How to Negotiate Your Fees

How to negotiate your fees - while keeping your clients happy, attaining repeat business and referring you to their network

Regardless of how reasonable or competitive you believe your pricing is and how good you are at building design, you will likely run into at least some clients who want a better deal. It can be tempting to give on price and your margins, or in some cases, play hardball—but what if you could negotiate a win-win solution, you will have the chance to preserve not only your own interests, but possibly build a long-lasting client relationship as well that will give you repeat business and refer your services to others.

Here are some tips for negotiating a winning scenario that can help keep both you and your client happy when dealing with fee’s for your services.

1. Ask questions

If you spend time asking questions and listening, instead of just repeating your bottom line over and over again, you can get to the heart of what your client is really looking for. Perhaps they are comparing your fee to another that isn’t an apples-to-apples scenario, and a detailed look at that can help resolve things.

Perhaps they have been “ripped off” before, and what they are really looking for is a little control or a little respect. Find out their true priorities and you may uncover how you can provide something they really care about.

2. Avoid negotiating on price alone

If your clients aren’t opening up about their needs, consider all the ways you can add value that does not involve price—and be prepared to use these as variables in the discussion. As you discuss value-added propositions from your end, you may trigger interest on the clients’ side that shows what they are really looking for. When you understand your clients’ agenda, and the ways you can add value beyond price, you may find your win-win.

3. Make smart concessions

Consider giving a little by offering things your clients value highly, but that have a low incremental cost for your business.

Perhaps there is a service or follow-up you can provide that will make the client feel they are getting a longer-term commitment and more value. Perhaps there are timelines that can be adjusted so the work is done faster than anticipated. That can feel like a great bonus. Perhaps there is something in the payment schedule that can be adjusted.

Maybe it isn’t the price they’re balking at, but when it is due.

If your client is in negotiation mode, they probably want to walk away with something of value.

4. Be transparent about your dual needs

Conversations are more productive when both sides are open. Instead of standing firm with no explanation, have a discussion that involves their needs and your needs. Explain what the cost involves and why it is what it is. If your price is different than a competitor, try letting the customer know why and what they are getting for the additional cost. Make sure they understand that you want to satisfy them and make them happy, but that you also have a business to run and can only go so far.

5. Keep the negotiation going for as long as possible

Be open to a longer term back-and-forth discussion. Rather than shutting down the discussion, having more options in your pocket, and an attitude that demonstrates you want to find a way to satisfy the client, can go a long way. The client will see that you value the relationship and really are trying to find a solution, and that, in the end, may be part of what they were looking for all along.


6. Always put the relationship first

Show a level of care that goes beyond the immediate deal. Focus on how you can meet their needs in the long run and you will insert a level of trust that may help shape all negotiations with them the future. Whether it’s after-care follow-up or perhaps future work that you know they will be looking for, if the customer knows you care about them and about the work you are doing, you could earn a customer for life.

Understand that a negotiation doesn’t have to be a power struggle. It’s a chance to listen and to be heard, to show and earn respect and to develop a solid relationship with your customers that they’ll want to tell others about.

This article is written from various sources: Forbes, Amex and HBR.