Tough Love Tuesday: Stop Asking For Discounts


If you know me personally, I’m the one who gives out the tough love (if you want it or not). Running my own business, I come across a lot of situations that should be talked about but entrepreneurs and small business owners understandably can be scared to bring up these topics. Good thing I have no fear. So here is the first post for Tough Love Tuesdays and I’m diving right in with the thing no one wants to talk about: Discounts. Stop asking for discounts. I don’t care if you’re a stranger or a friend. Just don’t do it. And good lord, don’t ask for it for free. What you are about to read may hit some of you in the jugular. It’s ok and you will be fine but it must be said.

I’m the type of person that if I want something but it’s out the budget, I just don’t have that thing. If I go to the liquor store and I want a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, I’m not going to walk up to the counter and ask them to sell it to me for $12.99 when there are plenty of other choices in that price range available. I know I am not the only photographer in town. There are plenty of up and comers who would love to photograph you for free or at a lower rate so they can build their portfolio. Yet you came to me and told me how much you love my work and you would love to work with me, but still ask for it at a discount.

It may seem like an innocent request, but to the person you want to hire, they go through a range of emotions. Rage, disappointment, hurt, unworthiness, and a myriad of other not so great feelings. I understand we all want to save money. When I was shopping for furniture this past weekend, I asked for free delivery. Our associate said they can’t offer that and explained why and I said “ok”. I didn’t try to convince her that we deserve it because we really don’t. We’re not special so why should we get a free service when other people have to pay for it. In the end, our sales associate was so appreciative that we came in to see her after she called me earlier in the week to introduce herself as our personal associate, she gave us a better financing offer even though we didn’t buy enough to qualify for it. Do you think we would have gotten that if I demanded free delivery? Absolutely not.

I pose to you, what makes you worthy of a discount? It’s ingrained in us to ask for a discount that I don’t think people even realize the gravity of that request. Maybe you’re asking your friend to take photos for you, or to make a dress for you, or consult on your new business venture. That is time they could be spending on paying clients so not only are they spending time working on something for you, they are losing money they could be making elsewhere. By asking for a discount, you’re saying to me that my rates aren’t fair or you deserve a better price than someone else. That puts your friend in an awkward position, and if you’re really friends that is something you would never want to do.

If you are a stranger asking someone for a discount, I pose the same question. You saw someone’s work online and maybe talked to them on the phone or through emails and love their work but still ask for a price break. Why? I’ve been asked a few times why I charge what I charge so I break it down for them. A lot of people don’t know what entails in a service so it’s our job to inform. After that, 9 times out of 10, they hire me. If you feel my rate is not worth the services, I rather you do not try to make me lower my prices to your standard of what is reasonable and look for someone else to hire.

Also, let’s talk about exposure for a second. The word that makes any freelancer, entrepreneur, and small business owner shudder. I got chills just typing it. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Paying clients do. And they will shout your name from the rooftops when you deliver a quality result to them and recommend you to all their friends. That’s the kind of exposure we want. 

What about trades? Glad you asked. When I first started photography, a common term was TFP: trade for photos. I was willing to do a lot of photoshoots for trade (aka free) because I needed to practice my skills and build a portfolio. But as the years passed, I was still getting asked for free shoots but I needed to get paid. I had to take a look at my business model and assess if that was the clientele I wanted to work with it. Needless to say, it wasn’t so I moved on. 

Trades rarely end up fair so really assess if it’s something you want to invest your time into doing. If you are a social media marketer and your friend owns an organizing business, discuss your rates and make an actual time limit on how long the traded services will go on for. Write up a contract or terms of agreement so everyone is on the same page. It will save everyone from feeling like they are being taken advantage of.

What if you previously worked with someone for free or at one rate and you are now asking for more? If they want it and it's within their budget, they will hire you. They have the right to look at their finances and decide if they can do it. If they can’t at the moment but love working with you, they will come back when they can. Maybe it’s a client you adore so you give them a special rate for staying with you as your business grows. 

If you notice a number of people are questioning your rate, take a look at what you’re offering and see if you can add more value to that service instead of discounting it. The reverse of that is you really want to work with someone but they have a set budget and your services are well above it, remove some of the offerings so you feel comfortable with the client’s budget. If you’re a wedding photographer and they can only do $2500 and your rate is $4000, remove the album and some hours of coverage. Don’t work the same amount at a lower rate. 

Also, don’t tell someone that you’re going to hire someone cheaper. That’s just rude.

If the person you want to work with really wants to work with you, they may give you a discount but that is THEIR CHOICE. Recently, I was talking to someone about having her come on to be my coach. I know she’s great at what she does and could probably take me to levels that I couldn’t even imagine. I also knew that her rate was not something I could commit to at the moment. I never once thought about asking her to give me a discount. If she felt like giving me one, that was her choice and no one else’s. I respected her for that and down the line when I’m ready, she will hear back from me.

If you really want to hire someone, you will pay them what they are asking. If you can’t afford it now, let them know. They will respect you for saying that and they will be so happy to serve you when you’re ready. You won’t assume that you will get something for cheap or for free. We’ve all been there before and this is not a personal drag for any particular person. My goal for this post and this series and to lift up the veil on entrepreneurship so consumers and can have a better understanding of what happens behind the scenes.