Want to get paid what you’re worth?
It’s no secret that negotiating can be a pretty intimidating experience.
Have you ever been to a car dealership?!
Between wanting to get the best deal -without asking too much- and the pressure to seal the deal, it’s enough to make anyone uneasy.
Negotiating is an incredibly important skill to have both in everyday life and in business.
Whether you’re new to the freelancing scene or a seasoned pro, you’ll need a firm grasp on how to negotiate to give your business a leg up.
It’s a skill that may come naturally to some, while for others it’s something that has to be learned.
Let’s dive in and take a crash-course in negotiation to help you get that rate you deserve!
Know Your Rate
First and foremost, know your bottom line.
Many in the industry will refer to it as your MAR, otherwise known as your “Minimum Acceptable Rate.”
How you determine that rate is a whole other conversation, but once set, it’s important you stick to it.
Accepting anything under your MAR will only undermine your efforts to grow your business (and your invoices.)
As a newbie, your MAR may be lower at first, but the beauty of freelancing is that you can increase it as you progress.
The following negotiation tips can easily be used to ask for a raise with existing clients as well as setting rates with new ones.
While I’ve been criticized for being an over-planner in many aspects of my life, my ongoing quest for “having all the information” has paid off in spades when talking about my freelancing business.
When it comes to negotiation, going in with as much detail as possible is vital to your success.
- To start off, ask the potential client for a rough outline of what the project will entail. Depending on their answer, you should be able to get a better picture of the legwork needed on your end, and therefore, what rate you can reasonably attain. For example, is the project research-heavy or otherwise time intensive? If so, you’ll probably be looking to quote a higher rate.
- Along with a general outline, you should also inquire about the clients’ budget. Knowing what they’re working with may help you shape the nature and scope of the services you offer, as well as what you will charge. Smaller budget? Perhaps stick to pitching simple blog posts or articles. Larger budget? Propose opportunities for social media integration and additional services.
There will also be times when you are forced to go in somewhat blind.
Some clients will ask you to quote your rates in your initial pitch, which leaves you giving your rate without knowing the full scope of the project.
In this case, I’d suggest setting a range that leaves wiggle room but also keeps your MAR in mind.
Set the range a bit higher than what you’re looking to settle for to leave room for negotiation without inflating your cost.
Note: Contena makes it super easy to see a potential client’s pay range from “low” to “very high” so you know what to expect!
Remember, most clients will be looking to get the most “bang for their buck” and will tend to offer you the lower range, at least at first.
Be sure to let the client know that your rate depends on further details of the project such as research, the expected number of rewrites, or turnaround time.
Use Strong Language
The way you state your proposal is just as important as the content.
As a professional writer, you should be able to convey confidence in your craft.
The wording of your proposal alone can mean the difference between achieving your desired rate or falling short.
Expressing confidence during a negotiation means avoiding the use of minimizing language or other wavering phrases. By excluding phrases such as “I just” or “I feel” you take out the uncertainty in your proposal and come across as confident in your craft.
“I feel my proposed rate of XX” is a fair estimate for the project.”
“My proposed rate of XX is a fair estimate for the project.”
Which one sounds more confident to you?
Additionally, avoid giving clients an opportunity to low-ball you whenever possible.
Phrases such as “I’d usually charge XXX, but I’m willing to take XXX” gives the client an “out” or an excuse to pay less than what you’re comfortable accepting.
Such phrasing also shows you’re willing to undervalue your work and doesn’t convey a position of confidence at all.
If the project happens to be something that is of particular interest to you and you are willing to sacrifice a bit to be a part of it, perhaps mention you’d like to revisit terms for future projects.
Keeping negotiations short and to the point is another power move that can help bring you closer to your desired outcomes.
Stating your price matter-of-factly shows that you’re confident in both your worth and your work.
Emphasize Your Value: Get Paid What You’re Worth
Even if you’re not charging beaucoup-bucks, clients can be wary of signing off on rates or contracts.
Want to quell their hesitation?
Focus on conveying the value you bring to the table.
- Have your blog posts gained significant traffic?
- Has your prior copywriting work led to higher conversion rates for previous clients?
These are major selling points that add value and credibility and help you get paid what you’re worth. By focusing their attention on results, you show the client why you’re worth your price tag.
If they’re still balking at signing on the dotted line, try giving them a running breakdown of the project, as you see it.
Your analysis should include the related tasks and time expenditure associated with the proposed project. Chances are, this will show the project in a new light, and the client will feel more comfortable that the work justifies the price.
Always keeping your MAR in mind, you’ll need to have an open mind and a bit of flexibility to master the art of negotiation.
Negotiation is about finding the sweet spot that both you and the client feel comfortable in settling.
No one will feel at ease in a partnership where one side feels ripped off.
The chances of getting further assignments with a client in a situation like that?
If the client doesn’t budge on their price point (and you’re still at or above your MAR), try renegotiating the scope of the project.
With many aspects of freelancing in play, such as the number of rewrites or edits, social media sharing or content upgrades, you can create mini-packages that lower your time expenditure and keeps the price point within the clients’ budget.
Consider being flexible regarding how you charge as well.
Some clients may seem wary of being charged $50/hour but won’t bat an eye at a $100 flat fee for a project.
Flat rates often feel more palatable to prospective clients who are worried about being overcharged on inflated hours.
Provided you have enough information to gauge what the project requires time-wise, you can do the math to find a comparable flat rate.
Additionally, don’t get bogged down on lengthy price-per-word negotiations. If a client is a few cents off from your desired rate, see if they’d be willing to split the difference.
You can always revisit terms for assignments down the line if need be. While we may be talking about pennies per word, those pennies add up where bigger projects are concerned so avoid being low-balled altogether.
When you’re just starting out, you’ll need to negotiate smartly.
Most clients aren’t willing to shell out top-dollar rates for an inexperienced writer.
We all have our dues to pay.
While I don’t condone taking on jobs for less-than-industry standard or free of charge for an extended period, realize hitting your financial benchmarks and goals will take time.
In your early days of freelancing, use jobs you’re passionate about to build your portfolio rather than grow your bank account.
Once you’ve gained experience, the confidence to ask for (and ability to get) higher rates will follow.
Know When To Fold ‘Em
Sadly, the truth of the matter is that some people just simply under-value the worth of writers.
I’ve given a quote for a flat-fee article of $150 (which was beyond reasonable for the scope of the piece) and received a counteroffer of $25.
Not only were we not on the same page; we weren’t even reading the same book!
Sometimes there is such a thing as “too big of a difference” to negotiate.
In cases like this, it’s not worth my time trying to negotiate up from less than a quarter of my asking price. There are plenty of clients out there who pay writers reasonable rates, so there’s no need to waste time negotiating with ones that don’t value you.
The Bottom Line
While you may not feel comfortable negotiating right out of the gate, with some experience, it will get easier.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
You might get pushback, you will doubt yourself, but those are all normal reactions. After all, no one said freelancing was going to be easy! However, armed with these tips, you should be able to start confidently negotiating with clients, and in no time, you’ll be hitting those goals and get paid what you’re worth.