How to offer a professional discount without cheapening your services

We all know the dangers of discounting client work to get our foot in the door – we already have enough trouble haggling over pricing as it is.

However, there are times when a client earns a discount. Maybe they’ve referred multiple new clients, or perhaps they’re excellent clients and you want to thank them. (Remember, always discount the next project, not the current one, to keep ’em coming back!)

But you don’t want to offer a coupon like a grocery store. How do you offer a professional discount without cheapening your services?

Frame the discount as a reward.

By rewarding your client, you’re suggesting that they’ve earned the discount rather than you arbitrarily sending a coupon in the mail. You might even encourage better client behavior!

Here are some ideas:

  • A thank you card for a great referral.
  • An award (think “Best Client of the Year,” “Most Organized Client,” “Least Stressful Client,” etc.).
  • A “frequent buyer” card for clients who hire you for a lot of work.
  • A milestone certificate for reaching five years as a client.

Personalize your message.

Personalizing your message helps take the grocery coupon out of your discount. This makes your client feel special instead of wondering if everyone received one.

So when you’re contacting your clients, make sure they know you were specifically thinking of them.

  • Hand-write a holiday greeting.
  • Mention something specific they do that you really appreciate.
  • Get to know something about each client outside of your working relationship and refer to it in your note (such as “Good luck in your upcoming softball tournament!”).
  • Always, always remark how much you’re looking forward to working with them in the future. (Now’s a great time to upsell!)

Create/do something you know they’d like.

I’m not saying you have to redo their entire website, but creating (or doing) something worth a similar price as a discount you’d offer them anyway will help strengthen your relationship and reward your client with something worthwhile.

  • A motivational poster for that empty space in their office.
  • A t-shirt design for their employees.
  • That nifty widget they’ve been interested in implementing on their website.
  • Send flowers, a gift basket, or a gift card.

Make sure whatever you decide to do will be of value to your client. You don’t want to gift something your client finds cheesy or useless.

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Use your discounts wisely.

What I mean is, discounts should be a rare and special gift or you risk clients being disappointed that they aren’t getting one every project. If it’s always Christmas, it’s never Christmas.

By using discounts wisely, you’ll give your discounts more significance while strengthening your relationships.

You know you’ve gotten it right when…

…you make your client smile at your thoughtfulness and customer service. Am I right?

How do you offer discounts to your clients? What types of discounts are best received? Share your thoughts in the comments below and join the discussion!

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About April Greer

April is the Director of Projects at Reliable PSD, a design-to-code company for designers, by designers. She’s the glue keeping everything together, organized, and right on time, and giving everyone a fantastic experience while she does it.



  1. Deirdre McKenna says

    Great topic for an article, thank you! It is important to use a discount, as you say, as a real reward and “thank you”. Great ideas to motivate future projects, too. The only thing I would caution against is referring to a client as your “Least Stressful Client,” because a) the idea of stress is negative and presents you in a differnt light other than capable and positive and b) your stress is not only subjective, it should never be the client’s concern that they they care about your personal stress level.

  2. I select one customer per month and give them FREE SHIPPING on their next order. I also offer cash discounts on next orders when they reach lifetime $ volume levels. Example, once a customer buys $1000 worth of products, they get $10 off their next order, $20/$2000, $30/$3000 etc. I don’t talk about this, so it is always a pleasant surprise for them.

  3. Nice article April, just wonder what you guys going to do for your client this coming Easter?

    • Sureewoong,

      Well, there are a lot of possibilities! What about mailing plastic Easter eggs with discounts (and candy) inside of them?

      Thanks for getting our creative juices flowing!

  4. Great article as usual, April! I love the “milestone certificate” idea – I might do that for one of my long-term clients! 🙂

    I look forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts on this discussion!

    • Brent,

      It’s a small gesture, but it’s a nice one. Not only can you thank them for years of (hopefully) great business, it reminds them (and you) of how long your relationship has been…and you can share how excited you are for adding years to it.

  5. Thanks April, great article! I often wonder what to do besides thank a client for a referral. I just ran across this situation today. It was a small job that was referred, but I would like to encourage more referrals. Do you think putting a “coupon” in a thank you card is the right thing to do for a small referral? And what about for a large project? I often thought of sending some sort of monetary thank you…but then it’s awkward to set that precedent if you don’t intend to send that every time…thoughts anyone?

    • Laura,

      I think if you’re going to send a monetary thank you, you’ll need to standardize it so that clients don’t get upset if one gets a referral and another doesn’t or if they get different amounts for multiple referrals.

      I also don’t subscribe to the idea of giving away money – there’s no incentive for them to spend it with you. 15% off their next project (I prefer to go ‘no strings attached’), or $50 off their next project, or whatever you want for their next project encourages them to work with you again.

      Good thoughts!


  6. This article is indeed incredible! I love reading this. Creating income with graphic designing is amazing. But I’m very much impressed with these shared ideas on how to offer a professional discount without cheapening the services. These ideas are actually so cool and pretty interesting as well. I’d better try this soon. Thanks!

  7. This was very helpful,I was in dire need of positioning myself with new a client.I wanted to show good will and appreciation for their business. Some of my products are considered luxury items and a discount was already applied to the posted price.Later during sales process a discount was asked for but I wanted to uphold the integrity of my product without cheaping my business services & the product itself. You article helped me to do just that! Thanks for the article.!!


  1. […] tactic works really well with an existing client who pays well – offer a discount if they sign on to a year’s worth of services or commit to several projects over the course […]

  2. […] How to offer a professional discount without cheapening your services […]


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