Simple Negotiation Strategies for B2B Copywriters

Simple Negotiation Strategies for B2B Copywriters

July 30, 2019 | By Steve Slaunwhite | 2 Comments

Let’s say a new client contacts you. And they need a white paper written by an expert like you. You’re excited to have a conversation with this potential client.

And then it comes down to talking about price. So you give them a ballpark price of around $4,000 to research and write the white paper, which is a pretty reasonable price, by the way.

And then they say, “Ooh, that’s a bit pricey for us. Can you do any better?”

Now, that’s something most copywriters really don’t want to hear. What you want to hear is the client saying, “Yes, that sounds reasonable. Let’s go ahead with the project.”

But, let’s face it. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, the price you quoted is a bit high for that client. Maybe it’s higher than they expected, or maybe it’s higher than their budget.

And now you have to negotiate.

Well, in my experience, copywriters either hate negotiating, or worse, they don’t negotiate at all. They just settle. They’ll just take whatever fee the client says they’re willing to pay.

And I think both options are bad.

You want to be able to negotiate effectively in order to get the price you want and to get the project.

It’s really important that you get good at negotiating simply because you’re going to do a lot of it. And if you avoid negotiating, then you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table when it comes to project pricing. You may not get as many projects either.

There’s nothing wrong with negotiating. Professionals do this all the time with potential clients. And this is no different.

So, how do you start the negotiation process?

Start a Conversation

Well, if a potential client were to say to you, “That’s a little bit pricey. Can you do any better?”

The way you should answer it is to say something like, “Okay, Mr. Client. I think we might be able to work something out. Let’s talk about it. May I ask you a few more questions about the project so I can give you a more accurate price?”

You want to start a conversation. You want to find out what value they put on that project.

You want to find out if the white paper is just some side project they’d like to get done because it looks good when you have one on your website. But it’s really not integral to their marketing.

Or you want to find out if the white paper is going to be the centerpiece of an upcoming marketing campaign so it’s crucial.

Here are some questions you might want to ask, depending on the client and the project.

#1. When Do You Need This Done?

You want to find out if this is something that needs to get done quickly or if they have a lot of time to get it done. In my experience, if a client needs to get something done quickly, then getting a higher price from them is a lot easier. If you can get the job done in their time frame, that’s high value to them.

#2. How Will You Use This in Your Marketing?

So for the white paper, you can ask how they plan to use this white paper in their marketing and how it will fit with their other marketing activities.

And if they say that it will sit on their website with a bunch of other white papers and articles to make their website look good and to help a little bit with SEO and credibility, then you know it’s probably not that important a piece.

But if they’re going to use it as the centerpiece of a lead-generation campaign, then they’re dependent on that white paper being good so they can maximize the number of leads they generate. They’re going to place a higher value on having a great white paper written.

#3. How Critical Is Quality to the Success of Your Marketing Initiative?

Is having a high-quality white paper integral to the success of their marketing initiative? Or will an okay white paper do? Do they need a really great white paper so they get better results from their campaign?

#4. Would You Normally Do This Project In-house?

If they normally write white papers in-house, then you can ask some follow-up questions. For example, how many hours does it normally take your staff to write this white paper? How much time do they dedicate? Are they able to get the job done on time? Do they have other important things they need to do rather than write this?

So, you want them to put it in perspective and get a sense of the value. The value of them outsourcing it to you may save them a lot of staff time that they can deploy onto other more important activities.

#5. What’s the Main Reason You’re Outsourcing This?

Does it take too long to do it in-house? Do they need the piece to get really good results? If it’s too hard to do it in-house, why are they doing it at all?

The idea behind asking these questions is that it gives you a lot of information as to how much they value great copywriting.

If you get a sense that the copywriting isn’t really that important to them, and they just need to get it done, that probably means they’re looking for a low-cost copywriter that can do an okay job. They don’t want to pay top price.

And if that’s the case, that might be a client you may need to say no to. It depends on where you are in your business. If you’re early on in your freelance business, you might want to say yes just because you get a bit of a paycheck. But you definitely don’t want to build your business on those types of clients.

