Psychologist advice: how to handle tricky conversations about mates’ rates

At some point in their careers, most tradespeople will probably be asked by a friend or family member to do a job at a discounted rate. In fact, recent research by ElectricalDirect found that UK electricians get asked for mates’ rates five times a year on average, and they typically offer a 40% saving on each job.

However, many think that such requests are disrespectful (15%), and they only go along with them because they feel like they can’t say ‘no’ (23%).

This can be costly, with the average electrician losing £625 a year, so it’s important to be able to push back if you don’t feel comfortable.

That’s why ElectricalDirect has partnered with Dr Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist and founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services, to share advice on how to handle tricky conversations around mates’ rates.

Here are five different approaches to handling requests for discounts from friends and family:

1) Firm but fair
It’s natural for customers to seek tradespeople they know and trust, so friends and family will inevitably turn to you when they need work doing.

This normally isn’t a problem, but if it feels like they’re starting to take advantage, you might need to refuse requests for discounts.

Dr Marianne advises mentioning the costs you’ll incur by carrying out the work, to emphasise that any freebies could hit you financially.

She suggests a response like: “I’d be happy to work with you but sorry, I’m not able to offer discounts because my costs remain consistent.”

2) Firm and helpful

Another possible tactic is to suggest other tradespeople that could potentially carry out the work at a cheaper price.

This way, you’re able to say no, but in a polite manner and remain helpful.

Dr Marianne recommends a line such as: “Sorry I’m not able to offer discounts but if my rates are outside of your price range, I can recommend X or Y.”

3) Firm and balanced

Alternatively, you can explain the reason behind your refusal so that your friend or family member understands your situation.

One reason why some people have doubts about offering mates’ rates is the possibility of it affecting your relationship with the person. For example, if something goes wrong or there are disagreements, it could impact on your friendship.

Dr Marianne suggests a response like: “I don’t offer discounts because I often find that this can alter the expectations on both sides.”

4) Mention the market

Sometimes you just have to back yourself and your professional ability, and that should be enough to persuade someone that your work is worth paying full rate for.

It’s also worth mentioning how your prices compare to others in the industry, to reassure the person that your quotes are reasonable.

Dr Marianne advises a line such as: “Sorry, I don’t offer discounts because I’m good at what I do and my rates are already competitive.”

5) No explanation needed

Finally, it’s worth emphasising that you don’t actually need to provide an explanation if you don’t want to offer a discount. It’s completely your right as a professional to charge what you like, regardless of your relationship with the customer.

Dr Marianne says: “You can add a ‘sorry’ if you like, but actually you’re allowed to say no without offering reasons or prettifying it for the other party.”

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