Talking to clients about money can be scary, cringy, and even bring out freelancer imposter syndrome. It’s no fun but necessary if we want to keep the lights on. The good news? It doesn’t have to be so painful. With some planning and preparation, you can take control of the conversation and make sure that you get paid what you deserve.
5 Basics To Consider When Talking to Clients About Money
Each freelancer follows their own pricing structure and may even charge differently depending on the client or the individual project. Although the numbers vary, we can follow some consistent advice as we approach the money subject. Talk to your client about money early on in the relationship, and it’ll save you bother down the line!
1. Get Into the Right Mindset and Proceed With Confidence
Self-belief is vital when talking about money – clients will quickly sniff out any vulnerability if you don’t sound confident in your pricing or services. The way to get around this is to ditch the “ums” and “ahs” from your speech and practice making bold statements about your rates so they become a matter of fact. Some examples to try:
- I charge $1 per word.
- My rates start at $100 per hour.
- I require a 50% deposit upfront.
- I need a minimum commitment of $2,000 per month to book a slot in my calendar.
Be confident and never apologize for charging what you’re worth.
Remember: the right client will understand your worth and be easier to work with than a lowballer.
2. Talk To Freelance Clients About Money Sooner Rather Than Later
Initiate a budget conversation ASAP so you’re not wasting time if the client can’t afford you. It’s heartbreaking when you’ve exchanged friendly emails, had a successful client call, and then get down to the nitty-gritty of number-crunching only to discover you’re unaffordable! Some unscrupulous businesses will know they can’t pay but tap you for free advice anyway.
Don’t wait for your potential client to ask about money. By bringing the budget discussion up early, you’re in a great place to negotiate with all the power to control the dialogue. You’ll plant a stake in the ground by setting your terms and outlining expectations.
3. Ask the Right Questions Before Quoting Your Fee
Be aware, though, that discussing your rates early doesn’t mean quoting your exact project fee in the first five minutes! It’s not in the best interests of either client or freelancer to give a firm quote upfront. Instead, you’ll need to learn more about the project scope by asking questions like:
- What’s the timeline for this project?
- What are the deliverables?
- Do you require regular meetings with me?
- What’s the goal of this project?
Once you have this information, arrange a follow-up meeting, or promise to deliver a written quote by email within X days. This gives you chance to absorb the information, anticipate any hurdles, and price up your offer accordingly.
4. Be Transparent About Your Pricing
If your prospect hasn’t worked with freelancers before, they probably aren’t coming to the table with accurate pricing ideas. Clear up any misconceptions by explaining that your freelance rates include:
- your taxes
- pension contributions
- insurance costs
- budgeting for vacation
- time needed for administrative work and marketing
The next step is to help the client understand market rates by sharing reports that are great for benchmarking industry standards. This Peak Freelance report provides clear links between years of experience and rates charged, for example. Use these figures to prove your rates are on par with your peers.
5. Keep the Channels of Communication Open
Money isn’t a one-time subject. Once hired, you’ll still need to chat about money whenever you want to raise your rates or the project scope changes. Make sure it’s never uncomfortable to discuss your bill by building a solid relationship with your client.
Constantly deliver value, whether liking their posts on social media, passing on potential clients to them, or just arranging check-ins to discuss upcoming work or your latest projects. Keep those channels of communication open, and you’ll create an environment where hard conversations come easily.
How To Present Pricing to Clients 2 Ways
But what about when you need to present your pricing more formally? Perhaps you’ve got through a client discovery call, but you need an extra meeting to convince the CFO? Here’s how to prep for a written or face-to-face budget presentation without losing your nerve.
How To Present a Pricing Proposal: Written Format
Clients can distribute your written pricing strategy to all internal stakeholders who need to sign off. This saves time as you don’t need to be involved in these internal discussions.
