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While in the stages of a bid, quote, or proposal I was curious how should a designer communicate "price is negotiable" in a professional manner instead of stating the simple fact. I know it's sometimes good to be blunt but I feel it is unprofessional and a possible sign of "oh he will take low pay" or "he needs work".

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

I think most clients will assume price is negotiable and try to lower it ;)

Something you can do is offer more than one option per project. This doesn't work in every case, but I've done it a few times and results were good. You make two or three proposals based on features, starting with the most basic one and going up to a super-complete-pack. You list the things each option has, and then (somehow!) state that features are more or less flexible, and that if they need to include things that are in a different "pack" you can adjust the pricing.

Offering discounts depending on other factors is also a possibility:

  • Urgency: If project can take longer, price is reduced
  • Quantity: If project is ongoing (more features, related products), price is reduced.

In any case, I'd say something relatively vague like "If you have any questions or would like to discuss this quote, feel free to contact me".

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You never communicate that price is negotiable. Sorry. Its bad sales and marketing strategy.

Rule #1 Never speak first.

If they like your work then they'll either pay the rate or start negotiations and see how flexible you are.

You can and should outline what the rate is for. In a bid you would say that this rate is for this exact work. That gives you more flexibility in the negotiations process to be able to either drop elements or upsell. You can also use payment options as a negotiation tactic. Say instead of Net 30 they pay on delivery for a slight reduction.

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Price is ALWAYS negotiable. But there's no advantage or reason that you need to remind anyone of that.

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I merely provide pricing and then add "If you have any questions or concerns, I'm always happy to to discuss them." If they take that to mean pricing, they can. It doesn't mean I'll alter pricing, but I want clients to feel free to bring up any topic related to the work.

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This is exactly what I do as well. I say "Feel free to let me know any questions you have..." and if price comes up, I usually hash that out. If you say up front you are negotiable, you put that thought into someone's head who may not need to know it. – ckpepper02 Mar 14 '14 at 14:06

One way to breakdown and prioritise parts of the service you deliver, as well as leave it clearly open to negotiation, is using a MoSCoW analysis.

Basically 'must haves', 'should haves', 'could have if there's time and space in the budget' and finally 'won't have this time but maybe in future'.

Just use the must for basic necessities, should for mostly things that they've asked for that aren't quite musts, and then use could and won't to show them all the things they could have if they compromise on the budget (negotiate ;).


Website MoSCoW Recommendations

Must have - homepage, about us, service 1 page, service 2 etc., SEO, etc.

(Price Range)

Should have - Social network pages - Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Pinit etc., Microdata, LPO

(Price Range)

Could have - JavaScript only Automatic (client side) quote calculating page, Social network promotional campaign, Search engine promotional campaign etc.

(Price Range)

Won't have this time due to constraints - JS and PHP automatic (client to server) quote calculating page that emails quotes to owner and quoted person, etc.

(Price Range)

By presenting them with a prioritised list of the needs you have identified for them with prices or price ranges, it will place the ball firmly in their court to decide what they can afford to purchase from you this time.

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Tell them that you do discounts for repeat service. Lets them know you are negotiable, but only if they look after you also.

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The problem with this is ideally you want to build a stable of continued clients. This allows you to work and not worry about marketing and client hunting, which makes life so much easier. If you are discounting all repeat business, you are essentially working your way into the poorhouse or forcing yourself into a position where you always have to find new clients to get ahead. – Scott Mar 13 '14 at 21:04
@Scott this is a good point, however I think the discount is offset by the ease of working with an established client though. Unless you have more work than you can handle (which in that case means you are undervaluing yourself), securing ongoing clients is paramount for a freelancer. – John Mar 14 '14 at 13:56
That was my point John. :) If every client is repeat business (which you WANT) then every project is reduced. Not a good thing. It's pretty much semantics. I generally do things like offer a discount on ONLY the next job, not simply on all repeat business. – Scott Mar 14 '14 at 13:58
@Scott You make a living off of freelance/contract work, so I can't challenge what works! Maybe for me I should call it an "upcharge" for new clients vs my comfortable rate for clients I like - I hate the hassle of dealing with flaky clients, people who won't hit the trigger on the job after you've spent significant time helping them or people that waste your time changing their minds on what they want. Maybe the discount is just the absence of that "danger money" I throw on top to protect myself. – John Mar 14 '14 at 14:08
That makes more sense John :) I do tend to quote/bid work from brand new, unknown, clients at a slightly higher rate until I know what it's like working with them. -- You have to build in that "oh God, what'd I get myself into." factor which may arise. – Scott Mar 14 '14 at 14:09

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