How to Reject a Discount Request for your Freelance Services

Initially I wrote this post for fellow freelance translators dealing with direct clients, but I realized most of the tips applied to all types of freelancers and decided to expand a bit the content of this post.

Should freelancers accept or refuse to give discounts when they are asked to? If they choose to negotiate, how often, to what extent? Opinions on the topic vary greatly between professionals.

However, even the most flexible of us will have to reject discount “offers” every once in a while. It can be tough to break it to your client, and this is why I would like to share my method.

Like many of my colleagues, I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time explaining potential or current clients why I couldn’t give them a discount for this and that. The problem here is that negotiators often see this as an invitation to keep throwing more arguments until you meet somewhere in the middle – but preferably closer to their side.

Generally, it goes like this:

– We are a new client, can we get a discount?

– Sorry, I don’t offer discounts to new clients.

– But we’ll send you tons of work!

– I can have as much work as I want at this rate, sorry.

– But we can pay you through PayPal, come on!

– …

It goes on, and on, and on. In the end, it is a big waste of time and energy for all parties involved, which isn’t quite the result expected

Anyway, I once had this horrible client who wouldn’t even bother giving me a reason for requesting a discount.

They had been terrible to work with for many reasons at that point, and they were constantly trying to bargain for all sorts of reasons. But that time they wanted a discount just because. So I replied no, just because no.

And how did it end up? Something along those lines:

– Hey, how much would you charge for this?

– My rate for this project would be XXX

– OK. Can you give me a discount?

– No.

– OK, go ahead

That specific project turned out to be another nightmare, but thanks to that annoying project manager, I got to ask myself that decisive question: Why do I even bother giving a reason for refusing discounts?

As it turns out, the best way to refuse a price compromise is also the simplest. In substance, what you should say is:

I can’t give you a discount because I don’t offer discounts at all

There are many ways to express the idea. What matters is that you firmly close the door whatever arguments your prospect may have in their hand.

Don’t write “I don’t give discounts for/because…”. Instead, go for something closer to “I’m afraid I can’t. I don’t give discounts, as I charge what I consider to be a fair price for my services, no less, no more”.

You don’t need to justify yourself any further. You would only open the door to more, lengthy price discussions. Deny them the opportunity.

If you have been in the industry for some time, you probably know how liberating it feels to say “no” when your clients have unreasonable requests. It’s hard to say “no” for the first time, but once do, your career is transformed. Price negotiations work absolutely the same. I have never lost a client for refusing a project in a busy period. And I have never lost a prospect that seemed worth it after refusing to lower my rates politely but firmly. Simply reject offers you know are not for you.

You are a busy professional, don’t let toxic clients waste your time and energy.