Remember to Negotiate
Freelance work can often be short-term. It doesn’t include the benefits, insurance considerations, and other elements that come with full-time work. Nor is the process of landing freelance work as exhaustive as landing a full-time job. For these reasons and more, freelancing can feel quite transitory. You get hired to do a job, you get paid for that job, you move on. This a completely normal mindset for a freelancer. They shouldn’t be focused on a single job but rather their career as a whole. However, this can sometimes lead us to ignore the importance of negotiation. When your thought process is “this is just another gig, I’ll be on to the next one soon,” then it’s unsurprising that you wouldn’t want to waste time negotiating. But it isn’t a waste of time. Negotiation can have real impact, not just on your income, but on the quality and success of the work you do. Being effective at it isn’t as hard as you think.
DON’T BE NERVOUS, YOU’VE GOT PLENTY TO OFFER
Landing a job, any job, is awesome, congratulations. But don’t set aside that job seeker mindset just yet. Whoever you’re working for will have to sign off on what you’re charging them, and there are plenty of reasons they might want to pay you less than you’d like. It could be “you’re not worth it” especially if you’re someone with fewer years of experience than they prefer. It could be budgetary restrictions on their end, or the rate they’ve paid other freelancers for the same job is lower than what you’re asking, or a whole plethora of other reasons. Just because they’ve asked to pay you less doesn’t mean they don’t value you. They’re literally hiring you. Understanding a client’s situation can help mitigate some of the self-doubt freelancers have when offered a lower rate. When the only one determining your value is you, it can be easy to second guess yourself. But if you’re going to negotiate effectively, you need to be confident in the rate you’ve chosen.
RESEARCH & RESPECT
Negotiating is a normal part of a job application process. Clients will regularly question the rate you’re charging and will make offers with the expectations you’ll negotiate; so don’t be afraid to do so. As with any interview, you should go in having done research into the company you’re about to commit to work for (even if only for a short period). Spend time finding information that can assist with the negotiation component of your interview.
Some good information you can find pre-interview includes how much a client has paid other freelancers for this role, are a client’s employees happy with their salaries, and what else the client provides workers beyond pay. Money isn’t the only thing you should judge a job opportunity on. Is there certain equipment or software needed for this job? It would be great if they provided that. If not, perhaps you could take a lower rate if they bought certain things for you. Also, freelancers can get some perks. Say the client expects you to come into the office a few times. Will they pay for your parking? Do you get free lunch like the other employees?
The interview should clarify the research you’ve done. If you found a previous freelancer who got paid more than you for the same work, ask the client why. If their answer is that you seem less experienced than other freelancers, this is your chance to prove them wrong. It is certainly possible to persuade clients to pay you what you think you deserve, and if not, then at least now you know. You want as clear a picture as possible. Not only of the job itself, but on how much, how often, and in what way you will be paid. How can you negotiate if you don’t’ fully understand their offer? Just keep in mind that respect is important, especially when discussing delicate topics.
IT’S OKAY TO WALK AWAY
The biggest fear many freelancers have is that a client will take back their offer if you don’t agree to their terms. It’s important to remember they don’t have all the power here. They’re the ones who needed something done and clearly have seen your ability to do that. You need to say yes to them too. If you’re unsure of what you should do (perhaps a job doesn’t pay that much but it seems like really fulfilling work) then take a little time to reflect. Don’t take too long of course as many clients need you to start as soon as possible. Take a few hours to think about what was said in the interview and what you’ve read about the company. Make sure it aligns with what you want. If you do end up turning down a job, do it with grace. Give them a real and honest reason why, and thank them because they spent time on you too. You want to end on good terms so they think of you when future work comes up.
Turning down work can easily sound like you’re being ungrateful, especially when starting out. To be fair, many freelancers starting out will take what they can get, which is fine. But try and negotiate when you can. It’s a great skill to develop, it gives you more confidence, and it can come in handy in a plethora of situations. It won’t get you exactly what you want every time, but even a few bucks here and there can make a big difference to your bank account.