Hey @helenabester, my friend - long time no speak!
I have absolutely the same experience that you do, as far as “gnat” clients buzzing in my ear, tossing out half my stated rate like it’s some kind of favor. I used to second-guess myself constantly, worrying that anything less than giving in would mean I’d never get work.
Then I hit about 100 reviews and realized that I didn’t have to give in. I was good. More than half my clients were repeat clients, and at least 1 in 10 was a referral from a previous client, and that had to mean something. Now I’m cruising towards 500 reviews and I’ve made a few things standard practice:
I start at x. If my base gig is for, say, 100 words, I’m not going to write 50 words just so someone can pay half price because that works with their budget. Think about it - it’s ludicrous. If they have the need to hire a skilled freelancer for their business and balk at the cost of a nice lunch out, then they aren’t ready to hire a skilled freelancer. I don’t play with nickel and dime stuff anymore - that $15 or $20 base rate is the price of admission for yours truly. Whether you need 10 words or that standard 100 words, you’re paying the base rate.
I do not enter my content into the client’s site/store interface directly. They get a word document, they can cut and paste it where it needs to go. I am kind but firm on this - I almost had a woman make off with $300 of work because she locked me out of her Shopify interface the second I was done and tried to cancel the order here on Fiverr. A form letter on intent to file DMCA notices on her site and ISP changed her tune, but I learned a valuable lesson that day - documents only.
I do not exchange more than five back-and-forth lines in a message without asking them directly if they want to order off of my gig page, or if they want me to send an offer. Way, way, way too many time wasters on this site who want free ad hoc business consultation, or want to get 20+ messages deep only to act shocked that my rate is X, when it’s clearly shown on the damn page they contacted me through.
ANY permutation of “I’m a startup / can’t you just / money is tight / can I get a discount / etc.” gets a kind word and an end to the conversation. “I certainly understand how difficult budgets can be, particularly for a start up. You may not be aware, but I am a level 2 seller, which means my work costs more because of my experience. It sounds like you need a level 1, or maybe a beginner writer - there are some excellent ones here on Fiverr that I’m sure could help you. Thanks so much for your interest, and best of luck to your business!” - we’re not negotiating, I don’t have to justify my prices to anyone, and I have nothing to apologize for. I’m not mad, I’m just done with this conversation and I’m on to people that pay me what I charge, the end.
The trick is to plant your feet and don’t let them budge you. Do not be afraid to end the conversation if they aren’t “getting it.” Don’t leave them any room - e.g. “Well, I wish I could but I…XYZ” - they will IMMEDIATELY treat XYZ as a challenge to be solved/circumvented rather than the denial it is. I am declining this project, as we are not a good fit for one another - no hard feelings, but I do need to get back to work now - good luck!