial meeting


  9. Dee Author Editor

    Hi Guys, thanks soooo much for this kind of perspective. I’ve been trying to get around all of the points with my clients that you’ve mentioned here. Great luck with all that you do! … Dee


  10. Berthold Author Editor

    From my experience in IT freelancing, this is pretty much what you need to do in order to not ruin yourself over dumping prices. In a pinch, let them actually go somewhere else first if they are determined they can get good work for a measly budget. Do warn them not to pay any advance fees though; I’ve had customers paying a hack for the entire project up front and waiting over a year with absolutely zilch happening. They’ll come back sooner or later.

    Now, the red flags are a little confusing because you start with a quote from a customer and then switch to the designer. I’d like to add these tipps:

    “this should be easy” – clients have a way of underestimating design work, because they usually only see the end result and just assume some kind of magic happens in between. If the client is receptive and you have some time at the end of discovery, talk a little about the process involved. Also, a great way to alleviate missing appreciation is to to counter with an example of the customers’ own business. They, too, charge money for what boils down to their expertise. Being a good designer you should know how they do it and be able to make a great case. If you can’t because the customer really isn’t sure how he earns money, jump ship.

    “I’m flexible” – If you have a customer that is keen on waffling about during the process (or, even worse, design by committee) you have to make a cut there and then. Yes, you should have a number of free revisions allotted in your contract, and yes, you should also charge some cash up-front and during different stages of design (for example after discovery, after comp presentation, after the graphic design process and finally after completion). If the customer is already out 75% on the deal, this will reduce their interest in stalling drastically. But you should really make sure you take on jobs where the customer actually knows why they need a website (to generate profit) instead of “well everyone has one” and “but it has to be cheap, I can’t really waste too much money on this”.

    Websites are an investment, not an expense.


    • Kristanna Author Editor

      Extremely helpful article, plaese write more.


  11. Berthold Author Editor

    Just to add to it, I actually had a prospective customer today tell me that 20 hours of work for a logo design was highly excessive. Go figure.


  12. Asiantv Author Editor

    Metaphors in Mind contains a number of complete transcripts of work that Lawley and Tompkins have done with clients. The transcripts are annotated so that, in addition to picking up the flow of Clean Language, the reader will understand what is happening. In addition to the Meta Model and Milton Model, the Metaphor Model and Clean Questions would be an important addition to NLP training. David Grove, James Lawley and Penny Tompkins have given therapists a tremendously effective tool to help clients create pervasive and ecological change.


  13. Basil Author Editor

    Language is very important for foreign trade.


  14. dhaval Author Editor

    thanks .. dude.
    great article..



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