August 6, 2013

Rachel Strella

How to Negotiate What You’re Worth as a Professional Services Provider

By Dawn Mentzer

Many service-based professionals think long and hard about determining their pricing. It’s no walk in the park to take all things into consideration and set rates that are fair both to your clients AND to you. It takes a lot of time and a lot of number crunching to arrive at pricing that makes sense for all involved.

earn what you're worthSo what happens when, after all your hard work in developing your rate structure, a prospect balks at your pricing? How do you negotiate to get paid what your services are worth?

Explain “Scope of Effort” When Defining “Scope of Work”
Not all clients will understand the breadth of what your pricing includes if your proposal doesn’t communicate it. There’s far more that goes into what you do than meets the eyes of clients. Make sure your clients know that!

For example, if I’m proposing to write content for the Home and About pages of a client’s website, “writing” isn’t the only thing that I factor into my rate. I’m careful to also explain the research, collaboration and revision components so they come to realize my work isn’t as one-dimensional as it might seem at face value.

You’ll run up against far less resistance to your pricing if your clients know not only the scope of work, but also the “scope of effort” involved.

Exude Confidence in Your Worth
If you’ve done your homework and know that you’ve priced your services fairly, don’t apologize for your rates. Be confident that what you deliver is worth how much you’re asking clients to pay.

Know your value!

Remind yourself of what sets you apart from your lower-cost competitors. Maybe it’s your expertise in a niche. Maybe it’s your certifications and credentials. Maybe it’s your responsiveness and follow up. Maybe you’re easier to work with. Maybe you’re local.

Don’t lose sight of what differentiates you. You’re worth what you’re asking, but you need to believe it yourself before your prospects will believe it.

Keep in Mind…
There are some prospects who really do respect your expertise, skills and effort, but who are genuinely not in a position to pay your full rate. In those cases, you might consider some concessions to accommodate them provided you’re not short-changing yourself to a large degree or giving them exceedingly preferential treatment over your other clients.

And then….

There are those prospects who want the cheapest rate period regardless of the quality they’ll be receiving.

My advice: Run, don’t walk from them!

If you cave to them either because you have trouble saying “no” or you don’t want to turn any business away, you’ll sell yourself short. And not just financially. Those clients will often be the ones who demand the most, are never satisfied with anything you do, and take up far more of your time than the clients who pay you full-rate.

Deploy Your Secret Weapon
Your most effective strategy for negotiating what you’re worth is to deliver excellence to each and every client you serve. Above all else, your reputation in your field and strong recommendations from those who have worked with you will validate the value you bring.

That makes it far easier to stand up for your rates – and to land the clients who will respect and appreciate what you do for them.freelancer writer

Dawn Mentzer is a Freelance Writer and Insatiable Solopreneur who specializes in writing content for websites, blogs and a variety of other marketing and public relations communications. She works with marketing firms and businesses of all sizes in varied industries. Based in Lancaster County, Pa., Dawn serves on the Board of Directors and various committees of her town’s local Main Street organization. She lives with her husband, Shane, and daughter, Natalie, in Ephrata.

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10 comments on “How to Negotiate What You’re Worth as a Professional Services Provider”

  1. Good article, and good advice...especially running from those who want the cheapest price---those people place no value on your work whatsoever. I get especially tickled at those that want me to write blog posts for slave wages...and promise lots more work if they are happy with my work! Really??? As you said, RUN!

    1. Hi Denise! Thanks for your comment. I agree...customers like that rarely care about quality and almost never come back for more at the regular rate. They just move to the next writer who will do the work "on the cheap."

  2. Great insight, Dawn! Rachel chose wisely when asking you to be a guest contributor to her blog!

    So much of what you said speaks right to me. Especially about explaining the 'scope of effort'. Although I work on a commission basis, those terms are also negotiable. In my business, so much goes into the 'behind the scenes' planning, negotiating and research but I don't get paid until a media schedule actually runs. The value of time that I save my clients should be accounted for, too. I need to get better at defining those things up front so my services appear as an asset and not an expenditure!


    1. Thank you, Maureen! You are very kind! It really has helped me justify my pricing by showing all that goes into projects. Let me know if it makes a difference for you, too. Feel free to email me at to give me an update!

  3. Well said, Dawn!

    This is an insightful perspective about the process almost every buyer goes through during the presentation of pricing. This is exactly why I like to provide pricing information in person, whenever possible.

    1. Thank you, Don! That personal touch can make a positive difference. I generally provide my proposals via email, but I can see how being there in person to address questions could be a definite plus.

  4. Great article Dawn.
    Trying to figure out what to charge for a service and not selling short is a tough task to do, particularly when starting out and you're trying to build a client list..
    You make a very good point about explaining what goes into your service.
    Really useful article, thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thank you very much for reading my post and for your thoughtful comment! It really is challenging to price services appropriately when getting started. I think setting some ground rules for what we'll accept and not accept helps - provided we stick by them, of course. 🙂 Have a wonderful evening!


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