Do you find it tricky to think of a comeback when a prospective client tells you your price is too high and they can’t pay what you ask?  I used to.  Because I:

  • needed the work,
  • am a kind person and a soft touch for tales of woe,
  • remember how hard it was to pay for things in my early self-employed years,
  • want to work harmoniously with my clients, and
  • want them to recommend me.

So, after agonising over my quote, and making the price as tight as I could bear, I usually flaked as soon as the enquirer said it was too high.

Not any more.  Remember:

If they can’t afford you, it’s not your problem.
Working for nothing harms you, me, and every writer now and in the future.
They will make money from your work – you deserve fair payment.


Ten smart replies to “We can’t pay that price.”

Stick firm on your copywriting priceYou’ll hear excuses and objections like the following time and time again. Every copywriter does.  Here’s how I reply, you are welcome to adapt my responses to fit you.

Working for us will really boost your profile.

Thank you. I realise that, but my goal is to earn money as well as exposure.  My work will generate income for your company, and I need this to be recognised financially.

Anyone can write a few words. What makes you so special?

I have [xx] years of experience and a host of happy clients. You will find that my price is not a great deal for the amount of time and expertise I will put into your project.  I am asking for a fair payment for the benefit your company will get from employing me.

You are asking way over the market price.

With respect, the price I quoted you is very reasonable given my experience and the hours I will put into the work. (You might like to know that the average daily rate for copywriters in the UK in 2017 is £850 + VAT, but you might not want to tell them this.)

I am not well / my wife has left me / my car’s service is due / etc.

I am very sorry to hear how difficult things are for you, but I am not in a position to put my family’s security at risk by working for less than a fair amount.

If we like this first piece, we can pay you for future ones.

I am afraid that I cannot do that.  I have plenty of samples and recommendations to show you the quality of my work and my other clients’ opinions.

We’re a small business, and can’t afford to pay you that much.

I know it can be tough when you are starting out.  However, it is important to establish your reputation as professionals right from the beginning.  Investing in quality work like mine now will pay off in the future.

When I started, I was lucky to get a quarter of what you are asking.

I am sorry to hear how you were exploited in your early days.  I am sure you agree that it’s up to us all to make sure that small businesses and freelancers are treated much more fairly now.

It won’t hurt you to do this one as a favour.

No, but it will hurt me to set a precendent for working free or for less than a fair rate.

I can get loads of copywriters to work for a lower price.

I know there are many very cheap copywriting options out there. However, I also know that you get what you pay for and that you will find that these very cheap writers may not speak English fluently, act unprofessionally, will not have relevant experience, and will make very basic errors.  In the long run, you will pay more putting right what they have done.

 I like your proposal, but it’s too expensive.

I am glad you like what I have suggested, and of course you want to be confident that you are getting a good deal. As well as the price, what else is important in what you are looking for from me?

(As they list all their wants – accuracy, speed of delivery, responsiveness, etc., they’ll be losing their attachment to the money side of things. Don’t be afraid to gently prompt them towards mentioning something you are particularly strong at. Then work through the list with them and help them realise that price isn’t at the top at all. Of course, if it still is, then they might as well go to Fiverr, and you’ve dodged a bullet.)


Don’t take haggling personally.

Whatever their argument against paying what you have quoted, try not to be offended.  They’re only trying to save money, and that’s fair enough. Respond courteously, no matter how rude they are.  Remember that a beautiful website, a glossy brochure, or a vital newsletter is going to be useless without words, and that they need you.


Other articles on this topic:

Why copywriters need to charge realistically.

Pay for copywriting? But I can get you priceless exposure!

Can you really get a copywriter for £5?


Joanna Brown - business finance and legal copywriter