Whenever you're freelancing, you want to make sure that your hard work is being properly rewarded. However, negotiating higher rates can seem like a daunting task if you don't know the right ways to approach the question.
But asking for what you deserve doesn't have to be complicated. We're breaking down the ways you can make negotiating a smoother experience by showing how to use these steps in a simple price negotiation letter that you can use with your next client.
Why you shouldn't resist price negotiation
In the world of competitive pricing, it can be tempting to undercut yourself for fear of missing out on projects. But as freelancers, we have to know our worth, set our fees, and demand fair payment every single time we accept a new assignment or get a pitch picked up by a publication.
I almost always negotiate rates, since editors aren't directed to offer the highest sum from the get-go. That's why it's up to writers to push for additional payment.
Here's how you can do the same!
The art of price negotiations
When it comes to sharing fees, you need to speak the right language, be ready to explain your quote and wait for the right timing. Here's a guide on how to best communicate your requests for a higher payment.
When should you ask?
I rarely provide my fee upfront, since it's difficult to negotiate a price if you don't have a starting point. That's why you should always ask publications what their budget is so you don't low-ball yourself by revealing a lower fee than they had anticipated. You can then use the publication's proposed fee as a launching point to begin the negotiations.
We have to know our worth, set our fees, and demand fair payment every single time.
1. Research the market values
You can determine how to raise your rates by researching the market range for freelance work at your experience level. This will help you settle on a final price that's reasonable to request.
If clients have worked with freelancers on similar projects, they may already have a general idea of what rates are going for. Market research will help you gauge their expectations, so you can determine how to approach your quoted price.
2. Determine your minimum fee
Know your minimum acceptable rate and ask for more in case the editor doesn't accept your counteroffer, so that you'll be satisfied with a medium sum between the initial fee offered and your proposed fee. It's best to ask for 10 percent more than what you'd like to earn. This way you'll be comfortable if the editor responds to your negotiation proposal with a lower rate than what you've requested.
3. Consider the time
When determining your fees, you'll have to break down the amount of time that will go into each project. Project scope is the biggest factor in finalizing a price quote.
The time invested will vary for each project, so it's best to consider each piece individually rather than having a flat fee for all projects. When nailing down your fee, consider these four areas:
- Research: The research phase can't be underestimated, as every great piece needs considerable research and planning.
- Interviews: Any interviews or phone calls can be factored into the time that you will be working on a project.
- Writing: The writing process is often the bulk part of the project scope.
- Editing: Don't forget to factor in a bit of time for editing. As it has often been said, writing is rewriting!
By taking each of these aspects into consideration, you can come up with accurate payment terms that will reflect the hard work you will deliver.
4. Share your value
Mastering the art of price negotiation means knowing your value and learning how to communicate that value to a potential client. What value have you given to previous clients? What can you bring to the table for their business or publication?
You can find similar projects in your portfolio that can help paint a picture of what you can achieve for their company.
By shifting the focus on value instead of cost, clients can better understand why their proposal price is being negotiated. You want to express that the value outweighs the cost, especially if they can quickly make returns on their investment in your services.
Your value from past work will help you form an argument for higher pay.
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5. Speak the language
Figuring out the language and tone to use when negotiating rates can be intimidating. Most emails can be quite casual and concise while being professional and polite. You want to sound human and conversational, not stilted and dull.
You don't need to offer a lengthy explanation about why you should receive a higher rate. You set your fee and if a publication wants to work with you; they have to meet your rate. Your fee isn't pay-as-you-wish.
Match their tone and use assertive yet effective phrases in your counteroffer. Though this is probably something you've spent hours or days worrying and thinking about, at the end of the day all it takes is a fairly simple email. I've created a template down below that you can use to make it even easier!
6. Be prepared for a counteroffer
If the client returns your email with some hesitation, you can back up your quote by showing a breakdown of the time it will take you to provide a great piece. You don't have to go in-depth in your initial counter, but if they do ask how you arrived at the quoted price, you can have a response ready to send.
