How to handle design clients who always demand a discount

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Sarah is a very successful individual. She owns 3 pastry shops in my metropolitan area.

Smart. Well-rounded. Well connected.

The type of person that will give my design company the respect it needs.

There is only one problem:

SHE ALWAYS ASK FOR A DISCOUNT!

That’s right. A discount. A discount for the continuous business she brings to me. A discount for the countless changes she requires from me. A discount for the numerous late nights spent completing her assignments. A discount because, well, just because.

This is the client I always hoped for. But when I calculated the amount of time and effort I put into pleasing Sarah and making sure every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed, that does not add up to a discount.

Reducing the client’s urge to ask for a discount

Now, I did not want to lose Sarah as a client, but I wanted to find a way to eliminate her necessary urge to ask for a reduced price.

I let the thought run through my head over and over again. Then it hit me…

Just simply smile.

Smile when you tell that cheap client that discounts on your services will ACTUALLY bring down the quality of the work. You might say something like:

“You see, we as designers use time as one of our measurements for determining price. If we decrease our price, we have to decrease the amount of time we put in completing your work. That, in the end, might not be the greatest idea.”

Then proceed by using the economic saying:

“there is no such thing as a free lunch. Discounts always come with a price, that YOU as the client end up paying for in the end.”

Victory at last!

When I spoke those very words to Sarah, her facial expression change. She thought for a moment. What she said next was music to my ears… “you’re right, lets skip the discount. “

In an instant, I altered Sarah’s mindset about asking for a discount. Now, if only I can change her idea of constructing biology 101 on my work, we would have the best work relationship. Maybe next time.

About Sydrena Smith

Sydrena Smith is an Artist/Graphic Designer with a Bachelor in Economics from The University of Michigan. You can visit her portfolio at slscreativeconcepts.com or her personal blog at sydrenasmith.com.

Comments

  1. *lol* A very nice little read indeed – happy for you, that you managed to change her mindset.
    I will think of that little story, the next time a client asks me for a discount :)

  2. Christopher Burd says:

    “Now, if only I can change her idea of constructing biology 101 on my work, we would have the best work relationship.”

    Biology 101? What does this mean?

  3. Clever and funny article! Thanks! I recently had a client tell me I was too expensive for their budget so maybe this would change their mind.

    @Christopher: I believe the writer was referring to the client’s habit of “dissecting” her work and making lots of changes.

  4. Biology class deals with a lot of dissecting, and that is what Sarah does.

  5. Great read. When someone asks me for a discount I feel that I did something to deserve that. Setting client expectations is a way to avoid this discount scenario.

  6. odd. I’ve never been asked for a discount. Perhaps they just already know I won’t budge.

  7. michael says:

    Interesting approach, but hardly a one-size-fits-all solution. Perhaps it didn’t come across this way, but it reads a bit snarky to me and could lose some clients with that kinds of tone.

    One could also raise rates, ask for more favors in return, set measurable limits on those discounts, or just simply put your foot down (gently) and say ‘no.’

  8. I enjoyed your post a lot. There are a lot more client like Sarah. Congratulations finally you be able to change her mind. I will keep your story in mind whenever I meet a client link Sarah. Nice post indeed. Thank you very much.

  9. I’ve never really understood the connection this sort of article makes between offering a discount and lowering the quality of work.

    Does this mean that if a designer does offer a discount they deliberately do a worse job?

    I appreciate the sentiment but it’s just not a logical jump. What you should be doing is tailoring the spec/features of a project and reducing those to match a budget not just trotting out a “lower cost will mean lower quality” line.

    J.

  10. Great reading article on a common but interesting topic.When clients demand unnecessary discount,one way to avoid this kind of situation is to compel them towards quality of your services.

  11. Great advice. In web design, I approach it with adjusting the amount of content down to meet a lower price request with a stipulation that additional pages will cost $xx. As the site is built, the client often decides they’d like to increase the content and they know what it will cost. This approach doesn’t work for print design. So if a client still demands discounted prices with excessive edits, then it may be time to end the relationship. We have great tools with which to work but design is most definitely more than pushing a button.

  12. Clever and Funny Article and it make sense…The job includes designing a mock-up website that suits best for the type of company you have. Why web design is so important? Very simply, the first thing that a website visitor sees when he comes across your website is your web design. Studies suggest that it would only take 3 to 5 seconds to catch your visitor’s attention; else, he will move on to another site

  13. Clever and Funny Article and it make sense…The job includes designing a mock-up website that suits best for the type of company you have. Why web design is so important? Very simply, the first thing that a website visitor sees when he comes across your website is your web design. Studies suggest that it would only take 3 to 5 seconds to catch your visitor’s attention; else, he will move on to another site

  14. I’ve been asked if we can discount work and I always come back with the following:

    “We currently only discount multiple projects ordered at the same time. Single projects are billed at our hourly rate of $XX/hr. If you’d like we can discuss adding on one or more projects that you were interesting in doing in the near future that would lower the price of your current project. Does that sound like something you’d like to do?”

    I’ve yet to have a client get mad and ask for a discount on the one project after I say that. The result is always the opposite. They either gladly accept the fact that a single project gets no discount, or they add on a project or two. If they don’t add the projects right then, they almost always have a multiple project order the next time they call. It forces them to get more design work done at one time. It’s a win-win! They get a discount and you get more work! This method has worked wonders for me :) Hope it helps someone else.

  15. Haha, great little post.

    Thanks for sharing this little story.

    It’s more than useful!

    And in fact, it does show a more serious thing as well: that one has to be brave to evolve/develop to have better relations with its client.

  16. Clients need to understand that we are in a service industry and paid for our time. If they take out time, then they owe us for it. I know this is not a good practice, but sometimes I want to tell them that if they can give me back my hour I will give them their #$$^%&# discount. Today I had one that insists we meet on Saturday mornings, and that everything I do for her I also teach her how to do. So I have to sit there with her and try to explain everything I’m doing, and then she always wants me to show her how to do stuff on her Mac. I’m no Mac expert, but I have a lot of experience with computers, so she assumes she’s paying for that, as well, and that if she asks me to show her a better/cheaper/faster way to do something on her computer and I then have to do a search to get the answer for her, then I should just give her that time–for free! Because, she says, “why should I pay you to learn?” Well, why did you ask me?! Grrr. Okay, thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now.

  17. Lovely read, I thought it was just me who had awkward clients.

  18. Nice article, but while this solution worked for you, this may not work for all clients. If you are making consistent losses from working with a client it really does not matter whether they have one project or ten as you will end up making loss ten times.

    Clients may refer you to the friends, but always remember they will also tell them how to get a lower rate from you. so the new contacts you receive from this client will also bargain with you for a discount :)

  19. Clients who always demand discounts won’t really do you any good. It will only drain your energy and even your business and I agree with what you said about that. I came across a video relating to your topic about discounts. Its a video from Marie Forleo about how to deal with the dilemma you face when your family and friends demand for it. < href="http://marieforleo.com/2012/02/friends-family-discount-dilemma/" rel="nofollow">http://marieforleo.com/2012/02/friends-family-discount-dilemma/

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