Allison Rapp

Please—Don’t Give a Discount!

Discounts diminish the value of your work. Learn 5 better ways to make your services more affordable to the clients who need you.

Lots of practitioners want to make their services more affordable and many think they’ll get more clients by offer a discount. I agree with the intention, but I think it’s a mistake to go about it in this way, and that’s why my advice always is to find a way to avoid giving a discount.

Please don't discount your work!

The dictionary is just the beginning

Much as we might like to believe that words are nothing more than neutral combinations of letters—and that rational, mature people are not triggered by them—we know in our hearts that’s just not true. I’d be surprised if you cannot find empirical evidence in your own life that contradicts the notion that words are neutral. For example:

  • You may not object to bad language, but some words still cross the line.
  • Maybe there’s an endearment your partner or your kids use that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy but means nothing special to somebody else.
  • Many practitioners have such a strong reaction to the words “sell” and “sales” that they have a hard time finding clients.

On the face of it, I know that your intention in offering a “discount” is simply to say that you will reduce the price, but what you may not realize is that that word touches on deeper meaning that goes beyond the immediate moment in which you use it.

Most of us have experience with discount stores, discount coupons, online discounters, and so on. Maybe you’ve had a wonderful experience buying discount airline tickets, but I can assure you that many people have had terrible experiences on their trips.

Take a moment to remind yourself of something you associate with the word “discount.” In your mind’s eye, do you see a fit with you, your work, the physical appearance of your studio and the experience you provide for your clients?

I doubt it.

“Discount” has 5 unfortunate associations

First, the most common thing discount stores carry is  “cheap” or “imported” merchandise of lower quality, and discount services usually don’t include all the service. I imagine you’d be mortified to think of your work as “low quality” and that it would not occur to you to give any group of clients less than your best because they didn’t pay your full fee.

Second, the other side of the coin is the common wisdom that “you get what you pay for” so when you offer a discount, you open the door for the other person to think that you aren’t worth what you normally charge. That alone will wreck your self-confidence if you think about it long enough!

Third, when you give a “discount,” people tell their friends “I didn’t pay full price. Just say you want a discount—she’ll do it for less.” This attracts people who make their decision based on price, which is not the same thing as committing to get the help one needs from the person who is the best fit for facilitating transformation.

Fourth, discounts are most often available for commodities, rather than for unique products and services. When what you offer is seen as a commodity, it becomes generic—it’s interchangeable with other forms of touch and that puts you in competition with every other person within 50 miles who practices a hands-on modality and charges for their time rather than for the value they offer their clients.

Fifth, “discount” has another meaning, which has to do with discrediting (another money word!) information or the people who provide it (as in “discount the source”). Since one of the things practitioners struggle with is becoming known as an expert, why use a word that can discount your credibility, your work or the value of making a commitment?

Alternatives to “discounting” your services

What we’re really talking about here is the feeling clients get and the judgments they make about you. So really, the thing to consider is what you want that feeling to be and how you can help the person make the judgment associated with it, so that it benefits you when you work with some clients for less than your established fee.

There are many ways to reduce your fee that create a much different feeling about your work, what you offer and how you value your clients. Here are a several examples of other ways to phrase this, and how you can use these to increase your value, rather than decrease it. You will see that each of these creates its own feeling tone, which is a major part of the value using “the right words” can have for your practice:


From the outset, this word means that the reduction in price is exclusive. It’s not available to everyone just because they don’t want to pay your full fee.

What would be the reasons you might offer a scholarship to your clients for your private work? For your classes? How much would you offer? How would you talk about it with the people who are eligible for it?

Professional Courtesy

This is a standard term used when you offer to reduce your fee for a colleague who needs your services. You are completely in charge of deciding who your colleagues are—you are not obligated to offer it to every one.

Who do you know that you would offer this fee to? What would that fee be?

Client Acknowledgement/Appreciation, Loyalty Reward

Clients feel special when you make an offer that acknowledges their commitment over a long time of working with you, or because they referred several people to you.

Do you currently have clients you might offer a reduction to, based on this thinking? How much is it and at what point would a client be eligible for it?

Specially-priced package or product

One way to set yourself apart from others is to create packages of your services and/or products that cost less than buying the components separately. Here are several ideas:

  • Let’s Get Started Package
  • New Year’s Resolution Special
  • “Live and Later” Class Combo
  • Bring a Friend on Me!
  • It’s MY birthday and YOU get the present!

What do these words convey to you? What would you include in these offers? How could you increase their value? How would you talk about them to highlight their importance?

Family and Friends Price

It’s not uncommon to offer a lower price to people you know and care deeply about. One big benefit of having a price that you’ve already decided on is that it can forestall the difficulty of dealing with people who think you shouldn’t charge them anything at all because of your relationship. When the person asks to see you, you simply say “I’d be happy to help you, and I don’t expect you to pay my full fee. I want to offer you my friends and family price–let’s find a time!”

Which of your family and friends would you offer a special rate? What would it be? What’s a comfortable way for you to talk about it?

Claim your value!

It’s possible to offer people a rate that allows them to get the help they need without cheapening your work or doing yourself a disservice.

Think about it now, so that that you’re prepared when you need it. That will make it much easier to offer your clients exactly what you want to offer them!


Photo: Chrisinphilly5448 via Flickr

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