When (and How) to Give Discounts

Today, we’re going to help you answer the dreaded question that you probably get way too often - Can I get a discount?! Whether they’re looking for friends and family, military, or you know, those really nice “we spent too much on our venue but we reeeeally love your work” discounts, we’ll help you fight back that automatic *eyeroll* response and answer professionally and logically, without getting emotional!

The key with discounts is that you should only give them if they bring value back to your business or your life. I always recommend people pretend they’re a cashier at Target when answering tough business questions. Will that cashier give someone a discount just because they asked for it? Nope. If it can be Target’s policy, it can also be your policy. But, of course, there are a few situations where we do offer discounts, and those are if the project will bring a little value back to you. How does that work? Basically there are two ways that a client can earn a discount from us:

  1. By lowering the scope of the work we have to do. If a client wants to assemble their invitations themselves, we can discount. If they’re willing to use a semi-custom design, or elements that were already created, then we can discount. Or, of course, if they lower the cost of the materials used, we can discount based on that. This is our most common response, and it’s not actually a discount if you think about it, but just decreasing the size of the project. One common way we do this is by printing addresses instead of using calligraphy. They get less, so they pay less. So your response to this client would be just to say “Hi Client, In order to work within your budget, we can do XX instead of YY and that would decrease the cost by $xx”.

  2. The other option is giving you something in return. This can be something more abstract like publicity or exposure, or something more concrete like marketing photos, referrals, or even a direct barter-like trade. We’ve traded for photography mostly, but also for makeup and hair services, and for baked goods too! Our friend Madalyn of Madalyn Yates Photography, offers host homes a free photography session in exchange for a place to stay when she’s traveling. Exchanging free or discounted work for marketing photos is the entire point of a styled shoot, and this is how influencer marketing works! You could also offer a discount for dates that are tough to book, like how venues often offer Friday or Sunday wedding discounts, or for early booking, as that gives the value back to you of scheduling your time in advance (and having money earlier!).

We have a whole video with an influencer marketing expert, regarding how you choose free work, which you can check out here, but the main thing is to ensure that the value exchange is equal and the terms are very clear. We offer free shipping to our preferred wedding planner clients, because they provide the lead for us, and because working with wedding planners usually makes our jobs a little easier. If we spend 1 hour less on the project than we normally would due to the client having a good planner, then it pays for the $40-50 of free shipping that most of our jobs require. It’s clear that this is priority mail, 2-3 days, and not guaranteed. If the client delays to a point where this isn’t an option, they have to pay for guaranteed shipping.

My Mom will always and forever get free work, and my dad, if he ever asked for it, probably would too. If you need a clear value exchange here, just think of it as food and shelter for 18+ years in exchange for a few free party invitations!

Other friends and family members are just a judgment call. I am a believer that friends and family should be more than willing to pay full price, and I’m fortunate that most of mine have been. However, if you want to give a friend or family member a discount, that’s completely up to you, just be clear that you’ll take a little more creative freedom and a little less of a time crunch on those projects. They come second to your full-paying clients.

Any other groups that you want to discount for, such as the military or teachers, are completely up to you and your values! Just make sure you have clear policies about what that discount will and won’t apply to, and make sure your prices can cover the discount.

Okay, so HOW do you actually discount? There are a few ways to do this correctly.

  1. First of all, include your discount on your time investment, as that’s the place where pricing is more variable. For us, this is the Design Fee portion. We do not ever discount materials, unless we’re doing a fully free project.

  2. You should always include the full price and list the discount as a line item on your invoice. This lets your client know what your full price is, so that they fully understand the value of your discount, and so that they have correct information if they refer your services to someone in the future.

  3. We typically do a set amount as a discount, as opposed to a percentage, but you can choose either way. If you use an e-Commerce platform like Squarespace, they’ll have both of these options. For friends and family, we sometimes give a “gift card” as a wedding present, so they can choose to use that on escort cards, menus, or any of our other services.

  4. No matter how you choose to apply your discount, it’s up to you to be as clear as possible about the terms of the discount. In general, if a client knows you’re willing to negotiate, they have a tendency to continue negotiating throughout the entire process. You response needs to include exactly what they are providing you, and exactly what you are providing them in response. Something like “Hi Client, Because you were on The Bachelor and have 150k Instagram followers, we will provide your invitations less $400 on the design fee, in exchange for 2 Instagram Feed Post photos of the invitations and 2 Instagram stories with direct tags to @designbylaney.” The clearer you are on your terms, the more professional you will look, and the less you’ll allow them to take advantage of your discount.

Discounts are something creatives are asked for at alarming rates as compared to other professions - so as an industry, we have to work together to educate clients on what a discount actually costs us from a business perspective, and be committed to sticking with our policies, just like Target does. It feels emotional to us since we pour so much into our work, but the less emotional we can be about it, the happier and more successful we’ll all be! Let us know what questions you have about discounting in the comments!