Should you turn down a client who can't afford your rate?
One of the toughest things about freelancing is understanding that it is a business. Sure, I became a journalist to tell stories that needed to be told. And I picked up content marketing skills along the way that have supplemented my income.
Somewhere along the way, I went from writing for my own personal enjoyment to writing to feed myself, both in terms of my soul and my actual belly. There comes a point when you become a professional writer that you have to make difficult decisions. Should I write for this publication? Is this a rate that I can except for the work involved in this project? Should I continue to work for a place because I need the money even though they don’t treat me well?
I started thinking about this recently when attempting to negotiate my rate with a new client. This new client had come to me through a former colleague at an old job. I came highly recommended for the role, and I was really excited to get started.
Then came the talk about money.
I should’ve known something was up when the company was more focused on the test they wanted me to complete beforehand rather than the contract and the rate. When we ultimately discussed the rate, it was higher than I earned in the past but much lower than what I wanted. (It was certainly on the higher than what freelance writers make on average, which according to Payscale is $23.90). When the client was unwilling to budge, I was quite disappointed and a bit furious at first.
Then, I did something important. I stepped away from my computer and pulled out my notebook. For a younger millennial, I’m pretty old-school when it comes to managing my tasks and thoughts. I flipped to a clean page and wrote out my clients names next to how much income they generated. This brief exercise did two things for me: it took the emotion out of being turned down for a lower rate and it helped me to assess the health of my business.
At this point, two of my clients had budget issues, one of which was not assigning out articles for the rest of the year and the other which was assigning fewer assignments. I had already been in the midst of reaching out to leads and sharing my articles on social media, both of which would hopefully bring in new clients.
Though taking on a client at a lesser rate was tough, seeing my income streams laid out helped me to recognize that taking on a new client would enable me to come closer to my 2019 income goal. Plus, bumpy start aside, the client seemed really nice. As a freelancer, one of the things I’ve learned is how important relationships are. If you do good work, complete tasks on time and are a polite human being—pretty reasonable, in my opinion—you’ll get the referrals needed to easily get future gigs.
I’m always disappointed with clients that can’t afford my rate. However, now that I’m in the second half of 2019, I’m making sure that I hit my income and workload goals. In business, you have to charge what the market will bear. You have to think about pricing in terms of what’s affordable for whom? Why do you think companies charge premium and basic pricing? It would’ve been easy to walk away in a huff. But the critical thing about freelancing is keeping your eye on the long-term goal: building a sustainable business.
Have you had to turn down a client who couldn’t afford your rate? How did you handle it? Tell me in the comments or email me at email@example.com.