At Solo PR Pro, we firmly advocate for solos knowing their value and commanding the rates they deserve. We know that your size does not limit the work you do or the results you get for your clients. With that said, we also know that there are times that you may have a willingness to reduce your rates or even work pro bono. There are many reasons that could lead you to consider not charging your full rate, including:
- You believe in the client/cause/product.
- You need the money.
- You are breaking into a new industry or new skill set.
Before you agree to a rate decrease (or free work) make sure that you have evaluated the opportunity and are making a strategic decision that will be a win-win for you and the client. After all, your business is your livelihood, so it is important that you invest time and energy in ways that make sense.
When to Just Say “No”
When asked to reduce your rate (or work for free), there are a few red flags:
- The client has a big vision but no budget. We’re a fan of big vision but these clients can be difficult to please. In fact, they are very often the clients that take up the most of your time and will be the least satisfied.
- You will be in on the ground floor of the “next big thing”. This could be entirely true but you want to strategically evaluate if you have the time and energy to devote to an unsure thing with a payoff that could be months or years away.
- You are promised exposure. Evaluate this carefully. To whom will your work be exposed? You want to gain visibility with your ideal clients in a way that will lead to paid work. If you are going to be exposed to hundreds of people who can’t pay you, just say, “no.”
- You are promised more work. Doing more work for free or less than you charge does not balance the scales, it just means you are spending more time getting paid less money.
Before You Say “Yes”
Before you agree to reduce your rate, barter or provide free services, consider the following:
- Will they value and follow your counsel? It is human nature to value things that cost us something, and we often equate value with price. The client who begged you to lower your rate may not respect your expertise. Carefully vet clients and ask probing questions to ensure that your time and effort will not be met with frustration…and less pay.
- Would you volunteer or invest in them if they were not your client? You may be excited by what the client is doing but remember that this is an investment, and should be evaluated like one.
- With reduced or no pay, will you have the resources you need to do the work effectively? Will you need to pay your team to handle other work or support you on the project? Will you need to use paid resources to help you achieve the client’s objectives? If you will have to spend money, carefully consider if the return justifies the project.
- Will they be willing to increase your pay, if and when they have more budget? You may have a prospective client that truly is on a growth trajectory. Do not assume that if they have more money, they will raise your rates. It is important to determine from the outset that your current rate is not your forever rate.
- If you are agreeing to equity or a small fee plus equity, are you comfortable with the risk? Again, this is an investment. You are spending time and resources with the promise of future gain, so make sure that you are comfortable with the investment risk.
- How will it impact your other work? You do not have an infinite amount of time so you must be strategic in how you spend it. You do not want to end up spending so much time on a low or no-paying project that it takes away from higher value work.
Free But Not Frivolous
You have carefully evaluated the opportunity and decided to move forward. Set clear expectations and put some protections in place.
Build in a contract review. Agreeing to reduce your rates now does not mean you can never raise them. Build in a review period that allows you to review the scope of work and fees. If you are working at a reduced rate, you can build in incremental increases. If pro-bono, establish a timeframe for free work, and if they want to continue, you can move to a paid arrangement.
Outline the number of hours and scope of work you will offer, in writing. Don’t skip the step of putting together a signed agreement. A written document will keep you all on the same page and serve as a reference in the event of a dispute.
Build a case study into the contract. Agree in advance that you will be able to do a comprehensive case study of the work you do. This is a great way to give and get in return. A public case study can be an invaluable marketing tool that can help you land paying clients.
Do not make a habit of reducing your fees or working for free, but when the circumstances warrant, do it with your eyes wide open. If you do want to give back to causes and organizations that you care about, set aside a number of hours per month/year for pro bono work. This will allow you to do good without sacrificing your business.
How do you handle requests for reducing your fee?