Build a home-run freelance proposal using formal proposal software, including bells and whistles like connecting to your accounting tool or CRM to automate your workflow. But if you prefer to keep things simple, a Canva PDF template would also suffice. Either way, your written proposal should include:
- The scope of work (e.g., case study interviews)
- Project summary
- Project timeline
- Your fee structure (e.g., per hour, per project, or per word)
How To Present a Pricing Proposal: Face To Face Presentation
Presenting face-to-face on a Zoom call or in person is your chance to look professional and demonstrate that you’re the right freelancer for the job. You’ll still require some written prep work to create a pitch deck or PowerPoint presentation. Here are a few key slides to include:
- Scope of work and the project timeline
- Your credentials and why you’re the best person for the job
- A fee and precisely what it includes (e.g., SEO tools, a round of edits, social posts, etc.)
- A call to action (e.g., next steps)
How to Answer the Price Question if a Client Has Objections
Getting pushback is a natural part of talking to clients about money, so don’t feel awkward the first time you hear your rates are out of reach. Remember: if every client you speak to accepts your rates straight up, they’re probably too low!
Here’s an example of pushback I’ve received recently:
Your experience and quality of writing are qualities I’d love to have in our new content writer. However, I’ll need to further discuss the possibility of signing you on with my manager and possibly the CEO as your rate is much higher than that of our previous content writer. Just to be clear, I have no problems with your rates whatsoever, but in a preliminary discussion, my manager expressed surprise at your rates.
So, what can you do if you receive this type of feedback? Some options are:
- Remember the “free” in freelancer – you have the freedom to walk away from this project if it’s not going to pay what you’re worth.
- Adjust the scope of the project – explore different options with the client. Perhaps you’ve offered a package that includes features they don’t need. Eliminate these and reprice at a rate they can afford.
- Offer a discount – don’t leave money on the table, but if you’re confident that the volume of work offered by this client is worth dropping your fee, it may be worthwhile. Only you know what the rest of your schedule looks like, but If you can lock the client into a regular retainer, a discount could be a good compromise.
- Justify your rates – explain the value you’re providing, your experience, and what’s included in your package.
Here’s how I handled the above pushback on my rates to show I’m a breeze to work with.
From my side, my rates account for the time and research it takes me to produce quality work, along with the SEO tools I use, and the value that my content brings to my clients.
Here’s a recent testimonial from Alexander Heinle, the Marketing Manager at Zavvy if you’d like to pass this on to your manager/CEO.
“Rebecca is a fantastic writer who reliably produces high-quality and unique long-form blog content for us at Zavvy. She is a highly-organized professional who always delivers on time and error-free. Her texts come well-optimized for SEO as she runs them through Clearscope every time.
-High-quality content every week
-Editing effort from our side is basically zero.
Can’t recommend her enough. We are certainly looking forward to much more content to collaborate on in the future. Thanks for being a huge part of the team, Rebecca.“
How To Ask for Money From Clients So You Can Get Paid
You’ve agreed on pricing in theory, but how do you get the money rolling into your bank account? Get on the same page about getting paid before starting any work.
Agree on Project Deliverables and Scope
Use a Statement of Work template to outline your process, your deliverables, milestones you need to hit, and exactly what you need from the client to get started. This will help avoid dreaded scope creep where a client requests additional features or deliverables you never agreed on.
It’s also helpful when a client leaves you hanging — you’ve made space in your schedule to complete their project, but they haven’t sent you a brief yet. Refer to your statement of work to clarify your terms.
Specify How and When You’d Like To Get Paid
Always specify payment terms before you start work. This means deciding your payment method and when you expect the funds in your account.
Payment methods may differ depending on whether you’re working with international clients. I’m a UK freelancer with clients in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, Denmark, and my home country. So, I prefer to accept payments using Wise as the international transfer fees are low, starting at 0.41% depending on the currency, but some clients will only pay using Paypal where the fees are higher. Other options include international bank transfers and credit card payments. Expect fees of 2.9% + 20p/30 cents if you’re using Stripe to take payments.
Determine whether you require the client to pay in advance, give you a deposit, or if you expect them to pay your invoice within X days. Common options are Net 0 (you require immediate payment), Net15 (within 15 days), or Net30 (within 30 days). Larger companies often request a Net30 payment cycle as they have accounting department processes to stick to.
What does Net30 look like in real life? If you complete a project worth $1,000 in the first week of January and invoice on the 31st of January, you may not receive your money until the end of February. That’s quite a wait!
