I Meant to post this yesterday and just plain forgot, so I'll try to get two out today to make up for it.
I got some feed back on my post the other day about setting rates. It's an interesting topic to a lot of people. One of the questions it did bring up was how to deal with negotiating on rates, or specifically dealing with a customer that doesn't want to pay what you're asking.
I for one set out my rate at the start in a quote, explain that it's competitive and that's what it costs.
I'm open to negotiation if for example you're offering me a couple of days a week for a month, few months or a year. It costs less to develop and maintain one relationship like that than the equivalent in smaller customers - even if it is putting more eggs than I may like into one basket.
If on the other hand it's a couple of days then I'm going to be much more firm about my rates.
One strategy for getting paid what you should, and giving a customer a price they want is to determine the budget from the outset then structure a proposal around that. Once you've got a number, make sure you can deliver what they want, or negotiate on a cut down version, which you can deliver within their budget. If it's design work, cut some of the revisions, base the design on a template of their choosing. For coding work cut some of the scope, remove one or two of the lest important requirements.
A lot of times you may just find "you're too expensive" really means, "we can't afford it" and there are a lot of great companies out there that aren't just being cheap, even if that's the way it may seem on the surface and they'd be more than willing to compromise on the scope to get it done properly within their budget. Then who knows, revisit the rest in a few months time.
Other times you just can't meet in the middle, you can't do the work in the time allowed by the budget but don't give up - there might still be a deal you can both cut. Maybe they offer a service you're currently paying for, or have staff that aren't being fully utilised you can borrow. Trading your services for theirs isn't a bad thing, you still get a client, word of mouth referrals, case studies, testimonials and add to your portfolio and you still get something in return for it. I've done this in the past and it's always worked out well for me, in fact it's probably lead to more work from and through that client than we could otherwise expect.
If all else fails, my advice is to walk away. It's hard but the brutal truth is that you're risking getting stuck in a working relationship where the other side doesn't value your skills. In my experience that attitude extends right through into how they value your opinions and the result of your labours. To them what you produce is a commodity and they're probably going for the cheapest quote they can find. Everyone has worked with people like this, it's not fun and it's almost never worth the money. In fact, my advice is run - don't walk.