Can I Get a Discount? 3 Ways to Answer That Dreaded Question Without Losing Your Client (or Your Cool)
If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly been asked for a discount. If you haven’t yet been asked, you will. It’s just the nature of the beast.
When that moment inevitably arrives, you need to be well-prepared regarding what to say, lest you fumble through your words and say something that (1) offends your client, causing them to leave, (2) makes you look like an idiot, or (3) makes the situation so awkward that you just agree to whatever discount your client has requested, simply to get the moment over with.
Obviously, none of the above scenarios is optimal. Instead, here’s how to handle the discount question and do so intelligently, calmly, and respectfully.
If you’ve established your price packages effectively, you should have a little room for negotiating the price when the need arrives. That way, when a client asks for a discount, you can offer one without impacting your bottom line too much. A small discount, say, 5%, is a good offering.
But rather than just blindly offering a discount, frame the situation as this: you’re giving them something, so you need something in return. For example, if you agree to knock 5% off the price, stipulate that the discount is only offered if the client pays in full, up front. Another example would be to agree to a discount knowing that the client has additional projects for you in the future - a senior portrait session now for one child, and a wedding for another child in a few months.
Another idea is to establish a flat rate discount for friends, family, or repeat customers. Doing so can be advantageous because it actually takes the negotiating out of the picture. Rather than saying, “How’s a 5% discount if you pay in full today?” you can say “I offer a 5% discount for repeat customers.” Generally speaking, if you offer a pre-planned discount, there won’t be much argument from most clients.
Bartering is kind of a dirty word in business, but if you have a client hunting for a discount, perhaps you can work something out such that you get something you need in return as well.
In this situation, you would frame your discount as a certain number of hours, or a particular price package, or the like, in exchange for XYZ. For example, if your client is a website designer and you need a new website, perhaps you exchange a portrait session for a new single-page portfolio website. Maybe your client can get you a great deal on some new office furniture, so you offer to take a percentage off their family portrait session.
When trading, don’t automatically go for the “straight across” option, meaning, bartering doesn’t have to exclude money. Knock 50% off your package price if they knock 50% off their price. That way you get what you need at a better price while still putting some money in your pocket.
Politely Say No
This is the toughest route of the bunch. No one likes to hear no, and a lot of people don’t like the potential for confrontation by declining to oblige a client.
The difficulty with giving discounts is that although it might help you land a client, it’s no guarantee that it will work with the next client. What’s more, as you offer more and more discounts, there is the distinct possibility that through word of mouth, people learn that just by asking for a discount, you’re likely to give one.
Being affordable is a good quality to have as a photographer, but sometimes, being affordable can translate into devaluing your services. When potential clients don’t understand your value as a service provider, they won’t pay for it, regardless of how cheap or expensive your rates are. The key is to help your clients understand your value by educating them thoroughly about your products and services, your pricing packages, and how you approach your work.
By taking this educative approach and showing in very tangible ways why you’re worth your prices, the chances are that most clients won’t bat an eye and sign the contract at your normal prices. But, when discounts are requested, you have the right to respectfully decline. Keep bartering and a small discount on the table as well, and you’ll have a recipe for success when handling the dreaded discount question.