• Finance, Advice

How to negotiate: A freelancer's guide

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

This article was written based on notes from the Dallas-Fort Worth SPARK group's program on negotiating. By attending a SPARK meeting near you, you can learn valuable information and connect with fellow freelancers in your community.

We all want to get paid, and it’s nice if that payment is fair, makes us happy, and arrives on time. But how do we make that happen?

Negotiations should be a part of every sales conversation. Unless you have a very specific service that works exactly the same for everyone (unlikely), you need to be flexible with your pricing and scope of work.

Start with value

Negotiations are often based on value, but this can be difficult to identify since each client will have differing opinions on what that means. Value is defined as “the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” Your worth might show in the high quality of your work. It may manifest in the speed with which you turn around projects. Or your personality could be your greatest value.

Potential clients may ask for “proof” of your worth, which can be tricky to provide in many instances. Setting clear and measurable metrics for your achievements can help justify your rates to a customer. If evidence of your worth is unavailable, change your negotiation tactic to focus on other values. Instead of concentrating on how much you might cost your client, point out how much money they can save with your services.

Dealing with difficult clients

There will always be demanding clients who can’t understand why their timeline or scope of work won’t fit into their low-ball budget. In these cases, be upfront and explain to the client the limitations of the situation.

Remember, they are hiring you because they cannot do the work themselves and most likely don’t know what is really involved in such an undertaking. Instead of saying “pick two,” work with the client to adjust their scope, timeline, or budget.

Know your worth

The worst thing you can do in negotiations is undercut your own rate or the industry average. If you come in much lower than the competition, it could signal that you don’t have the skills or confidence to complete the job and you may not get hired.

It can be challenging to find typical pricing for your particular industry or niche, especially when other freelancers are hesitant to share their rates, but without any research, your pricing could be far off base.

Be flexible

Your negotiations and the prices you set or are willing to accept will be different in every situation. You may be tempted to offer discounts or accept lower offers because your work is currently ebbing instead of flowing. You may charge a rush fee for a last-minute assignment. Whatever the case, use your best judgment and approach your negotiations with a win-win mindset, not a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) attitude.

Jeanette is a scuba diving instructor living in landlocked Dallas, TX. Oh… she is also a freelance blogger, editor, and book coach, makes a lot of dad jokes, supports the Oxford comma, and writes the occasional piece of fiction.
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