contract-creator-badge.bmp All too often, I hear freelancers say that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to defining the terms of a new gig, and they feel reluctant to press their luck. After all, what leverage does a freelancer have when times are tough and the market is flooded with competitors? But I want to encourage anyone who feels this way to take a good look at using a contract, which is one of the most powerful negotiation tools at a freelancer’s disposal, because it should reflect and safeguard both you and your clients' interests. With that perspective,** negotiating should (and can!) be like playing a friendly hand of poker, where everyone wants to have fun and make money in the process.** Maybe it’s the luck of the draw, but recently I’ve noticed this very topic popping up more and more. Just last month, O-Desk featured a “Negotiations 101” article that instructs freelancers on how to jump right in on the action. The author, Stephanie, is on point when she writes,** “In short, work contracts can save your life and your freelance business.”** I completely agree that in the absence of laws like the Freelancer Payment Protection Act, having a solid contract is the first line of defense against getting stiffed – whether through misunderstandings or by being played by deadbeat clients. An oldie-but-goodie from our friends over at Freelance Switch gets a bit more into the nitty-gritty of how to build an equitable working relationship from the onset, even if that means reducing your rate to get the gig. Here’s some excellent advice from their site:

  • **Be in it to win it: know your bottom line for the contract and what you need to buy in. **
  • **Know the other guy’s playing style: research the client and ask questions about the project. **
  • **Remember you’re a champ: don't be intimidated by bigger or older businesses. **
  • Practice your poker face: be aware of emotions, be a good listener and stay neutral. (Get those shades ready, people!)
  • Seal the deal: make sure everything gets written down before you break. (Create your own custom contract using Contract Creator!)
    If you follow these suggestions, I’m sure you’ll be on your way to enjoying the Royal Flush of freelance deals. (Or, if you encounter a particularly crafty opponent, you could just take Mike Monteiro’s excellent contract advice and call their bluff.) Getting paid shouldn’t be a gamble - it’s supposed to be a given. So tell me - what are your tried and true tactics for getting a mutually beneficial, everyone-wins agreement with your clients? Share it with us in the comments, and give Contract Creator a whirl while you’re at it.