Be confident and calm when negotiating fees...

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Talking Money with Clients

If you’re like most copywriters, you hate the money conversation.

You’re not sure what your prices should be in the first place. And, the thought of negotiating makes you sweat. You may even believe there’s something wrong with negotiating, that if you don’t “stand your ground” on your prices, you’ll be perceived as someone who doesn’t value your own work. Or worse, that you’ll be perceived as “weak.”

Believe it or not, some people avoid the money conversation altogether. They accept a project, write the copy, and then submit their work without ever once talking about how much they want to be paid for it. In those situations, the copywriter is waiting for the client to bring it up, and the client is waiting for the copywriter to bring it up – and neither one does.

Whose responsibility is it, anyway?

Yours… if you want to be perceived as a professional, that is.

And, it’s just one of the three things you must do to be the professional that good clients are looking for…

1. Initiate the money conversation with confidence.

If you want to command the fees you deserve and get paid what you’re worth, you have to practice playing the role of the professional copywriter. That means initiating the money conversation confidently.

What to say?

It’s simple. Before you end the first conversation about a new project with any prospect or client, say this: “Talk to me about money.”

If they have a budget or price in mind, this provides an opening for them to tell you what it is, without your having to ask for it.

In reality, most won’t have one or will want you to be the one to say. Don’t be put off or intimidated by this.

However, instead of giving an actual price, ask a question designed to find out where on the pricing spectrum they are. Otherwise you risk pricing too high or too low.

Simply say, “Are we talking $500, $5,000 or $50,000?”

Don’t worry. These are not actual prices. You’re not saying, “Well, I can do this project for $500, $5,000 or $50,000.” That wouldn’t make sense. That’s why the range has to be so wide.

It’s simply a way to get the money conversation off the ground. From there, through negotiation, you will “come to a price together,” a cornerstone of my pricing technique (covered in depth in AWAI’s Simplest Guide to Pricing Copy Projects).

2. Get out of the financial fog.

What? You’re not a “numbers person”? Your head goes fuzzy when someone starts talking numbers? All the intelligence you exhibit in other areas of your life seems to evaporate, and, somehow, you can no longer do the multiplication we all learned in 3rd grade?

Lots of writers feel that way.  But in reality, money is simple and logical. It’s math, after all, and most of what you’ll need to deal with is not all that complicated.

Numbers either add up or they don’t. If they don’t, there’s something wrong, and if you look closely, you can usually figure out what it is. First you have to recognize that you can handle this. It just takes attention – focused attention.

3. Don’t approach negotiation as a confrontation.

You against them. Winners and losers. A zero-sum game.

That’s often how many people imagine the money conversation. But, that’s not it at all – at least it doesn’t have to be that way.

This came up a few years ago at the AWAI Bootcamp, when, after hearing my talk on pricing, fellow speaker and prolific author, Marcia Yudkin, asked if I advise everyone to negotiate.

Before answering, I questioned her further, and she revealed that she doesn’t like to negotiate. She would rather just give her price. The client can take it or leave it.

That may work for someone who knows exactly what their prices are and who is in a position to walk away from a client who won’t pay it. It’s a good position to be in, one that comes after you’ve been at it a while, as Marcia has.

I have, too. But the truth is, I want to negotiate – I like the money conversation. I don’t see anything negative in it. I genuinely enjoy the back and forth.

In fact, in my experience, the exchange about money has the potential to cultivate trust and lay a strong foundation for the working relationship as you “come to a price together.” That makes it a “win/win,” as they say.

Plus, negotiating gives you a chance to see how your new prospect behaves, before you’ve committed yourself to working with them. It’s like a trial period during which you get to see how responsive they are, how flexible they are – and vice versa. It’s your chance to show the professional qualities that will make them feel confident they made the right choice when choosing you.

To be successful, you must be perceived as a professional, know what you’re worth so you can set profitable rates, and then communicate them with confidence.

It helps to love the money conversation, too… and that can come with practice.


Ilise Benun

One Comment

  • I like how you talk about loving the “money conversation”. It’s a new point-of-view for me and, I like it!

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