How to keep the value of you when negotiating with clients

I set up Marketing for Mums just over a year ago & in that time I took a very difficult decision of ending a relationship with a client. “Are you mad,” I hear you say? That was certainly how I felt at the time.

The decision was accompanied by months of heartache & a lot of self-sabotaging thoughts questioning my ability & values. However, at this point of reflection, I have learnt that trusting my gut & not devaluing myself has meant this was absolutely the right decision to make, not just for my personal self-worth but also for that of my business.

I had, for a number of months, worked almost for free with my client in order to get some experience, keep busy, learn & build my confidence whilst I set up my business properly. The work did all of those things which I will be eternally grateful for.

The sticking point came when I needed to work with multiple clients & I asked to put in place a proper contract, agreed hours of work & charge market rates that I know were appropriate for the value offered. Unfortunately, they were unable to do that. I was heartbroken. I had invested hours of my time & this was, in my head, my dream client & a huge part of my planned future. Alas, it wasn’t to be, so I chose to walk away.

So what did I learn from that? I learnt working for free or at highly discounted rates can be extremely valuable however it is fraught with danger. If you do decide to do that due to the many benefits I have talked about, minimise the risk by considering the following:

  • Set a timeline- make very clear upfront how long you are prepared to do this for. Keep this time short, you can always review & increase this if it is mutually beneficial.

  • Set clear, realistic deliverables- agree what you will deliver however don’t compromise the time you will have available to find & deliver work at your defined rates to grow your business.

  • Let them know your rates & contract terms upfront- Be clear what your rates are so they know & can plan for working with you formally in the future.

  • Set your rates & stick to them- remember both you & they are in choice. If you have done your pricing research & feel comfortable that your fees are appropriate for what you offer stick to them. If you cut them you are investing time with a low paying client which could be at the expense of another that would be willing & able to pay a higher fee. I also think there is a very important psychological point here too; You are worth it & you deserve it, so hold your head high & keep the faith. There is also the danger that your client devalues the work you deliver because of the amount charged & it is very difficult to increase your prices once your working relationship has been established.

  • Set out your agreement in writing in a contract- expectations are then very clear &, if necessary, you can refer back to them. Clarity of contract can help remove emotion from discussions about your future together, which should ultimately be about making a sensible business decision for both of you.

Making the choice to walk away from a client was a hard one for me. I naturally invest passion & energy in what I do &, as a new business, I was terrified I wouldn’t find another client to replace them.

Do you know what? The most amazing thing happened. Within literally a few weeks I had secured another client that is a genuine partner who I love working with, values my support & I will hopefully continue to work with them for years to come.

So my advice is to face the fear; if for whatever reason it doesn’t make business sense, or even for your own feeling of self-worth, to continue working with a client then walk away. This is about you taking back control, focusing on the value of you & paving the way for a much happier future. Good luck!