How Clients Minimize the Value of Your Work

Many of the potential clients who will contact you will try to get you to negotiate your fees down.

They’ll say things like, “We’re looking for a long-term relationship. We’ve got a lot of work. We could keep you busy for a long time.”

The implication, of course, is that you should lower your fee based on the potential for future work. (Don’t do it. The future work rarely materializes.)

By the way, have you ever had a potential client say, “We’re looking for a short-term relationship. A one-project stand, if you will. After that, we’ll both go our separate ways as if we never knew each other.”

Short-term business relationships often imply something didn’t work out. So why are potential clients so eager to assert their desire for a long-term relationship? Answer: Because they want you to lower your fee!

Anyway, another negotiation technique clients like to use is minimization. They’ll attempt to minimize the importance of your work and the effort required to complete it.

For example, after agreeing that a potential client needs a 2-page direct mail letter, he might say, “So we really just need a simple 2-page letter. That shouldn’t take long for you to do, right? Maybe an hour?”

I quote fees based on the project. I don’t base my quotes on time required, but rather on the value I believe I can create for the client.

But some potential clients are price-shopping. They want to pay as little as possible. That’s why they try to get you to quote a fee based on the time it might take you to do the work.

Here’s the thing:

I’m a fast writer today because I’ve been writing regularly and hitting deadlines for 18 years. My client is not paying for one or two or ten hours of work. My client is paying for all the years I’ve invested in learning how to write and sell in print.

I recently re-read the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. On page 266 I made note of this observation:

Easy is a word that’s used to describe other people’s jobs. “That should be easy for you to do, right?” But notice how rarely people describe their own tasks as easy. For you, it’s “let me look into it” — but for others, it’s “Get it done.”

There’s an old story about Picasso sketching a portrait for a lady and then asking for 5,000 francs. “But it only took you a minute!” the woman says. “No, it took me my entire life,” Picasso replies.

I could not find any evidence that this story actually took place. I assume it’s an urban legend.

But I did find an interesting story about Paula Scher, the woman who designed the famous Citi umbrella logo. She went into her first client meeting with Citi Group and sketched the design on a napkin before the meeting was over.

Paula Scher's Citi Logo Napkin Sketch

As she recounted this experience in a video interview, she said:

How can it be that you talk to someone and it’s done in a second? But it is done in a second. It’s done in a second and in 34 years, and every experience and every movie and every thing of my life that’s in my head.

If you’re interested, you can watch the entire 7-minute video here:

Never forget: What you do is not “easy.” It’s valuable. And it’s taken you a lifetime to get where you are today. Don’t sell yourself short.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like,, and

Comments are closed