What to do when you can’t afford their services

“I really want to work with you but I can’t afford it.”

So you’ve followed your favourite designer for a while. You’ve finally worked up the courage to reach out and schedule a call with them. You both get along great and you feel like they really understand your needs. It’s a match made in heaven, right?

Then the proposal comes through to your inbox….and it’s out of your budget.

What do you do?

There are several ways this scenario could go.


1. You ghost them

It can be really tempting to just ignore the proposal once you’ve decided it’s not for you and move on with your life. But it’s not a terribly professional thing to do and it can be viewed as disrespectful by a designer who may have spent significant time putting that document together for you. 


2. You tell them you’ll definitely work with them…sometime

We get this one all the time. Perhaps you mean it and you actually do mean to work with them in the future when it feels more right. But the reality is that people tend to lose interest and enthusiasm for things that require investment as time goes on. Recognise that you might be making a promise you won’t keep and potentially leading that service provider on.


What to do instead: Tell the truth

So you want to work with us but we’re out of your price range. That’s fine – just tell us that! EXACTLY that. Don’t tell us that we’re too expensive (I’ll explain why in a moment). DO tell us that you cannot currently afford our prices. It’s totally normal, especially during a pandemic, and we won’t be annoyed. In fact, we’ll often go straight into problem-solving mode.

A client who tells me I’m too expensive is potentially not a client I want. They likely don’t value my services the way I do and will resent having to pay me the amount I know I’m worth. This isn’t a recipe for a successful partnership. On the other hand, a client who has no issue with my pricing but says they still can’t afford me is displaying several awesome traits:

  • Respect for my work
  • Integrity by not ghosting me or making vague promises
  • Honesty and transparency by telling me the truth, even though it can be hard to admit
  • Communication skills (Seriously, this kind of direct communication is great during a collaboration)

If you demonstrate these qualities, you’ll send signals that you could be a fantastic client and I guarantee the designer you want to work with will look for a way to meet you. It might mean creating a smaller custom package that’s closer to your budget. Some typical elements might not be included but a designer worth their salt will find a way to ensure you get the essentials you need – and then you can always come back later and add more when you can afford to.

Or it might mean they offer you a payment plan so that instead of paying 100% upfront or two 50% payments at the beginning and end, it instead gets broken up into three smaller payments (or another arrangement that suits you both).

It might mean they recommend a pre-made template or semi-custom alternative. You’ll still have  beautiful, professional design at a fraction of the cost.

Or it might be another option altogether. At the end of the day, we’re flexible, creative and willing to come up with solutions that allow both parties to thrive. Because that’s what small business supporting small business should be about.

So next time you want to work with your dream designer or other service provider, let them know respectfully when budget is the issue. It can open entirely new doors for everyone involved.



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