Make them an offer you can’t refuse

April 3rd 2018
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@getlionelLionel Martin

Brad Pitt deciding of his terms for his upcoming negotiation with the Russian secret services in Burn After Reading

The biggest mistake I see by freelancers and consultants is sending proposals they are not happy with.

You give a discount for no clear reason. You think your rates are too low. You negotiate poorly and meet in the middle.

When that proposal gets accepted, you are happy with the extra business but feel low right after because of the amount of work on your plate makes you feel like the fee wasn’t worth the effort.

You feel unappreciated.

And it shows!

Your clients aren’t fooled. What they see is someone who made an offer, took their money and is now dragging their feet, unenthusiastic about getting into business with them.
What do you think they think of you? Will they hire you again? Will they recommend you?

They won’t. You will not only hurt your business and probably build yourself a reputation of being unprofessional.


You need to be exactly happy about any offer you make, in your proposals, on your website or if saying yes to an informal meeting over coffee. Your offering should be designed for you to be ecstatic if accepted.

If you’ve decided to consult for or coach someone free of charge, only do it being sure to be content with having nothing in return.

You also need to factor for the unforeseen. There will be complications, extra hours needed, a conversation taking longer than expected, a task being tougher than you thought.
When that arises, you can’t suddenly worry about profitability. Instead your initial terms should still be fair to you (and profitable) with things getting a bit tougher.

Acknowledge that these moments are actually great for your career! I would argue that that’s in these moments that we learn the most (you’ll also become great at estimates after burning yourself enough times).

So price accordingly to the risk of extra time/effort/resources and extra involvement and brain time from you. Your clients will see a professional who is flexible, in control, and who’s putting his clients’ interests first.

It will set you up with a perfectly clear mind when starting that engagement, sitting in that room, picking up that call. You’ll be fully present, more performant, your input will be far more qualitative, the conversations will be delightful, your clients will notice.

Congratulations, you’ve just created a double-thank-you moment.

Lionel is Chief Technology Officer of London-based startup Wi5 and author of the Future-Proof Engineering Culture course. You can reach out to him on



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