Or, 5 easy ways to stop getting cornered into phone quoting

I know that lots of clients want to discuss pricing up front.

But us copywriters are kind of less keen.

Why?

Because we’re terrified of being cornered.

We’re worried about giving a price, then kicking ourselves afterwards when we realise it was too low.

We’re worried we’ll quote too high and scare the client off.

We’re worried we’ll fluff and mumble our way out of a job.

It’s one of the reasons that so many copywriters avoid answering the phone altogether. They remove their numbers from their websites and cross their bum cheeks that the client will email them instead.

So in this post I’d like to share my top tips on delaying the price quote conversation until the point where you feel comfy quoting.

Why should we avoid talking pricing on the phone?

Put simply, if you start talking about cost up front – before you establish your value – you risk turning yourself and your services into a commodity.

The client thinks only about the end invoice rather than about the potential return on investment.

If you quote an hourly rate, you risk being dragged into the race to the bottom caused by sites like Fiverr. Your hourly rate simply can’t compete with the prices quoted by people living in countries with a lower cost of living.

Even if you give a fixed-price quote – without context it’s meaningless.
Quoting $XX for a 5-page website might seem simple and make it easier for a client to compare your quote with others, but they need to know what’s included.

Does the quote include:

  • Research time – how much? How many competitor sites will you review?
  • Meeting and discussion time – in person or online?
  • Rounds of amends – if so, how many?
  • Proofing – if so, how many rounds?
  • Optimisation – if you’re writing web copy, will you also research keywords, optimise title tags and meta descriptions?

And the list goes on.

We need to delay the conversation until we’ve shown the client how our services can really benefit their business.

So, here are five simple tactics to avoid the dreaded price conversation:

Delay tactic 1: Show your value on your website

Obviously it’s a great idea to include examples of clients who’ve had similar issues and how you helped them.

This can be done with testimonials, videos, case studies, and copywriting samples.

Ensure you cover your customer’s potential barriers to using your services:

  • Talk about time saved.
  • Talk about money saved.
  • Explain how it helped their business.
  • Explain how it made them feel.
  • Explain the problems you solved, that they couldn’t.

If you have percentages and figures, great, but even if you don’t, you can talk in a general way and impress them.

Delay tactic 2: Include simple pricing on your website

I recommend trialling having a few simple packages explained on your website together with pricing.

Be sure you show all inclusions, rounds of amends and discussion time.

It also helps to have comparison packages, so people can self select the package they want.

Here’s an amazing example of pricing handled well by Copywriter – Anna Butler at Copybreak.

Copywriting rates

You don’t have to price everything you do – just pick a few types of jobs that you do frequently and they will act as a guide for your other work.

Here’s an example from my copywriting site – a little out of date – it illustrates one way to show the inclusions in your packages.

katetoon pricing

Delay tactic 3: Diffuse the situation

While we’re not trying to be slippery, it’s fine to tell the client that you’re not comfortable quoting until you have a more detailed idea of the job.

Take some time to explain to the client why certain types of quotes don’t work.

  • Quoting by the word: Bad idea, sometimes the shorter the copy the better. I always mention the Nike ‘Just Do It’ tagline – only three words, but three words that transformed their business and branding.
  • Quoting by the hour: Bad idea, how can the client possibly know how long it takes you to write their copy. Yes, it may help them to compare your rate with someone else’s, but what if they are super slow and you are super fast?

Explain that all projects are different and that you’ll need to know some basics – such as number of pages, number of words, rounds of amends, etc., before you can confidently come back with a price

Delay tactic 4: Talk in ballparks

If a client pushes for a price on the phone, give them a ballpark. Because yes, although all projects are a bit different, they’re not THAT different. You should be able to provide a rough guide.

Keep the ballpark nice and wide. Gauge their reaction. It’s amazing how many clients say they don’t have a budget but suddenly do when you give them a figure!

“Without a project scope, it’s hard to quote accurately, but I’ve worked on previous similar projects and they’ve come in at between $1K and $2K”

To give ballparks it’s a good idea to have your rates worked out and your rate card worked out (grab our template here), this doesn’t have to be something you share publicly, but it’s great to have one on hand so you can provide quick answers.

Keep the ballparks fairly wide – so that you have wiggle room later.

Delay tactic 5: Talk comparisons

I’ve never tried this tactic, but I know other copywriters swear by it. Basically you make light of the question as an avoidance tactic.

“It will cost more than a cappuccino, but less than a car. Should we discuss your requirements more fully before we talk about cost?”

If the worst should happen

If you do get cornered into giving a quote, it’s not the end of the world.

Go ahead with the quoting and proposal stages, and if your quote comes out higher and the client takes issue with this, simply explain why:

“When I gave you a cost on the phone I didn’t have all the facts, now I know that you need XX pages and this many rounds of amends, I’ve included that in my costs. If the cost is too high, how about we chat through the scope of the project and see what we can do to make it fit within your budget.”

 

A post shared by Kate Toon (@katetoon) on

When talking price is a good thing

At some point the price issue is going to come up; you can’t avoid it forever.

If you have a steady workflow and are confident about your prices, why not talk about them on the phone?

Talking pricing can get rid of tyre kickers quickly and save you heaps of time writing proposals for jobs that will never happen.

Is it better to discover you’re too expensive for them now, before you waste heaps of each other’s time?


Our goal as copywriters is to satisfy our potential customer’s desire for pricing information without shooting ourselves in the foot. We want to delay talking about price until we’ve had a chance to show them how our product can benefit the client’s business.

Over to you

When do you discuss price? What are your tactics for avoiding the uncomfy conversations? Leave a comment below.

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