What I’m listening to Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

chess-peace-1316489-1279x772Sometimes I wish there were more days in the weekend so I could get everything off my to-do list. We managed to plan part of our upcoming vacation, and I moved some files off my old computer to my new one.

That’s the only problem with moving from one computer to another within a Windows 10 environment — there’s no easy way. Correction — no easy free way like there was with previous Windows systems. I’m still cleaning up the mess two months later.

We had a busy Saturday, starting at Valley Forge Park to see Muhlenberg’s brigade, which turned into just a bunch of overheated people in colonial dress trying to find shade (it was 94 degrees). If there was a Continental army there, we didn’t see it. Just “villagers” making bread in an earth mound oven. Then we headed over to town for the Latino festival, which was fun.

After searching for flight info yesterday, I surfed a few writer blogs. One in particular caught my attention. The writer was advising freelancers to never negotiate their rates with clients. You know me — when I see words like “always” and “never” I get my back up. Do I agree with this writer?

Yes and no.

I have to agree that negotiating our rates, at least for freelancers who aren’t used to doing so, can be a disaster. We tend to undersell our skills, and we let clients use emotional triggers to get us to lower our rates. We as writers need to be more confident and assertive in what our market value is.

Yet sometimes, you have to negotiate.

Look, I get it. If your client prospect can’t afford the freelance writing rates you’ve set, you’re going to part company. In most cases, that may be the best decision. But then there are those borderline cases — that client you’ve been longing to work for, or that project that would really move you into a new area of expertise. What do you do then?

Show justification. Do this at the start of any negotiations, actually. Don’t just quote a fee to a new client — and certainly don’t do so verbally. Instead, say something like this: “Well, let me do the math and get back to you. Does tomorrow work?” Then deliver not just the rate, but a statement of work or some other proposal format that spells out tasks, steps you’ll take, benchmarks (when something can be expected to be completed), communication frequency….then price at the end. It’s a bit tougher for clients to argue your rate when you’ve put the additional time into presenting it so professionally.

Weigh your options. Ask yourself if this project or client has some hidden benefit that would offset a lower rate. If so, how much is that skill or client connection worth to you?

Know your minimum rate. Suppose you charge $150 an hour. Would you accept work with that ideal client or to get that valued skill if they paid $70 an hour? If so, I’d ask why they’re your ideal client or where else you could get that same skill, to be honest. But if your answer is no, what is the least amount you’d accept? Know this before you start negotiating.

Do less work. So your client can spend $2,000 this month. You’ve quoted the project at $3,500. Neither of you can budge. So offer to do part of the job for the $2,000. Suppose you’ve bid to rewrite their entire website. Instead, choose the most important pages and offer to do those this month, then, when they’re able to spend again (possibly next month), you can do the rest.

Move on. Not every egg fits into every basket. Don’t try to make something fit that clearly doesn’t. Do your best to sweeten the terms, but don’t go crazy trying to land a client for less than you should be paid. Just thank them, wish them well, and move on. Oh, and ask them to keep in touch. There’s always a chance the cheaper writer they hired won’t work out.

Writers, how do you stick close to your hourly rate?

Have you ever taken less than you should have? How did it work out? How often have you done that successfully?

Any advice for other freelance writers negotiating with new clients?

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  • Paula Hendrickson July 18, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Despite your great post, Lori, I keep going back to thinking: Why would ANYONE be baking bread in 94-degree heat?

    You won’t even catch me making toast when it’s that hot out!

    • lwidmer July 18, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Exactly! It’s kind of dumb because Washington’s troops were there in mid-December and out of there by mid-June. Probably a better time for that demo would be oh, I dunno, March? April?

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