“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”
– Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
Do you hate to haggle? Do you find it insulting when someone asks you to lower your rates? How do you feel when someone says they can’t quite afford you and would you consider taking the job anyways?
I know people who light up on fire at the first sign of haggling. They feel personally offended. Does this client not know who they are? How dare he ask for a discount! Clearly, he’s just some cheap, unethical bargain-scraper looking to get the most for the least! The nerve!
That’s the wrong attitude to have. A client who haggles isn’t being disrespectful. He’s trying his luck and hoping to save a bit of money. There’s nothing wrong with that. The worst you can say is no, after all. And at best? He saves a bit of money, you get a gig, and you both get to work with each other.
Or, maybe the client doesn’t want to save a buck – maybe he just really, really wants to work with you and is just trying to find a way to hire you without blowing his budget. Nothing wrong with that either. How does he know you might not be willing to work out a deal? He has to ask…
Then there are people who feel that working out a deal is just a game, and they pony up to the betting table. There are lots of people who love to haggle – they grin like kids during negotiations, and there’s no harm, no foul if they lose. And because these people enjoy haggling, they often assume you do too. What’s the harm in having a little fun?
For others, it isn’t a game – it’s standard operating procedure. Maybe they were taught that this is how business is done. Or maybe they were raised with the philosophy that if you never ask, you never get. They might feel that negotiating lower rates is just a natural part of hammering out an agreement.
Or maybe they feel they have to ask for a lower rate. Some people have funny ideas about making sure they don’t show anyone they’re a pushover. They might be afraid that if they don’t ask for a discount, they’re showing you that you can walk all over them. They’re not trying to insult you; they’re trying to protect themselves in an attempt to command respect.
Who knows? More importantly, who cares?
Haggling isn’t bad. Asking for cut rate isn’t evil. It doesn’t mean the client is out to get you. (And truthfully, it says more about you than it does him if that’s what you think!) It’s not a “cheap customer” red flag or a sure sign of an impending problem client.
It just is what it is: a person asking whether you’ll lower your rate. That’s all.
In fact, the ball’s in your court. Play the game if you want to. Make a counter-offer and negotiate. Ask for something in return. Offer extended terms of payment. Modify your proposal so that it fits in with the client’s budget.
Or just say no. Politely decline and gently tell the client those are your rates, and you can’t lower them. Sorry. You might be surprised to find that you get the job anyways when the client shrugs and says, “Okay. Let’s do it anyways. Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
No, you sure can’t. So why get offended?
Your turn: Have you ever been offended by a client and realized after that no one meant any harm? Do you lower your rates or try to negotiate with clients who want a discount? And what’s happened when you have brought your price down?