A Simple Way To Stop Clients From Rejecting Your Proposals

Freelance RejectionJust lost a potential client because they can’t afford you?

You’re not alone — we’ve all been there. But in these troubled times, letting a potential client slip through your fingers isn’t something you want to risk again, let alone experience.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep a window-shopping prospect looking at your services and (more importantly) get them to sign on the dotted line.

Read more to find out how.

The Secret: Remove The Prospect’s Price Objections

Taking the time to work up a quote, only to have it rejected immediately as out of budget, is frustrating to say the least. This emotion-draining event isn’t something you want happening to you, so you’re going to take control of the situation by giving the prospect choices — specifically, three choices.

Those choices will be service level options (different price points that represent different levels of professional services) that your prospect can weigh and consider. When you do this, you take conversation away from “Can I afford this?” and redirect it towards “How much can I afford?” Remember, the prospect wants to spend some level of money, and you would prefer they spend it with you.

How To Lay Out Your Service Level Options

When asked for a quote, you want to request that the client give you little bit of information about what they are looking for. They may start out by saying “I need a logo” but after a little bit of conversation reveal that what they really need is a tagline, a press kit, and stationary/business card. The task they are sourcing may be only part of a larger project, and that information can help you frame your offer.

Once you have that information, you can begin working on your three tier quote, which will ultimately look something like this:

  • Basic Package: Include the bare minimum here, at the lowest price point you can comfortably stomach. Don’t reduce your rates — rather, reduce the service you are providing so that the client’s minimum base needs are met. For example, a basic package may have a very limited number of revisions to reflect the lower price.
  • Professional Package: Here’s where you’ll give your quote for what you think the client really wants, at the price which feels good for you. Include information on the heightened level of services included, but don’t go overboard. This package reflects the level of service you prefer to give to a typical customer.
  • Premium Package: In this package, you’ll throw in the additional services and premium-level perks that you’re willing to charge more for. Perhaps this might include additional revisions, or two hours of pre-project consultation, or a follow-up package. Whatever services you want to throw in to boost the total package price, include it here.

Why This Takes The Stress Off Of Both Of You

Tiered packaging makes life easier for both you and the prospect. You don’t have to stress about whether you’ll be rejected outright, and they have choices to select from, rather than a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. In fact, a prospect may have an elevated view of you based on the fact that most other freelancers will simply give a price quote, while you show a greater understanding of their potential needs.

Tiered Pricing Protects Your Rates (And Professional Dignity)

You don’t want to have to lower your rates just to land a gig — that smacks of desperation, and once a client gets a taste of that, they move in for the kill. Forcing your prospect to have to choose a service level — rather than haggling on rates — lets you preserve your professional self-image while still giving them options to pay more or less depending on their budget.

How To Make Money Even When Your Quote Is Rejected

At some point, you will find clients who simply have to pass on your services because your minimum is still more than they can pay — but that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the party. Keep a list of trusted freelancers on hand who charge substantially less than you do and offer to manage a contract for the prospect. They may be willing to provide you with a firm budget at this point (since they were told you were outside it) and be interested in handing off this time-consuming search to you. Outsource the project to your contacts, and take a well-deserved percentage from the now-satisfied client.

The economy may be taking a hit — but you don’t have to take one for the team. Use tiered pricing to land more clients, and outsourcing to handle the ones you can’t afford to work on directly. This will create a win-win situation that keeps your freelance income flowing, no matter what the financial weather brings.


  1. says

    Wow – that’s almost exactly what I do when preparing proposals! I try to get a budget (one of the questions in my quote request form). This gives me an idea of what they can afford and if I should “waste my time” offering solutions that are way out of their budget. Not everyone is forthcoming with this information though. With good reason, because some people will take advantage and automatically quote a price up to the maximum budget.

    My proposals include the same 3 price points, though I label it as Basic, Intermediate and Full recommendations. I also include an Additional Options at the end (related services that are not necessary but often helpful – like web hosting, etc.)

    I must say – Basic / Professional / Premium sound MUCH nicer :)

    This technique works fairly well for me, though. They will almost always go for the Intermediate Recommendation, as it’s a good balance between what they need and what they can afford.

    Something that often helps, also is when preparing a full proposal, I’ll offer a “Sign-Up Discount” – 10% OFF if they sign a contract within 2 weeks / 5% OFF if they sign within 4 weeks (though I round off with the 15th / 30th of the month, just adjusting the date accordingly.

    I’ve found this helps and works about half of the time. I’ve had a few people make a decision quicker than they normally would have, because they wanted to save a little bit of money on the project.

  2. says

    I have been running into this a lot as of late, I like this approach. I usually offer tiers after the fact though, with a 50/50 success rate. I am curious if this is something you suggest doing to all new clients, or if there is a criteria for which potential clients this would serve best?

  3. says

    I liked when you talked about making people think how much can I afford? It really makes sense that you should try to get these people thinking this. If they are questioning whether they can afford it then it is likely that they will never pay for it. Now if they are given options then you probably will these be able to get them to pay for one of the cheaper options.

