I'm fairly new to freelancing, but I have an active online presence in my community, which a startup company noticed. They approached me for an ongoing project and requested a 60% discount off my stated normal rate, which is dramatically below my minimum acceptable rate. Considering that it's ongoing work, I offered a 40% discount, but they maintained that they needed the 60% discount.

Should I just settle for the low rate? Or would I be missing a huge opportunity if I decline the offer? (I'm not sure how common ongoing contracts are in freelance web development.)

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • 4
    Possibly helpful from another stack --> graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/25712/…
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 19:07
  • that's actually a really good read that @Scott mentions above Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 19:51
  • If you take a look at shouldiworkforfree.com (I get the work is paid, but 60% discount is ridiculous considering they approached you and not vice versa) it mentions that 'startup' is a thrown around buzzword, therefore I'd suggest not considering anything particularly special because of it, let alone accepting discounted work on their terms. The majority of startups should have enough money to accommodate a decent rate, and any that don't should be avoided anyway, as they can become problematic.
    – lewis
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 15:42

6 Answers 6


Don't do it.

Clearly they don't value your work, a 60% discount is what you ask for haggling in a North African marketplace, not development work with a freelancer. And keep in mind that although they ask 60% discount, they will still demand 100% dedication, quality and timeliness.

Also, after a while you will definitely start to resent the low rate which will affect your work and make you miserable.

(this answer is assuming you are not about to turn homeless because you desperately need money, beggars can't be choosers).

  • Good answer. That slow building resentment is a real nightmare too. It starts to magnify every flaw in your customer until you hate them. And that is not healthy. A customer demanding such a discount when you have moved to 40% already, is not a customer you want to be working with. Instead of wasting you time with these people, spend your time finding a customer you can really work with, and that will respect you as much as you respect them.
    – PaulD
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 18:39

If someone would ask me a 60% discount off my hourly rate it would be offensive to my worker's dignity. I would not even keep up a telephone conversation with someone like that.

I would consider a 5%-10% discount on large or long term project (0% on small projects), only when I know I can optimize the work processes and that will not cause loss of income to me. Other than that is a definitve NO-GO!

But I have to admit also that when I started freelancing (20+ years ago) at the beginning I did some underpaid jobs just for the purpose to build a portfolio or because the client was very important, like once that I made a logo for a local University, that it's still used wordwide, and that I proudly show in my portfolio and to clients. Once in a while I also do pro-bono projects for non-profit organization. That is ok, but never let anyone take advantage of you or undervalue you as worker and as person.


They are obviously tattempting to take advantage of you. I was in between contracts and i took a crappy paid to fill the gap. I hated every minute of it!! truly. Not only for the rate, but also because i found out they were paying at and evtra 50% more to someone else. I left not long after. It also tarnished my standing with the organisation. I have not put that on my cv as just leave that time as unemployed.


Think of that startup's company offer this way:

  • Is that project interesting to you? {If yes then +1}
  • Do you think it will be a good reference? {If yes then +1}
  • Do you think there will be a good chance for salary increase in a recent future? {If yes then +1}
  • How bad do you need the money now? {If you need the money badly then +1}
  • Are you able to continue living the way you are living now with the rate that is offered to you? {If yes then +1}
  • How easy would it be for you to leave that project when something better shows up? {If easily then +1}
  • Do you have something better to do now? {If no then +1}

If you summed up less than 4 then definitely don't accept the offer.

You can also award more points for each answer and than calculate again.


If you do, you'll be undercutting the market and creating lowered expectations of payment for everyone in the field. The price will be advertised to other companies through word-of-mouth and they'll be pressuring other freelancers to offer similar pricing. It's similar to W-2 employees offering a cut rate service in their spare time. It takes work from serious freelancers.


If you are so desperate for work, do a milestone work with them. Make them list a few tasks, you estimate, and set fixed price at any rate you want.

If they decline, let it be like that.

But in general, a client who wants YOU because of your qualities, but does not want to pay you your rate, does not respect you. He only wants good work for bargain.

Another option is to set monthly salary to work for them. But make sure it month per month. For example, you want to earn monthly $1000. Your rate is set such that at yearly average you earn approx $1000. If you think that you will not have work in 1 month, then it's better to work the minimum monthly earning for them, than to earn nothing.

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