The Very Best Negotiating Tips for Freelancers

Caroline posted this on Running your business

Many freelancers hate to negotiate. Are you one of them?

The reluctance to negotiate could stem from fear, from lack of knowledge, or from laziness.

If you're not used to selling (and many freelancers aren't natural sales people), then the thought of negotiating with a potential client can be frightening. You may fear that you'll lose the client. You may fear that you'll make the client angry. You may even fear that you'll make things worse because you're not used to the give and take of closing a business deal.

Or it could be that you want to negotiate, but you just don't know where to start. Whatever the cause, not negotiating the best terms can cost your freelancing business a lot of money.

Negotiations are an important part of any business. You can manage your freelancing business better and meet your goals more easily if you learn how to negotiate. Your customized reusable Osmosis Client Questionnaire is a great place to start your negotiations because it will help you to learn what the client expects.

In this post, we share nine important negotiating tips that all freelancers should learn.

The Best Negotiating Tips

It's important to negotiate favorable terms for yourself before agreeing to start a freelancing a project.

Here are nine of the very best tips to help you negotiate better freelancing agreements:

  1. Conquer fear and hesitation. These two emotions are big obstacles that many freelancers face, but there's really no reason for them. Negotiation is a part of most larger business transactions. If you don't believe me, think about the last time you bought a house or a car. I'm sure negotiations played a role.
  2. Know what can be negotiated. Nearly everything is open for negotiation, but your client will have a few key areas that he or she doesn't want to change. Find out what those areas are and you will be in a position of strength. Often, all you have to do to find out is ask.
  3. Decide how far you can compromise in advance, but start high. I've seen this mistake time and time again. Many freelancers start negotiations by offering their very best deal to the client. The trouble with this approach is that if your client is expecting to negotiate, the freelancer hasn't left themselves any room to deal.
  4. Project confidence. If you feel unsure of yourself, the client will be sure to notice. A lack of confidence is unprofessional and can adversely affect your negotiations. Ultimately, it can even cost you money. Besides, if you don't believe in your abilities and skills, how do you expect the client to believe in you?
  5. Depict your requests in a favorable light. Favorable to the client that is. Most clients are ultimately looking out for their own interests--even the friendly and kind ones. If you can explain how a delay in the deadline will allow you to do a more thorough job or how paying a little more will entitle them to a higher level of service, they are more likely to agree.
  6. Be specific. Being vague is another huge mistake that many freelancers make when negotiating terms. For example, don't just ask for more time on a project. Name a new date and time when the work will be due. The same goes for pay and other points of negotiation. Be specific about any point that you are negotiating.
  7. Don't rush into an agreement. Once you think that you've hammered out an agreement, it's a good idea to pause to think things over. If you can help it, never agree to anything in a rush. Acknowledge their response to your negotiation by saying something like, "that looks good, I'll look it over tonight and get back to you first thing tomorrow."
  8. Avoid scams and traps. There are a lot of bad deals out there for freelancers. A rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be especially careful about large projects that have the potential to take up a lot of your time. If you have questions about some aspect of the project, always ask.
  9. Make a record of what was agreed upon. Osmosis now has a great work agreement feature that's perfect for helping you create a record of your freelancer agreement. Be sure to get customer sign off before you start work.

The previous list makes a great checklist. You'll want to review it each time you enter into negotiations with a client to make sure that you don't forget anything.

Don't Overlook These Four Important Areas of Negotiation

While it's possible to negotiate almost anything about a freelancing agreement, most freelancers want to negotiate four basic areas. So, we're including a few strategic negotiating tips for each of these common areas.

Here are some key areas most freelancers want to negotiate:

  • Rate. If you are using the Osmosis questionnaire, you will save a lot of time by including the template questions about the client's budget. Clients and/or freelancers often disagree on what a project is worth, but most clients are more flexible about rate than many freelancers realize. Most freelancing projects are based on a flat fee. As a freelancer, you should always have an hourly figure in mind so that you can estimate a flat fee for any project. If the client's budget is too far off from your project estimate, you know right away that this client is not for you.
  • Deadline. Deadline is often the easiest area to negotiate. While a few clients do have a set date when they absolutely must have the project delivered, for many other clients delaying the deliverable by a day or two won't make a lot of difference. However, it's important that the delay be included in the freelancing agreement before the project start. Once a deadline is set, you need to honor that deadline. Not delivering on an agreed upon date could create client dissatisfaction.
  • Scope. All of the Osmosis questionnaire templates include default questions about scope of work or project details, and for a good reason. The scope of work describes the specifics of what you will deliver to the client. It's very important that you get a detailed description of the work to be done. If you don't, you may find yourself doing a lot more work than you expected to do. Reducing the scope of work can also be an effective way to deal with a client who wants more than he or she can afford. If you suspect that budget may be an issue, you can provide the client with several options (each with different price) and ask them to choose the one they'd like to pursue.
  • Payment Method. This is another very important area that should be discussed before you start a project. When you are paid should be specified in your freelancing agreement or contract. For new clients we recommend that you require payment upfront, of course. For large projects from repeat clients, you may wish to receive partial payment during the course of the work or divide the project into phases with a payment due at the end of each phase. How you are paid should also be part of the agreement. Will the client mail you a check? Will they use an electronic service such as PayPal or will they deposit the payment directly into your bank account? You need to know.

Do you have any other thoughts about negotiating with clients? Share them in the comments.

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