Ask DN: How do you handle hagglers?

7 years ago from , Designer

It's been said many times that you should be raising your price until clients start trying to haggle it down. Once you're at that point, how do you handle the hagglers?

Lately I've given proposals to maybe three potential clients that all responded with something along the lines of "Well so and so agency offered to do it for this much. Could you match that price?" How would you respond in this situation?


  • Maurice CherryMaurice Cherry, 7 years ago

    "If so and so agency can do it for that cost, then you should go with them. Good luck on your project."

    22 points
  • Mike Wilson, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    Assuming your rates are within a reasonable range given your skill level and the prestige level of prior projects you've worked on, it's been my experience that a majority of clients who quibble over the price are tire kickers. They aren't actually serious about moving forward with a project, and are thinking, "well maybe my site needs a redesign sometime in the near future....but only if I can get a sweet deal." These are the same type of clients who will request a meeting and a formal proposal, and then won't respond for a month after you send the proposal. Then, when you finally ask if they even got the proposal, they'll play the "thanks for the proposal but will you do it for this much" game.

    It's likely that they will be a pain in the ass to work with. The Donald Trump types who feel they always need to "get one over on you" are probably going to try doing that throughout the whole process (ie. "I know I've asked for 17 changes already, but how about just one more...I'll be sure to refer you to my friend who needs a site!").

    They probably don't have much experience working with designers/developers and also don't truly value the impact that you can have on their business. Whether you want to spend the time educating them on why they should care, is up to you. Since I am rarely paid for consultation, I usually choose to pass.

    7 points
  • Jeff Marshall, 7 years ago

    You're only going to get responses from people who don't have a method to counter haggling.

    6 points
  • Joe Blau, 7 years ago

    In this scenario you have a couple options.

    1. Call their bluff and with them the best. This really works the best when you can posture your clients because you have so much work that losing them doesn't actually hurt your business at all.

    2. Figure out exactly what the agency is offering and figure out how they are calculating their quote. The work that you're producing might be more complete, you may offer more/less face time with the client, or the agency may require more creative control. There are many factors that go into pricing and until you figure out why your fees are higher, you're going to have a hard time explaining the value of your service. You might be over delivering on what your client expects and the price point may be a reflection of that. Conversely; You might be delivering exactly what your client expects but they just don't know/understand the value of the service it takes to reach their deliverables.

    I would say you should open a dialog and figure out what the client's expectations are.

    5 points
  • Jon MyersJon Myers, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    I don’t run into as many price hagglers, it’s established up front that - the price is what it is. Though, I have ran into this often in the past.

    Take the haggling as a breakdown in your process.

    You might have a look at your process, how you’re qualifying leads, gathering requirements, setting expectations and so on. If you do that work up front, you shouldn’t run into a haggling situation once the proposal hits.

    Get firm commitments on their budget, timeline, and expectations up front.

    One thing I have ran into in some markets going up against agencies is requests for spec work from prospects.

    Prospects think they’re clever and are going to get “all the best ideas” - and sit back, play armchair designers, cobble elements together and construct a frankenstein from all the spec that comes in.

    Agencies have more resources to slop together spec, and if you play that game, then you get thrown into the design as decoration dog and pony show.

    Don’t play that game either. Walk away.

    2 points
    • Steven W, 7 years ago

      "You might have a look at your process, how you’re qualifying leads, gathering requirements, setting expectations and so on."

      This is a hugely overlooked part of it and something I've become aware of recently. Have you managed to formalize the way you qualify leads or do you just have an idea of where the worthwhile ones are coming from and take it from there?

      0 points
      • Jon MyersJon Myers, 7 years ago

        Hey Steve,

        I wrote a little bit about my process over on my buddy Dan's website, WPCurve.

        I often use Slack for gathering requirements.

        See the section of the article below “Slack as a business development platform”


        In general, I would have minimums you establish up front when communicating with new prospects. That might weed them out right away. Then, as I stated above - a process for gathering requirements and communicating. A proposal process -> contract process (I use Docracy) -> payment -> customer onboarding, etc.

        The more you have that mapped out, and communicate it to the prospect/ customers, the better.

        1 point
  • Michael Schofield, 7 years ago

    I set my starting price totally expecting that it will be haggled down. I figure out what my base minimum rate is -- X -- then set two numbers: a starting price at 222% of X, and a minimum negotiable price at 147% of X. I pitch the client at X * 2.22, and have room to haggle down to minimum X * 1.47. I actually have something like a client character sheet with multipliers and buffs to help me rate a project, but the bare bones of it is that even my bare minimum price is set to profit..

    2 points
  • Sanja ZakovskaSanja Zakovska, 7 years ago

    Unless I need money to keep the lights on, I turn those people down. Something about hagglers rubs me the wrong way, and from experience I know most of them turn out to be very hard and unpleasant to work with; they go missing for weeks on end, pay the most ridiculously low deposits upfront, request tons of (mostly absurd) changes, send new requirements in the evening and expect to have them by the morning etc.

    I have no problem lowering my rates for returning clients, especially ones who are pleasant to work with, and most importantly - who listen to my advice (because that's why you hired me, right?).

    Trying to give me advice about how I should price the work you are trying to hire me for (because you lack the resource yourself)? That's just doomed from the start.

    1 point
  • Tobin HarrisTobin Harris, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    People love a haggle. If you do it well you'll both enjoy a win-win. The key is to pre-decide what your immovable negotiating points are, and also the variables you are prepared to move on. E.g.

    You mentioned you really want a freelancer for the long term. My average client sticks with me for 3 years minimum. So your project is in good hands here. I can't price match, but what about a 5% reduction if you can pay a 50% deposit up front? That gets my prices much closer to the other agencies, and you know you'll have a smooth longer term relationship here.

    1 point
  • Dylan BaskindDylan Baskind, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    Just a drive-by comment: about 4 years into my freelance career I learned how to start saying "no", and it made a hugely positive difference to the business, besides the qualitative stuff, actually in bottom line revenue over the long term --- basically: I said no to quite a number of "hagglers" and yes, I lost some of those jobs, but I never ever regretted it.

    Saying yes to a haggler, means you lose the opportunity to say yes to a client that recognises the value of good work.

    1 point
  • Claude AyiteyClaude Ayitey, 7 years ago

    Once you begin to charge lower than you're worth, it's difficult to raise your rate. Simply tell them no; the non-hagglers who value your work will pay for your services. Unless you need money to "keep the lights on", keep your price at where you know it's worth.

    1 point
  • Steve Berry, 7 years ago

    Always try to put yourself in a position to say no with absolute confidence. That will sort out who is serious.

    1 point
  • anthony thomasanthony thomas, 7 years ago

    "No, because they can't match the quality of my work."

    Disclaimer: You actually have to do high-quality work.

    0 points
  • A Paul, 7 years ago

    Say, "Yes, I can match that price, but in order to get to that price point, I will need to remove several items from the project. When are you available to discuss which items we can remove?" They will either agree with that, or agree to your original price when they realize they don't want to remove certain parts of the project.

    0 points
  • pjotr .pjotr ., 7 years ago

    "Cool. Have fun with that."

    Disclaimer : I'm no longer freelancing.

    0 points