Is This Mistake Keeping You Poor?

I hope you're not too disturbed by this. But, you may be making a simple mistake that's significantly limiting your income.

First, let me show you how I failed — how I made this mistake recently — in hopes that my failure can be a lesson to keep you from making this mistake in the future.

I'd done a couple of projects with a big client whose name I'll omit, but who I'm sure you'd recognize. Both of my projects had been fairly successful, and now this client was approaching me for another project.

Thing was, my fee had increased. I'd been working with a number of other clients who were willing to pay more for my services than this client had been paying.

So, I told this client what I wanted. That in order to hire me they'd have to pay what other clients were paying. I let them chew on it for a while.

They came back with a "no" to my higher fee.

Here's where I made my mistake.

After their first "no," I offered to meet them in the middle. It would still represent a raise over my previous project fee, but it wasn't quite up to what other clients were paying me.

They chewed on it again. Again, a "no."

Then, for a mix of reasons, I ended up saying "yes" to their original offer, only furthering my mistake …

Why Saying "Yes" Can Keep You In The Poor House

Let me explain my mistake — and why if I continue to make this mistake it will mean I'm always underpaid for my copywriting and marketing services.

(I'm using myself as an example, though this applies equally to you whether you're a copywriter, marketer, designer, researcher … Frankly, it applies to everyone who gets paid in exchange for a product or service.)

My mistake was that I should have said "no, thanks" after the first time my client wouldn't accept my new fee.

I set my current fee based on the value I believe my services represent. It's determined by a mix of:

  • my track record and reputation
  • the amount of time and energy a project takes
  • what I need in terms of income
  • the total value I provide to my clients
  • the going market rates for similar services
  • and a number of other smaller factors

While the final number is determined more through gut feeling than through a specific mathematical formula, my fee is justified by the fact that a number of clients are willing to pay it.

Once that fee is set, I need to stick to it — because it represents the fair market price to hire me as a professional. It tells the client I'm serious about what I do and the value I offer.

When I accept a lower fee than my going rate, I'm essentially setting a new rate for my services — one lower than what I determined as my fair price.

This diminishes my professionalism, reputation, and negotiating power in the future because after all, "If X client only has to pay that amount, why should anyone else pay any more?"

And, think of it this way — if someone approached that same client after they increased their prices and said, "I'd like to buy your product at the old rate," what do you think would happen?

That customer would be told "no" and their only option would be to buy the product at the new higher rate.

Because I'm a professional, I should treat my rates the same way.

Why Saying "No" Can Make You Rich

I'm going to double my income in 2011. A good part of that will have to come from royalties, and from the strength of my copy. But, a good part of that will also have to come from my business and negotiation skills.

And frankly, if I'm going to double my income, I can't afford to accept projects at less than my going rate.

I have to say "no" to projects where the client is unwilling to pay the fee I ask. It's the only way I'm going to consistently earn the fees I want, and get rich.

So, I've made a bit of a "New Year's Decision." (I refuse to call it a "resolution" because then it'll be broken by February 1st.)

My decision is that in 2011 (and beyond), I'm going to say "no" to projects that don't make sense within the terms of my current fee schedule. If a client wants to hire me for a project but they're unwilling to pay my current rates, I'll say "no, thanks."

The Worst Thing That Can Happen When You Say "No" Is …

When negotiating fees, here's what can happen when you say "no" …

  1. You lose the work
  2. You get the work at your fee

The worst thing that can happen when you say "no" is that you lose the work. Though this can be a bit painful, it's actually not so bad. First and foremost, you maintain your professional reputation as someone worth the fee you're asking for. Second, the time is still yours — you can either offer the time to another client who is willing to pay your fee, or you can spend the time marketing yourself to get higher-paying clients or working on a project like self-publishing to earn extra income.

If you get the work at your fee, all is good. Your client now pays what you're asking for, you maintain your professional reputation, and you build further confidence that you're worth every penny you ask for.

Either way, it's the "no" that sets you apart as the professional whose services are worth more. It's the "no" that earns you respect and builds your reputation. It's the "no" that tells your clients and potential clients that you run a serious business.

How Switching From "Yes" To "No" Made Me $16,000

One more story before I wrap up.

Not too long after my negotiating disaster above, I had an ideal client approach me with a "get in the door" project. It wasn't quite like the other projects I spend most of my time on — it was writing content as opposed to writing a sales letter. The length of what I'd be writing was about the same as a sales letter. But, because it was content, this client considered it only worth a fraction of my sales letter fee.

Because of the lower value, this client had a fee fixed in their mind as to what they were willing to pay. And, that fee was far lower than what I'd earn from the same amount of work writing a sales letter.

My schedule was open, too. I didn't have any other paying work on my plate. So, it was tempting to just take the project to ensure the income.

But, if I took this "get in the door" project at the lower fee, it would diminish my reputation as a serious professional.

So, I said "no."

I haven't heard from that client since. I may have lost them forever.

But, here's what happened within just a few days of me saying "no." I had a couple of other ideal clients approach me — one current and one new — and offer me a combined total of $16,000 worth of work, some of which needed to be started right away.

Without the lower paying work I'd said "no" to, I could jump right in on these higher-paying projects. Maybe I'd have landed these projects without saying "no" to the first project. But, these higher-paying projects (and the income they generated) would have been delayed because of the lower-paying project.

And, because I only have so many weeks in the year, accepting that lower-paying project would have diminished my total income for the year.

Here's How To Apply This To Build Your Income …

I want you to make a decision with me.

I want you to decide to be the type of person who says "no" when it's not in your best interest to say "yes."

This will build your professional reputation. And, you'll build your income because you'll no longer be working for fees less than you're worth.

So today, stand up and say, "I'm the type of person who knows how to say 'no!'"

I know for me, I'm already starting to see the benefits of more income and greater confidence. I can't wait to hear how saying "no" helps you create exactly the career (and income) you want, too!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.8
Published: January 4, 2011

1 Response to “Is This Mistake Keeping You Poor?”

  1. I've recently switched from a "yes" to "no" attitude myself, although i didn't think of it that way. It works wonders freeing up my time for work that's worth it.

    Guest (Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud)

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)