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I Need It Cheap Doesn’t Always Mean What You Think

You’ve been approached by a new client and you are doing the “get to know you” thing. Asking a few questions about their business, trying to figure out their goals for the project, essentially building a picture of what they want and need. Then, this happens…

If you're attracting cheap budget freelance clients, here's how to turn those cheap clients into high-value ones so you can get paid more for your work.

Cheap shouldn’t define you as a freelancer but it will give you clues about your client.

I suspect many of you have gone through the same 2 reactions as I did growing my business. Neither serve you, your business, or your clients.

1. Insecurity

“Oh damn, they figured it out, I’m not that experienced/good/capable. They know. So many other freelancers can do this better then me, why do I think I can charge more?”

Ok, take a deep breath. You are capable and you deserve to be paid for your skills. This is part of the process: learning that you have something to offer that is different than everyone else and you can and should charge an appropriate rate. In fact, raising your rates is a great way to bring in more clients. People perceive value when you value yourself.

2. Anger

“What to do they know? If they want it cheap go find the 16 year old working in their bedroom. If they are not going to show me the respect I deserve then they can take a hike.”

This defensive reaction is understandable. You work hard to provide a service that is valuable. It is so frustrating that not everyone sees that value. At this point, you probably feel like you don’t need them. Let me challenge that thought.

What if “I need it cheap” isn’t about the price?

Much of what I talk about is finding clients that understand the value of your freelancing service. But what if they don’t? What do you do then?

I think it is just as important to develop empathy for your potential customers. Digging a little deeper into customers perceptions could possibly turn the ‘I need it cheap” scenario into a high value client.

Use empathy to understand the client behind the business.

When clients are talking about needing a cheap service there are 3 scenarios I would like you to think about before you write them off.


I think all of us in the tech industry underestimate the fear non-tech people have around what we do. Although everyone realizes that using and being part of technology is a necessity, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t afraid of it, to a degree.

Asking to have their project completed cheaply is much more about mitigating risk for their business. We do the same sort of thing in our day to day lives too.

I love expensive sunglasses, but I have a 6 year old. My current sunglasses cost me $20 and if my son sits on them, plays with them, loses them, I’m only out that $20. Do I do this because I don’t think sunglasses are worth $300? Nope, I’m doing it to mitigate risk.

Here are the common scenarios that your client may be reacting to when they say cheap.

  1. Had a terrible experience with a previous person in your industry.
  2. What if nothing improves after paying for your services?
  3. Made a mistake previously and someone else is preventing them trying again.
  4. Tech scares them in general. It’s too complicated.

I know you sometimes feel that your work should speak for itself and that clients that don’t understand that are not worth your time, but who is going to educate them?

As we deal with more competition as freelancers it is important to continue to set yourself apart. Taking time to address these fears at the beginning of your discussions could turn your “I need it cheap” client into a high value one.


If you were looking to build a new website, have a logo designed, make a video, review your copy, and started Googling, what would you find?

$395 Web Site Design $395‎

Premium Logo Design – Logo Designs Starting at $5

Hire a Copywriter – Starting $2 /100 words

When you see these types of ads and listings enough, the idea that our freelancing skills are cheap starts to become the norm. People are lazy, they have no real desire to investigate further then this. Google encourages this attitude of,  “I can get this cheap, so the service must be cheap.” This, despite the fact that we know our services are worth more and provide more value than these, take it for granted that your average customer does not.

Many customers need a ‘value approach’ education

I know not everyone feels the need to provide this education to clients, but if we did, imagine the knock-on effect.

What are a few ways we can help with this education?

Client: “A website is just a cheap shopfront.”

Response: Typically this person has never considered that this ‘cheap’ shopfront can bring in a lot of new customers. New customers means more revenue. Always go back to the value equation of gaining X amount of leads, turns into X amount of customers, creating X amount of revenue.

Client: “Lots of other people can do it for $100, $300 whatever price.”

Response: I always encourage you to explain at least 1 idea that they could implement with their business that is unique to you. You are not just creating a new website, writing copy, or producing a video, you are engaging with your client’s customers in a way that sets them apart. Use the value equation again. If you can show quickly and easily that your skill exceeds the ‘cheap’ version, your value will be established.

Client: “I don’t need that service/functionality for my business.”

This one is a bit harder to address. If this business is really someone you think you could work with and someone you want to work with, take a little more time to create a solution to suit them. Don’t try to force them to agree with you.

Instead, break down your offering into smaller steps. Offer them the first step, and if/when they see the value in that, offer them the next. Sometimes, the thought of change is scary and needs to be broken down into manageable chunks.


People like to haggle.

This is absolutely true. Some people love to negotiate. It’s in their nature to see if they can get something cheaper and it may have no reflection on your abilities. If you want to engage in this, go for it. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s tiring, and sometimes it’s a waste of time.

My approach would be to repackage what you do a different way at a different price point. This could end up being the perfect way to create a bespoke solution for them too.

Is it a test?

I’ve also found that some clients are testing you. They want to see if you value your own work. If you don’t believe that your service provides value, your customer won’t either.

Believe in yourself and stick to this belief. You should have a core value approach to what you do, and you should talk about it, repeat it, and make sure it is part of every interaction with your customers.

They are and always will be a bad client.

I’ve had a few potential customers in the past who wanted to get me to argue. The whole point behind saying they needed things cheap was to complain about their past experiences, the evil of online services, and their ex. You get the point.

Some clients are bad news.

As with everything we do as freelancers, there is a learning curve. The more clients you speak to, the more you get to put these ideas into practice abd the quicker you can make decisions about who to work with.

As you improve your ability to understand potential customers and their problems, the more likely those clients will turn into high value ones.

Does the “I need it cheap” mentality affect your freelance business? How do you cope with it? Leave a comment below!

Beth Perrou I’m the author of the 5 minute Guide to Finding High Value Clients. I help freelancers and Wordpress developers earn what they are worth. Turning $500 leads into $10K clients. Freelance to Freedom was one of my first safe havens to explore working for myself. Without taking that leap I couldn’t spend so much time snowboarding/climbing/travelling (or with my 6 year old!).

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