How to Respond When Clients Think You Are Too Expensive

how to respond when clients tell you you are too expensive

If you’ve been in the industry for any amount of time, you’ve heard this objection from clients before. Your first reaction as a designer would be to get offended, but sometimes, clients think this way because of preconceived notions about the industry and the value of your services. Before you get in a huff, take the time to uncover why they feel this way – sometimes it can save you a potential project. Negotiating is not a bad thing, after all, some clients just do business this way, but there may be hidden meanings to what they actually mean when they accuse you of high prices.  


Price is a Reflection of Value

Your client sees value as two things:

  • It’s a great price, when the value is higher than the fee.
  • It’s too expensive, when the fee outweighs the potential value.

Getting the delicate price/value balance correct can take a while. If you’re charging a premium price for your services, you better be offering a better-than-average product. While you want to make as much money as possible, you have to charge what is appropriate for the value of your service. After all, your potential client can always go to Google and find 20 designers that are a cheaper alternative, in a few minutes. If you never have clients tell you that you’re too expensive, you’re probably not charging enough.  

Never lower your rate immediately after hearing “you’re too expensive” from anyone. If you offer a lower discounted rate, they will automatically think they can negotiate an even better price by pushing you harder. If anything, hear what they have to say about why they believe your prices are too high. Take the time to uncover the real reason why they are apprehensive towards your rate.

If you never have clients tell you that you’re too expensive, you’re probably not charging enough. 

Response #1: Compared to What?

This is a good approach to take when you can tell the client has been price-comparing designers. Sometimes clients will tell you that your rates are expensive compared to other designers they have contacted. If another designer is only going to charge $200 for a website, that’s something you can not control. Explain why you don’t charge $200 and if the client still doesn’t pick you, move on and find clients that are willing to invest in your value. 

Response #2: Ignore It

If you don’t want to defend your prices, then don’t. If you’re in a position where you get a lot of work coming in, it might be better to take this route than waste your time trying to justify your fees. 

Response #3: Ask Them What Their Budget Is

If you give clients an hourly rate, it might freak them out. If you ask them what their budget is, they can give you a concrete number. For example, if their budget is $3,000, explain to them what can be accomplished under their budget. This way, expectations with the client are laid out at the beginning. Clients that don’t have a budget are usually not ready to buy your services and may not be worth pursuing. Asking what their budget is a good way to find out how serious they are about continuing. 

Response #4: Do You Really Need My Services?

Sometimes clients that think you’re too expensive just want an easy out from the work they know needs to be done. This happens when the client is unwilling to make a decision, but doesn’t want to say no yet. Mentioning cost is the easiest way to back out of something they don’t want anymore. For example, “I don’t really need to redesign my site right now, it can wait” or “It is so much hassle to create a website.” With these clients, suggest that they get in touch with you in the future when they are ready to take on the project with you, together. 

Clients Who Insist on Cheap, Will Always Be Cheap

There will always be business owners that do not understand the value in design, and therefore will not understand your pricing. Don’t waste time on these clients – they often turn into a huge headache later on because they want everything for nothing. If they are being very pushy about your prices from the beginning, take this as a red flag. This means they may complain about invoices later on and be a pain to collect from when fees are due. 

Written by Janna Hagan

Janna Hagan is a web designer from Canada that likes to blog, tweet and Dribbble. She's the founder and editor of Student's Guide to Web Design.


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  1. Cosmin Negoita on August 19, 2013

    Cheap work ain't good and good work ain't cheap. That's what you should tell them.

  2. Json Knepper on August 19, 2013

    You wrote: "It’s a great price, when the value is lower than the fee. It’s too expensive, when the fee outweighs the potential value." Did you mean that it's a great price when the value is HIGHER than the fee?

  3. Web Design Company on August 20, 2013

    Usually people who say the price is too expensive are people that don't care about the website that much, and they don't know what a site can do for their business. Sure it's normal to ask the best price, because nobody wants to pay big money instead of low money for the same website.

  4. Sheila on August 22, 2013

    Yes and YES!! So true, the cheapest clients are ALWAYS the most difficult. There will always be someone cheaper than you, so it's not even possible to compete on price alone. I like the response to a cheap client, "I'm sorry, but you haven't allocated enough resources for this project." Puts the ball back in their court where it belongs ;)

  5. Ed on November 12, 2013

    With regards to cheap clients, I say. The value you put into your website will be a reflection of you or your business. I say if you want to be successful just look at your competition. Do you think they spent the same amount of whatever their low ball offer is? Giving them food for thought, in the end my exit is. Well unless you can deal with my base rate and when you're ready to discuss, I can't put this on my list of priorities, but thank you and I hope you find what works for you. Siply put don't waste your time on cheap clients because they will end up being difficult later on.

  6. Tedd on December 8, 2013

    Very good advice. I always advise my students to: 1. Ask the client the value of the most expensive product they offer 2. Ask if you can have it for half price 3. If the client isn't willing to part with their most valued item at half price then don't expect others to sell their product or business for half price either.

  7. Peter Drinnan on April 6, 2014

    Cheap clients sometimes strike it lucky with students who are either inexperienced or simply desperate for work. Best to weed them out before they suck up too much of your time. If you don't have work, better to spend your time building a portfolio and going after real clients than going down the low road of cheap clients which always leads nowhere.

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