How To Stop Clients from Expecting Free Work Without Burning Bridges

stop clients expecting free work without burning bridges

How To Stop Clients from Expecting Free Work Without Burning Bridges


Have you ever had clients give excuses such as the following instead of straight-up paying you what you’re worth for the services you render? Have you ever had a client expecting free work from you?


“You will get exposure for this.”

“We are a startup, you should understand.”

“You can build a long-term work relationship from this.”

“You can add this to your portfolio.”

“It’s a simple task, anyone can do it.”


These are some of the excuses clients who want free work or reduced prices use to get talented people to work without a defined payment in view. The only perfect response from you is to decline the work. Well, except if they’re a non-profit organization that you believe in. Even if the client is a friend or family/relative, it’s not advisable to offer your services free of charge or at ridiculously reduced rates. Setting a standard pricing structure for your services passes the right message about how you work, it shows that you’re a professional. And it’s even better when you adhere to your pricing structure.

Never-Ending Revisions

Another method some clients use to ask for free work is never-ending revisions until the scope of work has completely changed from the initial scope of work. You will realize along the line or at the end of the final revision that the deliverable is not similar to the initial scope of work the client asked for that you agreed to at the beginning of the project. You would have used more of your time and energy trying to meet the client’s new demands.


To manage this, always take note of the initial scope of work. You can write it on a sticky note or something, and check to make sure that you address every requirement the client mentioned before you deliver the work. When the client asks for a revision, you’ll be able to confirm whether it is covered within the initial scope to work. Otherwise, you can inform the client that revision doesn’t cover a new scope of work that is different from the initial one you both agreed on. Additionally, you can ask the client to make a new payment since the scope of work is different which means it’s new work.


So, how do you manage your clients’ expectations to avoid them asking for free work, while still maintaining a healthy work relationship with them?

Don’t Make Them Develop a Habit of Expecting Freebies from You

Sometimes, you might feel like giving your clients freebies for whatever reason, that’s a good thing, it shows that you’re not all about money. But while at it, don’t ever make them feel like you don’t charge a price for the services/products you are giving them for free. So, make sure you tell them clearly when you’re offering freebies and discounts.


Also, freebies and discounts are only appreciated when you rarely offer them not when you give them freebies or huge discounts all the time. This will indirectly tell them that instead of giving you a job and paying for your services right away, they can always wait for another one of freebies to get the work done. Regular freebies and ridiculously huge discounts are almost the same, and they don’t all under a good pricing strategy.

Reinforce Your New Pricing Decision in Upcoming Interactions

So, how do you make your clients start paying when you have already given them so many freebies in the past? This is a valid question. Start by informing them of your new decisions about freebies, discounts, and endless revisions that are not covered under the initial scope of work. Do it politely, you can’t blame your clients for expecting freebies when it was you who didn’t have a structured pricing strategy. So, be professional about it.


Acknowledge that although you have offered free services in the past, you will longer offer freebies. Tell them the actual prices of your services, including when they ask for revisions that outside the scope of the initial project demands.

Share Project Estimates with Clients

Many freelancers and agents have a rate card that lists their well-defined fixed price rates for the different types of work they offer. You can also create one but make sure you follow it. For custom projects, start by understanding everything the client wants you to, take note of all the demands. Next, review the project, client’s requirements, time frame, and every other factor that will determine the deliverable then charge a price rate that covers everything.


Share this with your client; make a list of the client’s demands, time frame, and what you will include in your deliverable along with the total price. You can share a breakdown of your price rates, so it is clear to the client what you’re charging for the different items in the deliverable.


You can also offer limited revisions, usually one to three, or unlimited. Just make sure that you make it clear to the client that you only revisions that fall under the initially agreed upon scope of work. Anything outside that, ask the client to pay you for the new work. Define your revision, let the client know what to expect from revisions and what you can offer, and don’t go beyond that.


It’s not uncommon for clients to claim to agree to something they didn’t actually go through. So, when you send them the scope of work and estimates, try to confirm that they understand what you’re saying. You can call them, have a video chat, or use software tools that let share documents and tasks with the client and you two can share comments.

Don’t Allow Money to Spoil A Good Relationship

Now that you know how to be more professional with your pricing, keep in mind that offering freebies and discounts is not a bad practice. It depends on your approach. For example, when starting with a new client, it will be better to give them your standard price rates so that they will build a good habit of paying you what you’re worth. However, after some time, you can introduce freebies and discounts. Make it clear that this is not the norm but rather you’re celebrating them or giving them a reward or whatever. You will also realize that you have to let things slide sometimes, instead of holding on tight to getting paid everything you are worth.

Over To You

Always remember that freebies are like instruments you can use anyhow you see fit. The best way to offer freebies is to do so once in a while. Never allow your clients to develop a habit of expecting freebies. The takeaway from this is, be professional and polite but don’t compromise too much on your pricing strategy.


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