Add Payment Terms and Project Scope to Your Contract
Agree on the details and have them added to your contract. Don’t forget to add a late payment clause to your contract, which will stand you in good stead if you ever need to chase an invoice. Without a signed confirmation from both parties, you won’t have a leg to stand on if you ever need to call in a collections agency or take legal action for unpaid invoices.
“If payment has not been submitted within [x] days, Contractor will apply a [£$X] compensation fee and statutory interest charged at [X%] of the original invoice total plus
[the Bank of England base rate].”
How To Ask for Money Politely When Invoices Are Overdue
So, you’ve completed the work, fired off the invoice on the pre-agreed schedule, you wait until the Net period has expired, and… crickets! Nada! How you approach this will probably depend on the strength of the client relationship and how long you’ve been working with them. You’ll be understandably nervous if it’s a new client, but if it’s the third time it’s happened with a long-term client, you’ll probably be raging.
In either case, find the perfect balance between being polite and firm when sending reminders to your client. Never be apologetic for chasing – you’ve completed the work and deserve to be paid! You can templatize the overdue invoice process using the following examples:
Example 1: When the Invoice Is Slightly Overdue
Keep things brief but friendly in the first follow-up.
Hope you’re well. A quick reminder to let you know invoice no. was due on X date. Can you provide an ETA on this, please? If you have any queries, please let me know.
Example 2: When the Invoice Is Very Overdue
If you still haven’t received payment within a week of the invoice being overdue, follow up with a stronger message. Feel free to cc relevant people in the client’s organization into the message to prompt quicker action.
“Hi [Client name],
I emailed you last week to let you know payment for invoice [no.1] is overdue. It’s now 7 days past the due date, so I’m going to pause work on [next/ongoing project] until I’ve received payment.
As per our contract, I will also need to charge a late payment fee of [X%] if payment isn’t received by the final deadline of X.
Please get in touch to discuss.
Example 3: When the Invoice Is Extremely Overdue
When you’ve not heard back from the client and payment is extremely overdue, it’s time to bring in the big guns. This final step is about protecting your rights as a freelancer and getting paid what the client owes you.
“Hi [Client name],
I’ve sent you two follow-up messages about overdue invoice [no.1] which was due on X date.
Unfortunately, I now have no choice but to [make a claim, refer the situation to my legal team, etc.] You’ll hear from my representatives shortly.
How To Tell a Client How Much Something Costs if It’s Outside the Agreed Project Scope
Sometimes project scopes naturally evolve due to unforeseen circumstances. (Or sometimes the client is just pushing boundaries, but that’s a tale for another day!) If you’re in the middle of a project and discover it’s more time and effort than you’ve budgeted for, you’ll need to raise this with your client.
Don’t work for free
As you know by now, feeling awkward about money isn’t an option as a freelancer. If you don’t want to work for free (and you never should!), then scope creep is an issue worth addressing with confidence. Stand firm even if your client tries to argue the toss. Remember: the additional work is taking up time you could be spending on other profitable projects.
Explain the situation to your client
When approaching a client about an increase in costs, it’s important to emphasize that you understand and respect their budget. You might say:
“I know we agreed on a project rate of $X, but the project has grown to include A, B, and C that weren’t included in the quote. I’m excited to see this project through to completion, but I’ll need to charge an additional $X for my time and resources.”
Remember, the client may not want to pay more, and that’s their decision. But refer back to your contract to point out that you also don’t need to deliver more than agreed.
Update your documentation
When both parties have agreed on a solution, carefully document it by updating your existing contract and Statement of Work document. Each party should sign the new agreement and keep a copy for your records.
The Bottom Line on Talking to Clients About Money
Talking to clients about money can definitely feel icky, but it’s part of the freelance business. It pays to protect yourself, templatize your invoicing and chasing processes and always sign a contract before starting work. Repeat after me; always sign a contract!
Featured Image: Unsplash
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent. Freelance Theory is not affiliated with any of the aforementioned entities.
Rebecca Noori is a freelance writer crafting long-form blog articles on HR, careers, productivity, and leadership, with bylines in places like Insider, Zapier, Zavvy, Clever Girl Finance, and many more. When she's not writing, you'll find her helping beginner freelancers and raising her 3 kids (who are quite a handful). Connect with Rebecca on her website or LinkedIn.