Conversations with potential clients often begin with the bottom line: what do you charge for your services? It may feel odd, but by putting off the cost issue until you’ve established your value, you can actually put yourself in a better place to negotiate.

Your potential client, of course, is trying to rule out vendors who charge more than their budget can bear. However, they may not understand what your services include or what you think they really need. When clients ask the money question – be sure to tell them that you will answer the question, but that you need more information to provide the right answer.

  • Find out why they are calling you. Then sit back and listen actively. Express empathy with their frustration and understanding of their issues. Empathy and understanding will help build a relationship with you and not someone else.
  • Ask questions to clarify what they require, find out where they are in the process and what kind of timing and resources would be needed. Answers to these questions help you determine the value of this opportunity overall. Remember, what you charge isn’t always about the numbers. Sometimes growth potential, client partnerships, new technology or timing could play a factor in what you are willing to charge.
  • Tell them about a similar problem you solved for another client. Establishing your experience with a story will build your credibility. This is also a great way to sell the client on other benefits you can provide without sounding “sales-y.”
  • Tell them what you would do to solve their problem. At a certain point in the conversation, you should have a pretty good idea what the client needs and what you would do to solve their problem.

Now it’s time to talk rates and negotiate.

If you have done your job correctly, the client has seen that you understand their plight and have the experience to deal with it. This puts you in a great position to ask for the fees that you deserve with confidence.
Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative