Negotiating Freelance Work: Five Things to Try

Ever try to negotiate rates, output and fees with a client only to discover that all the things they seemed to want in the initial meeting have changed overnight?

What’s a poor freelancer to do? Every situation is different, but here’s what I find myself doing time and again when faced with a situation where plenty of ideas are thrown around and “Come and join us” invitations or “Let’s work together” offers are given, then suddenly turned into a set of vague demands or a hesitancy to commit to specifics.

5. Repeat the obvious for clarity’s sake. “OK, so you want X, Y, and Z delivered by X date, correct? And you want me to write 700 words for each one with a payment rate per project of ABC. Right? Don’t commit to a project if they can’t quantify numbers. Get everyone on the same page for output, deadlines and pay.

4. If they can’t commit to the specifics, spell out what you’re willing to do. “I’m capable of writing X amount of pieces per day/week/month at a rate of ABC. I can give you topics on ABC and D. How does that sound?

3. Always explain your position fully. One client wanted me to start working on a project the week of Christmas. I said, “Why don’t we make it the following week, since I’m already committed to travel on those dates.” If the client wants something that’s too much work for not enough pay, find a tactful way to explain that you need more money for that work–something along the lines of “Well, for the (lower) pay you’re offering, I could do XYZ and not ABC because that would involve extra hours and other labor. However, for X amount of dollars, I could definitely do both XZY plus ABC no problem.”

2. If you are taken by surprise by any part of the negotiations, don’t answer right away. Say you’d like a bit of time to study the proposal a bit more so you can make a good offer on the deal.

1. If you’re forced to say no, be tactful, be diplomatic but above all, be honest–or at least appear to be honest. If you really DON’T want the gig, turn it down by saying you’ve gotten another project at a rate you simply can’t turn down, but you’d be happy to revisit the deal at a later date. (If you are indeed happy to do so). Or you can simply come right out and hit them with the truth if the money they want to pay is too low or the work they want for a decent sum is too much. You can say no without burning your bridges, simply by explaining that you’ve got other commitments which demand more of your time than you previously expected and you don’t want to give a new project the short shrift…