"It's Just a Small Job"... Beware Of Clients Price Conditioning YOU!

13 replies
In my copywriting videos I talk about the concept of "price conditioning",
which in simple terms means raising the price EXPECTATION of your

However, as a freelancer you should always be aware that it works both
ways - clients often attempt to price condition YOU!

For example, one of my clients runs a small auto welding business, and his
potential customers often start their request for a quote with something like, "It's just a small job".

To be fair, from their point of view it often LOOKS like a small job... just a
small hole in the metal... surely it just requires a quick bit of welding?
Unfortunately, the small hole is usually the result of a massive amount of
rust and corrosion hiding behind the paintwork.

The hole is a symptom of a bigger problem behind the scenes.

The truth is, your client's "small job" may not be so small after all, but
there are two important reasons why they might say this:

(1) They don't fully know what's involved:

They are not experts. With my client's welding business, they see it as
"just a small hole", but it's not. Filling in the hole isn't good enough,
because the corrosion around the hole will get worse.

(2) They are trying to price condition you:

Let's face it, some freelancers might feel a little intimated when they're
told, "It's just a small job". They think: "The client clearly expects a SMALL
PRICE, as well."

So they might feel compelled to charge lower than they would do

This is price conditioning in reverse. The client is price conditioning YOU,
and setting a subtle expectation that they expect a "small price", because
it's a "small job".

So how do you deal with clients who do this to you?

The solution is simply to spell out what's involved, and the time/effort

For example, writing a sales letter for someone isn't just about writing, is
it? You have to research the product. You have to research the market.
You have to spend some time thinking about how best to pitch the product.
You have to think up the unique selling propositions.

And that's before you even start writing!

So you should make sure your client fully understands what's involved,
before you tell them your price.

Break it down for them, and spell it out... and don't be intimidated by the
phrase, "It's just a small job".

Maybe it turns out that what your client wants IS a small job - that's great.
However, YOU are the expert... which is why they're approaching YOU in
the first place. Only YOU are in a position to determine the true size of the

But if you want to get paid for something that turns out to be a bigger job,
make sure your clients know in advance what's involved.

I hope that helps someone Any other tips, folks?
#beware #clients #conditioning #it just a small job #price
  • I recently had a client who was constantly calling me and wanting me to add "just a little" to his current job. An email. A product summary for a page I didn't include in the quote.

    Realizing he wanted to have someone who could work for him "at will," I simply added a clause to my contract that any additional work he authorized would be billed at my hourly rate. I created a time sheet in Google Docs and shared it with him.

    It ended up having two outcomes. First, phone calls for additional work weren't stressful for me--I already had an agreement to do additional work in place; Second, he called less often when he realized how much it was going to cost him to have me do something someone else in the organization could handle.

    Now we are both living happily ever after.
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    The solution is simply to spell out what's involved, and the time/effort involved.
    Right on, Paul.

    This is such an important concept across the board - copywriting, selling face to face or over the phone... whatever the case may be.

    In sales copy, we do the value build - break things apart component by component, module by module, CD by CD..

    But it's easy to forget that it's extremely important to do for OURSELVES as we consider new business as well... and then explain why or why not a prospective gig is a good fit for us at that time (or for that price).

    Nice post, as usual.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jag82
    Originally Posted by Paul Hancox View Post

    The solution is simply to spell out what's involved, and the time/effort

    So you should make sure your client fully understands what's involved,
    before you tell them your price.

    Break it down for them, and spell it out... and don't be intimidated by the
    phrase, "It's just a small job".

    Thanks Paul. This is absolutely great advice.

    Put it down in writing!

    It's not just for you. It's also good for the client.

    When everyone knows what are the exact deliverable
    and the corresponding remuneration, that will cut out
    any potential understanding.

    If not, sometimes, you will meet client who
    may sneakily add more stuff to what is agreed on,
    and just tell you to "help" out.

    And sometimes you may do it out of
    creating value and goodwill.

    But that's the thing. You do it often. And the client
    may take it for granted. And treat the additional
    "goodwill" help as part of the deal. Though it's clearly not.

    And don't forget that have a written agreement
    will commit you to deliver as you promised.

    So that keeps you on your toe. It's a win-win for everyone.

    Thanks Paul. This is a good reminder.

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  • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
    1 of many reasons why I'm not a freelance copywriter lol... Because it makes me feel like punching people in the face.
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  • Profile picture of the author Cybria
    Thank you Loren for that vid! lol. I don't know why people think that writers are clamoring so much to "get their foot in the door" That they'd be willing to be paid a pittance for all of their hard work....pshh! If it's really such an easy job, then why are you asking me to do it?

    Guy: Because you're a writer.

    Me: And do you, not being a writer, have any idea how much time and effort goes into creating a piece of effective copy?

    Guy: Not really.

    Me: Then why do you think it's okay to pay me $3 an hour to help you sell your product or website?

    Guy: ...I saw it on oDesk?

    Me: *facepalm*

    - Tiff

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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Sanchez
    It's just like golf....

    Hit a small ball with a long metal stick.

    Pretty easy, huh?

    Now try and sink that ball into tiny hole some hundreds of yards away.

    Yup....real easy.

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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    A copywriter worth his or her weight in gold would NEVER feel persuaded by the "small job" psychology.

    I actually expressed to a client earlier this afternoon on Skype (who found me on here) how much I appreciated his clarity and communication budget wise.

    It makes me so much more apt to go the extra mile when the financial exchanges I have with my clients go smoothly.

    Entrepreneurs who GET that on a fundamental level never try to low ball a copywriter.

    They understand the better they treat and communicate with their copywriter, the better their results will likely be.

    Just my take.


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