Covering the Freelance Tush

What’s on the iPod: Old, Old Fashioned by Frightened Rabbit

What a day yesterday, in a good way. I accomplished more than I thought I could manage in nine hours. One article, three blog posts, two smaller projects, and a poem for my writing group. I didn’t get a post for this blog ready, but given what paid work I did, I’m okay with that.

Today I’m starting a roughing-in of another article, an interview, and another ongoing small project. And today is marketing day. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m expecting one job to disappear within a few months. I’ve replaced it with smaller things, but I won’t be satisfied until I find an equal-or-better replacement.

Dear friend and coach Lisa Gates has a post on her blog this week about asking for what you want. In her usual wisdom, Lisa touches on the crux of why many people fail at career advancement – we just don’t ask. This is so true, and it applies just as much to freelancing as it does to a 9-to-5.

As I’ve mentioned here before, some of us freelancers get so tied up in winning the bid that we forget to make it worth our own efforts. We want to please – we want to get the job. I myself have made decisions and concessions too many times and ended up resenting the job and myself. I “negotiated” a job in which I receive $3,500 to write a complicated course. The three-month job as it was framed took eight months and was a mountain of work and research. The client wouldn’t budge from the original price, either, even when I explained how much more was involved. Bad negotiating on my part.

Another “win” that turned sour – a ghostwriting job that was supposed to be two months and a handful of smallish chapters. That snowballed into two years and more rewrites than necessary. Luckily, I was able to renegotiate with the client and get a more lucrative, fair deal on those rewrites.

Then there were the projects in which I started with one client and ended up expected to answer to a posse of “editors.” Unfortunately, most of those projects ended before the deadline. I did manage payment on most of them thanks to contracts.

These days I push back the minute I realize the scope and workload don’t match the price agreed to. I have to. I’m protecting not just my business, but myself. Standing up for what you need, and asking for it every time, is the only way to run a successful business and act professionally. If you act professionally, you’re more likely to be treated as such.

What were some of your not-so-great decisions? How did you resolve them?

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  • Lisa Gates July 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Lori, thanks for talking about when I'm not paying attention. You are always such a great champion for your tribe…this is a great piece. You have a good nose for a potentially foul smelling deal. 🙂

    I think a very practical thing that could help those who are shy about asking is to research comparables.

    In this case, I wouldn't be asking other writers because they notoriously undervalue themselves. Rather, what job titles and functions might your work be most like? What are they making per hour? Per year? If you are writing copy and marketing material most of the time, what are in-house communication directors and marketing managers making?

    When you have a good idea of your value in the marketplace it can really boost your confidence in seeking more $$.

    I have another writer friend who routinely triples the amount she *wants* to quote. So she anchors a $500 writing gig as $1,500. It leaves room for negotiating and elevates her *status* at the same time.

    You know we're teaching this stuff again starting Monday, doncha?

    Reply
  • Lori July 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Lisa, I not only have a nose for bad deals, but I seem to have a magnet that draws them in. 😉

    Good point to look at corporate counterparts – Marketing Directors, VPs, even high-end consultants – to get a good price fix. You're right. Valuing ourselves against each other when we tend to undervalue and over-deliver is a mistake. We need to really understand our worth and what it's going to require for us to turn a profit and meet our obligations. Notice I didn't say "need." We have to think in terms of our price being a requirement.

    Is that the "She Negotiates" course? Very cool!

    Reply
  • Rebecca Fernandez July 16, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I think this is a really common problem. One thing that helps me is having a local friend who contracts for a few of the same companies. Then we can compare bids (for similar projects) and see if we're undercharging.

    I often double or triple my bid, too, as someone mentioned earlier.

    Reply
  • Lori July 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Rebecca, that's a decent approach. I guess the issue is finding someone working in the same areas and industries. Well, an issue for me. 🙂

    Good seeing you here!

    Reply
  • Wendy July 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    The "posse of editors" worry me, sometimes. Especially if you don't know of anyone else involved in the project. Are they really connected to the client? And, if they are and if you follow their specifications and the project fails, who gets the blame?

    As Freelance Business owners, we still need to keep an air of professionalism, so I say everyone should avoid responding to the unknown editing team and only deal with the client who hired you in the first place. Can you imagine forking over sensitive information to people that turn out to be not affiliated with the client at all?

    Reply
  • Lori July 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    That's an easy fix, Wendy. You just put it in your contract that the persons stated on the contract are entering into the agreement. Anyone who enters into the work later must be approved by both parties and a new price must be negotiated. I put something like "Any input from a third party not stated in this contract must be approved in writing by both parties or this contract will be void and full payment due immediately." I've had too many people expect me to work with people who jump in last minute. No way.

    Reply
  • Wendy July 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you a bunch! I've been wanting to add something like that in the contract, but haven't figured out how to word it so I'm covered on all the bases. Now I've got an idea! You Rock, Lori!

    Reply