There are going to be clients out there that for any number of reasons cannot afford you. And that’s okay.

But by asking these questions, it also gets the client thinking about the importance of great copywriting and the importance of getting this white paper done right. And if it gets them thinking about it, they may be more open to a higher price.

Let’s say for example they were thinking of budgeting around $2,500 for the white paper, which is quite low. But simply by asking those questions, that gets the client thinking.

And now they may be thinking, “I budgeted $2,500 for this. But this is a really important piece to us. And I’m talking to a $4,000 copywriter. Maybe I should get him to do it and pony up the extra cash.”

These questions do two things. It gets you the information you need so you understand how the client values the project.

But also, it gets the client thinking about the value themselves. And they may realize that getting great work is much more important than they originally thought it was.

So that’s the first thing you need to do.

What Can You Negotiate On?

In my experience, there’s basically four ways I can negotiate with a client on price.

#1. Offer to Get the Job Done Quickly

If they’re in a time crunch and need it done in three weeks, then they’ll place a high value on getting the white paper done quickly.

So if you’re in a position to get the white paper done quickly, you can offer as part of your negotiation to get the entire project done in two weeks. Now some other copywriters disagree with me on this, so this a bit controversial.

You can tell the client, “I can send you an outline in three days. I can send you a draft in about a week and a half. And I can set aside two or three days for revisions. You can have your white paper done in two weeks.” That may be worth increasing their budget in order to be able to hire you.

#2. Throw in an Extra

For a white paper, for example, they might also need a couple of emails to promote the white paper to their list.

So you could offer to write two or three emails to help promote the white paper to their list at no extra cost. They would get that package deal if they agree to have you write the white paper at your price of $4,000.

In that way, you’re not lowering your price. You’re doing a little extra work, but you know what?

You could probably knock off those emails fairly quickly, maybe within an hour or two. Because you wrote the white paper, you know the topic well. And yet to the client, getting those emails written is very high value.

#3. Ask for More Time

This is another one that’s a little bit controversial and some other copywriters disagree with me on this one. You can say to the client, “I realize your budget is only $2,500 and my fee is normally $4,000. But if you can give me six weeks rather than three weeks, then I’d be more than willing to write a great white paper for you for $3,400.”

That’s a great negotiation tactic, especially if you’re busy with other projects. For me, it’s really valuable to have a longer period of time to complete a project because then I can fit it in more easily. It’s less stressful for me. And the client might be willing to wait a little longer to get a slightly lower price from you.

#4. Use the Full Fee Payment Discount Technique

I learned the full fee payment discount technique many years ago from a consulting guru named Alan Wise. He’s a well-known consultant who’s written a number of books. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you’re negotiating with the client and your price is $4,000, but they have a budget of $2,500. You can offer a discount to clients who pay the full fee in advance at the start of the project. Maybe you offer a 10% discount, so for a $4,000 job that’s a $400 discount.

The advantage for you is that you get all the money for the project right away. Your client gets a discount. I find that technique works very well. In fact, I have some clients who pay a full fee every time they hire me because they want the 10% discount.

Some copywriters disagree with me on this one because I’m losing 10%. But I have the money in the bank. And for me, getting the full fee up front makes me feel more secure about the situation, especially with a new client.

These are just a few of the many ways you can negotiate. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Don’t lower your price right away just to get the job. Be willing to have a conversation with the client. You don’t have to even use the word negotiate. You simply have to say to the client, “We may be able to work something out here. Let me ask you some more questions. I’m sure we can work something out that works for you and that works for me.”

That’s all you have to say to begin a negotiation and it’s that simple. Like I said, don’t be afraid of it.

About the Author


Steve Slaunwhite

Latest in B2B Copywriting


  • Just knowing that someday (hopefully in the not too distant future) this may be me asking these questions and getting paid this kind of money! Wow, so exciting and makes me eager to learn, learn, learn!!

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