In a recent conversation with somebody I’m mentoring about freelance writing, my friend asked the following question:
“How do you negotiate your rates?”
It’s an important question for freelancers — and for those who hire us. It’s also the worst kind of question: too complex for a short answer, but so “squishy” that it’s hard to put together a long answer that’s meaningful or useful. Here’s my attempt.
Step One: Know Your Price
I like to make between $100 and $150 per hour, which I do by bidding on work produced as opposed to dollars per hour whenever I can. I work quickly, despite my high-quality output, so I can usually make more per hour if I negotiate on that basis.
Whether you go for an hourly or production base, start any negotiation by knowing what you’re willing to work for — and what offers you’ll walk away from.
Step Two: Know Their Price
In my experience, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the job listings will give you a ballpark idea of what they’re willing to pay. Of those who don’t, it’s about a 50/50 split between those who’ll tell you what they think and those who’ll ask you to answer first. It’s good to go into negotiations with this information, but I won’t risk a client by refusing to answer the question if it’s asked.
Step Three: Give a Range
If I have to answer first, I’ll give a range of about $50, for example “I usually get between $100 and $150 per item for the work you describe.” I say that the rates vary according to how much work is offered, and how interesting I find the project.
Step Four: Is That Your Final Answer?
Your client will reply with a yes, a no, or a counter offer. From here, it’s just like haggling for everything else. Just remember that it’s not a competition — getting another dollar an hour out of a client isn’t as important as everybody feeling like they got a good deal. Just never go below your minimum price.
I hope that helps. Thanks for listening.