It’s an art that every freelancer has to learn from the first day that you accept a client job, but even the very experienced and long in the tooth find the process of setting your worth difficult and rather nerve wracking.
Many of us are not born for this part. Trust me, this goes right to the heart of your feelings of self worth. It’s worse that writing a CV or profile. For us Brits, it’s even more painful, because it requires us to blow our own trumpets.
Unfortunately, you can’t be an independent or freelancer without being able to negotiate your day rates. End of. So let’s share some experience that might make it a little less painful.
1. Show them you are worth it.
Don’t forget that your client many be faced with many similar proposals and it’s really difficult to compare like for like. After all, the very reason they are taking on freelance help is because they aren’t experts. I commissioned a freelance developer recently through one of the freelance job platforms. I had over 100 responses to my brief, ranging from £5 an hour to £60 per hour for a basic wordpress job. It was almost impossible to say whether the £60 per hour response was 12 times better than the £5 job. Except that one did stand out. The response included a detailed view of how he would approach the job, including a thoughtful commentary based on his preliminary look at my site. It gave me a peek into the human behind it and I quickly determined that we would work well together. He got the job.
It all comes down to your ability to help your prospective clients feel that they know you and they can trust you.
2. It’s not just about you
It’s very easy to see this just form your perspective. Only you know just how much (or how little) you want this job. But your prospective client also has an agenda, and you need to try and understand that before you agree the price. It may sound a little cynical but remember that this is about getting the best for both of you at the start of your relationship, otherwise resentment will set in somewhere down the line. I have experience of this and it is no way to work.
3. It’s not about the price either
It’s tempting to think about freelance jobs in terms of the money, but that’s short sighted. Look instead for the interesting jobs, the ones that you will learn new stuff in, the ones that are with companies that are going places, that will give you the opportunity to make new contacts. Then work out whether you can afford to do it and price accordingly. If they want you, they will pay a decent price for the project.
You should also consider looking at each job as part of your wider portfolio. Some projects will be more lucrative than others and it very much depends on how everything else is going. Which leads me onto…
4. Understanding your bottom line
The best piece of advice I ever had was to decide on your optimum daily rate and stick to it. It’s really tempting to move away from it when it appears that some work is better than no work, but every time you do that, you undermine your own worth. It’s not that word gets around that you are cheap, but you feel cheap. That starts a whole ball rolling, making it harder and harder to go after the well-paid jobs that would remunerate you properly for your skills and experience.
You could decide that you have a range within which you are happy to negotiate. That means that you have the ability to flex depending on all the other external factors that make a difference, like the attractiveness of the project, or the amount of time it will take.
5. Don’t be afraid to go high
Clients usually know how high they are prepared to go. You need to pitch high, because you can’t go up from where you start.
And you just never know!
6. Develop an air of friendly mystique
With any luck you’ve been recommended by friends or other clients. It’s much more difficult to negotiate with someone when you think that they are really, really busy and terribly good at what they do. That might be a long way from the reality of your current situation, but it’s best to keep schtum and let them think that they would be very lucky to land your time and your expertise.
Which, of course, is the truth. Isn’t it?