Negotiating with Customers

Freelance writing as a living is like swimming in muddy water.  You never know what’s going on beneath the surface.  It is a risky profession.  You must balance your need to eat and have shelter with quality of life and your self-esteem, which I’ve found to be a priceless commodity.  Once you lose that it’s difficult to reclaim it.

Today I had a communication from a potential client (not to be named) that goes something like this:

hello, i have 7 books and i need to change the first 1000 words of each book
i also need you to change the title and the formatting (fonts and colors) for each book
i can give you 3 gigs
let me know

What he’s offering me is $15 to basically rewrite (note the word edit is not used) 7,000 pages, come up with new titles, and reformat these eBooks that he will then turn around and resell for probably $10 each.

I decided to play this one coy and responded with:

First, thank you for contacting me. I always appreciate meeting new people on here.

Second, I need to clarify, are you stating that you need to spread the project out by giving me 3 gigs where each is 1,000 words editing + fonts and colors and would like a quote on each?

Or are you stating that you require someone who can do 7,000 words of copy editing, font manipulation, new titles and color changes for $15 (3 regular gigs)?

What I am doing is a) forcing him to realize the size of the task he’s really requesting from me and b) giving him an “out” which is 3,000 words of editing (not rewriting) for $15.  I would edit 3,000 words for $15.  I will not rewrite 3,000 words for $15, nor will I rewrite 7,000 words and reformat his books for $15.

Now, he will probably not accept this.  I can tell with some people what they are looking for and I can also tell when they feel they are offering you a good deal.  This person is used to working with outsourced writing.  He or she may even be from another country (my guess).

I have come to the conclusion that life is short.  My time has value.  I’d rather have time than that extra tube of lipstick or a cheap tshirt from the mall.

The other day I held my ground with a client and he agreed to my terms.  I was able to turn in the exact writing he needed and he thanked me and tipped me.  It is possible to negotiate with a client to get what you want.

Remember Your Worth

If you don’t believe you are worth $5 for 300 words, no one else will.  If you believe that writing has no value or that writing is not a discipline or craft then no one else will.

Know who you are and never relent to the opinions and expectations of others.

Remember Your Rent

This is probably a more powerful and Maslowian reaction–you have bills to pay.  If you take a 1,000 word gig for $5 ($3.80 after payouts) you lost the opportunity working on that to make $10 ($7.60).  You simply cannot afford to do it.  Over time you will lose money, especially if you get into the habit of yielding to unreasonable demands.

Look, they’re already getting copy writing at prices cheaper than they were 10 years ago.  10 years ago good writers got $.06 a word.  Now you’re getting a half penny.  Don’t do it.

Remember the Rumpelstiltskin Story

When you give into reasonable demands you are never going to be rewarded because only unreasonable people make those demands.  Unreasonable people simply do not appreciate hard work or craft.  They are unreasonable.

What you will get is less money the next time and more critique that will plummet your ratings.  Trust.

Politely Demand What You’re Worth

Here’s the trick.  If you get angry or offended, it won’t work.  You have to say something like:

Thank you for your offer, but I simply cannot accept it.  I write well-researched, unique copy that engages the customer and helps to establish a brand.  This level of effort requires time and careful manipulation of words. 

You are telling the client that they are appreciated (starting with a positive about them), but that you also deserve appreciation (promoting a positive about you) while at the same time letting them know that if they choose to go with you they are getting a great product.

On reasonable clients this works.  It will even work the first time.  If someone comes back with a counter-offer on a site like Fiverr do not waste your time writing back.

Look, Fiverr is a cheap site where people are already getting ghost writing, press releases, article writing, and blogging at substandard rates.  If they are unwilling to pay a meager $5 and want to haggle you down further then can you imagine what type of client they will be in the future?  Do you believe that they will reward you with a long and potent review?  Chances are they will nitpick it.

Your ratings on Fiverr, Freelancer, and similar sites are your everything.  Guard them well.


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