The other day I decided to get a haircut. I’m not the kind of person who really goes to see the same place every time, never mind the kind of person who makes an appointment with a specific stylist, so I decided to try out this new place that opened nearby recently. At this place a standard trim is worth $13, so I was prepared to pay that price. However, when I showed up I was informed of a discount they were running that day.
Like anybody would be, I was surprised and delighted that I wouldn’t have to pay quite as much as I was expecting. However, I now associate that business with $7 haircuts. Likewise, if you offer your client, especially a new one, a discount you’re setting an impression that you’re not worth full price. Offering discounts and specials are easy ways to get new clients, but that’s short-term thinking that’s going to be difficult to maintain down the line.
Wether it’s a $13 hair cut, or a $1,300 design project, you should be charging what your time and work is worth. How you figure that out is based upon your process, but you should be prepared to stick to your guns. Like what I did with the price of my haircut, the client will think of your discount as what your work is worth, and they’re going to take advantage of that. They will see what you charged them, and expect that kind of value in the future.
This doesn’t mean your client is cheap or intentionally trying to take advantage of you, they’re simply responding to expectations you set. For example, I’m less willing to spend full price on a haircut at this business because they set an expectation that their services aren’t worth full price. I would sooner bring my $13 to another business than pay the full price there because of that.
Reduced Features, Reduced Cost
With few exceptions, the only time you should “discount” your services is if you’re removing features. If the client is cost sensitive the answer is working with them to see if there are services you could scale back or eliminate while still providing a valuable product.
Say the haircut service included styling, they could have given reduced prices for people who just want a haircut. They’d still be providing a service without undercutting (no pun intended) the value of that service. Depending on the project, you can apply the same idea when working with your own clients. Just as an example let’s use a web developer who has a project she’s doing for a small business with a limited budget. Rather than just give them a discount, she could work with the business to remove features that aren’t required or can be found in prepackaged solutions.
Seeing as my haircut was a simply trim there’s not much that could have been removed from that service without compromising the quality. They could say “the full cut is $13, but I can cut just your bangs for $5”, but that doesn’t help you when you need a full haircut. Likewise, removing CSS from a web design project to save your client money isn’t going to yield value because it’s a fundamental piece of a website that would be valuable to the client.