How to negotiate as a freelancer
Freelancing is ideal for flexibility, though it can be tricky to get paid on time
Working as a freelancer always seems like a good idea at first, but it’s a lot tougher than most people think. Instead of a regular paycheck every two weeks, a freelancer’s income arrives in the form of a contract that is paid by a client you work for temporarily.
This also means that getting paid on time for the full value of your work is much less straightforward. Here are some ways you can more easily map out your finances as you navigate the world of freelancing.
There are tools you can use to prepare yourself before you bargain
One of the first things you need to do is have a standard contract on hand at all times. While some of the individuals or businesses you work with will have contracts of their own, it’s always a good idea to have one customized to your needs as a starting point. This way, you have a base to work from going into any negotiation.
You need to know your value
This is key: you need to know how much your time and efforts are worth, and you need to be able to speak about this with confidence. Once you’ve done your research and calculated how your expertise fits into your hourly rates, practice saying so in the mirror. For example: “Hello, my name is ____. I am an experienced ____. My hourly rate is ____.” Sure, it might feel silly at first, but it is great practice for when you come face to face with a client who is ready to pay you what you’re worth.
Another common rule for negotiating is never to make the first offer. If your client has left the pay rate open to discussion and asks you to name your price, start with a figure slightly higher than what you expect to earn. This way, if the client’s budget cannot accommodate it, you have the flexibility to come down and meet them where they are.
On the other hand, if your client has already given you an idea of their budget for the project, do the math to see how closely it aligns with your worth. If it is too low, politely let them know that it is below your typical rate, and ask if there is room for them to meet your price. You never know until you ask, and you might be surprised at their ability to renegotiate!
Be sure to get it in writing
It’s important to remember that, in case of confusion, nothing is defensible unless it’s in black and white. Your standard contract should outline everything you discussed in person and include all of your contact information. In addition, if there comes a time when you need to change the scope of the project or are waiting on a late payment, you will need a signed agreement to refer to.
Once you and your client have agreed on a timeline for your work and make sure that you both have a signed copy. After that point, you’re set to get to work, start fulfilling the details of what you agreed to and, just as importantly, start earning your freelancer’s paycheck.
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