How to Handle Pushback with Copywriting Rates

How to Handle Pushback with Copywriting Rates

We recently discussed the copywriting rates you should charge in your side business, but then someone asked me: What happens if your client says no?

Good question, because clients do. Not as often as you might think (not nearly as often, in fact), but it does happen.

The uninformed assumption is that you have to then go with the copywriting rates they’re willing to pay or walk away. These are two of the options, but they are not the only options. In fact, before you either knuckle under or bail, you should consider several other steps.

1. Target the Real Concern

Often when a client says “I can’t pay that,” what they really mean is “I’m not sure I’m ready to take this step in my business or life.” As you can see, these are two very different statements.

The former means they really don’t have it in the budget but want to move forward. The latter means they’re still waiting for you to convince them that you need the service at all.

That’s where targeting comes in. You should always ask for more information before you frantically start dropping your rates. Don’t ask what copywriting rates they are willing to pay (that’s the next step). Instead, ask them:

“Is there something that concerns you about the prospect of moving forward?” That way, you call them out. Many clients will actually tell you what the problem is: I’m afraid there won’t be any ROI; I worry it won’t be a good fit; I’m not sure my business needs this.

These are concerns you can work with, and the answer in all cases is, “Why don’t we try a small assignment. That way there’s no risk and you can see how it works for you.”

This usually sets clients at ease, because the upfront cost of a 500-word article is typically pretty slim. Then they have a chance to discover that, in fact, putting up web copy on their site has a great return on investment … because suddenly they have somewhere to send customers in the first place. Or they discover that people read that blog post you wrote, and they want more.

Whatever the case, it lowers the barrier to entry. While you might think you want to book a huge gig right out of the gate, this is better for you too. It definitely saves on heartache, in the end, to discover upfront if the relationship won’t work.

2. Ask What Their Budget Is

Surprisingly, many copywriters forget to ask in these situations just what budget the client can afford. This is a very important question, though, because it tells you whether or not the client is willing to play ball. If they quote you half the price you quoted them, goodbye.

On the other hand, if they’re just trying to shave off a few dollars – some clients always want to feel like they’re getting a “deal,” no matter how small – you can work with that. If a client asks for a “bulk rate” for multiple rounds of blog posts of emails, I’ll usually do it.

Caveat: I don’t suggest this myself. The only exception is when a great client orders a HUGE amount of content, in which case I just knock 10 percent off their bill for PR purposes.

3. Explain Why You Can’t Go Lower

This is simple but powerful: Just tell your prospective client why you can’t swing their proposed copywriting rates. I almost never have to “go there,” but occasionally, a client is rude or pushy past my point of endurance. I don’t want to get into a fight that will send them complaining to their friends, so I’m usually very honest: “I wish I could do it for lower, but at that cost per word, it just doesn’t add up to a fair rate for me and I have kids to feed.”

Yes. I play the kid card.

And you know what? The client almost always hires me. You know why? Because clients are people, and people are basically nice. I love all my clients, for the most part, and I understand that they’re just other humans trying to do what they can afford in their own lives. It’s not personal.

After that, I’ll give them a nice little break on their bill. Again, PR never hurts.

4. Walk

If you still can’t get anywhere, just bounce. But …

5. Be Willing to Come Back

Just like bartering in a bazaar, sometimes walking has the effect of making the client/vendor realize that hey, they did want what you were offering after all. (In this metaphor you’re the vendor, not the haggling buyer, but whatever.) When they suddenly decide they can afford your copywriting rates, after all, that’s awesome!


You know where sour grapes will get you?

Nowhere ever.

No matter how it works out with the client, be cheerful about it. Nay, be happy. I’ve been a professional copywriter for 6 years now, and in that time I’ve learned a lot of really hard lessons. But the hardest – and the best – lesson has been that if a client really doesn’t want to work with you, you really don’t want to work with that client. And that’s okay.

So what’s the harm in being nice? Smile, even on the phone. Be understanding. Use exclamation points and chipper signoffs. Sometimes, those clients who couldn’t afford you will even come back later … with friends. Which makes the niceness (no matter how much you have to fake it) totally worth it.

We talk more about handling client pushback and setting copywriting rates in my course, Overnight Direct Marketing, which you can learn more about here. In the meantime, if you want to know more about being a copywriting boss, feel free to check out the Free Resource Library, which you can access below.

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