I have been consulting/freelancing for while and there has been one constant, when people hear rates they often start a negotiation. They assume that because I am (more often than not) a one person operation that I'm somehow more prone to reducing my rate simply because they groan about it. Sometimes these same people will walk into a meeting wearing thousands of dollars in high end designer fashion but want to "negotiate" service rates. Really, did you do that at the Gucci store? I'm not Priceline.
I know the value of the services I provide. If there is some mutually beneficial reason for the business relationship then I'm always open to attaching a value to it and subtracting it from the cost. I am not in the habit of a rate reduction just because it is requested. I too want services I cannot afford but unless I am offering something in return, I can't in good conscience ask for a reduction in rate. I will, however, tell someone what my budget is and ask what is possible based on my budget. I respect other people's time and skill and recognize that friendships in business is a bit of a contradiction.
If there is no added benefit for me, this is pretty much how I negotiate... [pardon the expletives.]
If I can't afford something, I simply have to go without it or find and alternative I can afford. I offer up this same bit of advice to those who want goods and services they cannot afford.
To those that are often asked for a rate change just because: Know your value, know your worth, know when to say yes and when to say no. Don't let the need to work deminish the value of what you offer. It is a negotiation only when all parties involved give and receive something of value.