  4. says

    You hit the nail on the head. I just have one thing to add.

    If a client voices and objection to one of the packages–ask what it is and clarify.

    A common mistake is that people take objections as rejection and that is not always the case.

    If someone objects that something is too much, ask “what is too much?” You might be surprised.

    I’ve often found that the objection is linked to a product or service that they don’t value, don’t want, or that is something over what they think they need.

    Delve into the objection to clarify. It also helps to have specific package pricing so when you remove the item you can adjust the fee–but not by too much.

    Often, I’ve had people select a higher priced option because I just adjusted and removed the service or product they objected to.

  5. Adobe Girl says

    I just happened to use a very similar format this past week and landed the biggest contract I have gotten as a freelances thus far. I never liked pricing anything and this formula makes it much easier, and surprisingly, very few go for the least expensive option.

  6. says

    I just used this concept this afternoon, quoting for someone who stated up front they had a limited budget. I stated my standard package as well as a bargain package, and they went for the bargain on the spot.

    The nice thing about this is that both sides win: I let them know my standard fees, and then offer a lower-priced version (usually I reduce the amount of concepts/revisions). The great thing is that the lower-price package usually eliminates the part of the job I least enjoy, and I still make the same rate. Although it’s less bottom-line money, it’s also less overall work as well.

  7. Me says

    The book, ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely talks about this concept in human psychology.

    A way to improve on the 3 tiers is that if you make two options similar and one a dummy….in this case the basic option, then a choice is easier to make. This is because for humans we tend to compare two items. Apparently its what estate agents do. They’ll show you 3 houses. 1 will be the odd one out, and the remaining 2 will be similar, but one may have a rickety roof. So logic tells u to pick from the two you can compare and omit the one with the rickety roof. Job done!

    I’ve tried it in my pricing and it works. :)

    Anyone read the book, or have thoughts on this?

  8. says

    re: Predictable Irrationality — the same does not hold true for logo concepts; if you add a third design that is weaker than the other two (to “emphasize” the stronger ones), the client will choose the dog :)

  9. serj says

    and number one mistake, from my point of view, speak and tell the client what he wants to hear, becuase you you go and talk in web design terms then no chance to get the contract, belive I did it:)) and for some days I keept asking myself “What did I do wrong?”.
    The thing is that, it doesnt matter if in your head everything is ok, and you will know that the project will work if you do it in a way, you must present the proposal in a way that the client will understand ( aka. a website must bring aditional 4 5 clients, from a marketing poit of view)

  10. says

    It seems like a good approach and definitely something that I need to do. The problem that I find with web design is that every site is so totally different that ‘package’ deals sometimes aren’t a good idea.

    That being said, I’m taking everything you’ve written on board and I am definitely going to apply it to websites. I’m sick of taking the time to research what a client wants and then never hearing back off them again. In one year of trading I’ve only ever had one person approach me and say “I’ve got the quote, and I can’t afford it right now – I’ve just lost my job.” It was a really honest and professional thing to do on their behalf and it was completely understandable.

  11. says

    I am in a bidding competition for a freelance project and I was actually thinking of using this approach in the bid before I read this. I am passionate about the subject matter I just have to learn how to package everything. Thank you for reassuring my thought process on how to do it the proper way.

  12. says

    Listened to your advice yesterday and changed a sales pitch last minute in order to incorporate tiered levels of service, and landed a premium account from a client who I expected to go with basic! Thanks so much!

  13. says

    I firmly believe in tiered pricing, which helps reel in a few budget clients. Of course, the plan is not always foolproof as budget clients need to be kept “in check”. The worst thing you can do is allow a budget client to go outside the scope of the project because then that is time and work done with little to no money gained. Keep that in mind.

  14. says

    If we know for sure that a client can’t afford us, we don’t waste anymore time with them. Why spend time submitting a proposal and doing followups on a client who is only going to lose you money anyway?

  15. says

    We have made the mistake of bidding too low simply in order to win a job and try to undercut everyone else’s price.

    The result was a failure in every sense of the word.

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  17. says

    I never liked pricing anything and this formula makes it much easier, and surprisingly, very few go for the least expensive option.I just happened to use a very similar format this past week and landed the biggest contract I have gotten as a freelances thus far.


  1. […] A Simple Way To Stop Clients From Rejecting Your Proposals | Freelance Folder | The Blog For Freelan… keep clients from rejecting your proposals! Sheesh, Good Ideas! (tags: webdesign freelancing clients tips business marketing ideas freelance todo web read proposals pricing design) […]

  2. […] A Simple Way To Stop Clients From Rejecting Your Proposals: Pricing can be a sensitive subject, and a tactless quote can lead to a lost client if they feel—however misguided—that you’re charging too much. Find out how to reduce your proposal rejection rate. […]

  3. […] A Simple Way To Stop Clients From Rejecting Your Proposals: Pricing can be a sensitive subject, and a tactless quote can lead to a lost client if they feel—however misguided—that you’re charging too much. Find out how to reduce your proposal rejection rate. […]

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