How saying “No” — and meaning it — can get you the job in the endJanuary 21st, 2010 6 Comments
I got a call from a gentleman — let’s call him John — who wanted 6 pages of copy. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the ins and outs of the job, and I also offered some advice on things like usability and SEO. But in the end, my estimate ($3,690) was a little rich for him, and he asked me why so much? (I’m sure you already know the answers to this…)
I’m busy. If I offer a discount to win the job:
- I’ll simply end up turning away more lucrative work;
- John will probably undervalue my work; and
- John will assume there was no good reason for my rates to be high, in the first place.
Sure, I could offer a reduced price in return for a reduced scope, but in reality, there’s never much movement in scope on a copywriting project. John wants a certain number of pages written, and he wants them written well. I can’t negotiate on volume or quality, so what can I negotiate on?
As it happens, John has a good business head on his shoulders; he respected and accepted my explanation, and went on to ask if, perhaps, he should have the copy written by a less expensive copywriter.
I said yes — he SHOULD engage a less expensive copywriter. Simple as that. No umm-ing and arr-ing. No, “Well, you could, but you have to think of the real cost associated with those lower fees…” I simply said “yes, a less expensive copywriter is probably exactly what you need.” (As you writers know, low fees (within reason) are no more accurate an indication of poor quality than high fees are of good quality. There’s every chance John would get a good result from a ‘cheaper’ copywriter. Especially one I recommend.)
So I gave him the names and phone numbers of Monique and Angus, and we parted ways.
I didn’t give it a second thought until this morning, when I dragged my summer-cold-ridden backside into the office, and discovered an email from John in my inbox (sent last night). Here’s how he started it:
“Thanks for your time today. I have left a message with Monique Choy but after explaining our conversation to my wife, and showing her your website, she is now adamant that we should use you.”
Funnily enough, although this was unexpected, it wasn’t surprising. I’d say this sort of thing happens about once every couple of months.
Now before I continue, I need to make something important very clear: John didn’t come back to me after discovering he didn’t like Monique and Angus, or after checking out their portfolios and finding he wasn’t a fan. He didn’t even get that far. (And I have every confidence that WOULDN’T have happened anyway. As I said above, they’re both great copywriters, and they also happen to be very nice, genuine people.) He came back for a very different reason.
John and his wife were persuaded to return by the fact that I said “no” in the first place. By the fact that I stood by my rates. And by the fact that I had the good-will and honesty to refer them to two excellent copywriters, at the expense of a job I could probably have won (had I decided to try).
So now everyone wins. I get to work with a client who appreciates my value. And my client gets the job done by someone he respects and trusts.
This may seem an unlikely sort of story, but it honestly does happen — in one way or another — fairly regularly. And the moral is… well… you know what the moral is.
Now. I’m busy, and I can’t, for the life of me, think of a quick and easy way to conclude this post. So I’m gonna end it right here and get back to work. You should do the same. (Move along, move along. Nothing more to see here!)
Please comment below with your thoughts. I'm not so old a dog that I can't learn a few new tricks!
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