A counteroffer may feel disappointing at first, but this can be a good sign! It shows that the prospective client is interested in your work and is willing to try to make this partnership happen.
7. Probe the Problem
If you still sense hesitancy, you can try probing the issue further to see if you two can arrive at a solution that will make both parties happy. The problem could be as simple as a lack of budget or they might not trust you enough yet.
Whatever the issue may be, try to ease their worries by restating any experience from past projects and the value you gave previous clients.
By gently examining the problem, you can open the door to more talks that can lead you closer to closing the deal.
8.Know when to walk away
Price negotiations can only go so far. At some point, either the client will or won't be able to match your fees. In which case, you'll need to decide your next steps. If the client raises their rates but doesn't quite match your expectations, you can decide if you'd like to accept the offer.
You can do so by letting them know that you're willing to give them a discounted price for now, but that for any future business you would like to renegotiate your fees.
In the long run, it's better to work with clients who appreciate the value of your skills rather than work in an undervalued setting.
9. But don't close the door
Even if you choose to walk away, you don't have to close any open doors. You can politely decline by letting them know that their current budget doesn't quite reach your rates but that you would love to work with them down the road as their budget grows.
Price negotiation letter template
Here's an effective price negotiation letter to help you get started. As with any template, use this as a starting point to guide your writing, molding the sample letter to fit each unique situation.
Thank you so much for your interest in this pitch. I'd love to work with you on this article.
I was wondering if you have any wiggle room in your budget as [amount offered] is below my fee. My rate for this type of project is [TK cents per word].
Let me know if that suits your budget.
Why this email template works
The key to molding a sample letter to suits your needs is that you understand the different elements that make a great template. This way, as you make changes, you'll know which areas to expand upon and, more importantly, what not to cut out.
Let's break down the elements of this price negotiation letter.
- Positivity: Although you want to have a professional tone, it's important that professionalism doesn't come at the cost of sounding too blunt. The tone of a negotiation letter should read positive throughout.
- Complimentary: As you segue into the negotiation, you don't want to accidentally insult the client's offer. Make sure that you compliment them on their willingness to work with you.
- Make it a request: The last important element is that you frame your negotiation as a request, not a demand.
See? It's simple and painless. A price negotiation letter doesn't require lots of explanation or reasonings. Just express your interest in working together and kindly request a higher payment for the work. Once you know your worth, you'll feel more confident to demand fair payment every time!
Other areas to negotiate
When we think of negotiating, we typically think in terms of money. However, if the client can't provide higher payment, you can ask if they'd be willing to provide other avenues of value to you such as:
1. Recurring work
Everyone wants repeat business. If your client can't afford to raise their budget for the project, you can try asking for recurring work with them. More work is always a good thing and a nice bonus to have if they can't match your fees.
A glowing recommendation to their colleagues can be invaluable for building your freelance business. If the client loves your work, they should be more than happy to talk about your work with their inner circle. It's no extra cost to them, it builds more trust with their colleagues, and it boosts your business more than a one-off payment would.
3. A link to your website
Depending on your field of freelance work, a link sending readers to your website can help increase your future business.
These negotiation tactics will help you secure long-term work and, in some ways, can be even more valuable than a client agreeing to your initial fees.
Don't feel bad asking for a better price
The "money talk" can make anyone feel a bit uneasy, since the topic of money can feel like a taboo subject. Even seasoned professionals get intimated by the thought of negotiating rates.
But when I'm overwhelmed about rate negotiating, I remind myself that the Latina pay gap means I earn 55 cents for every dollar earned by white non-Latinx men. All women are affected by the gender pay gap.
So, when it comes time to calculate your ideal rate, take into consideration the amount of research, writing, interviews, etc that the project will require. Negotiating is a natural, and often expected, part of business transactions. The sooner you embrace the art of price negotiation, the quicker you can start living out your dreams as a well-paid freelancer.
Try not to feel intimidated about writing a price negotiation letter. When you negotiate price, you'll feel more valued knowing that you're earning what your skills deserve. There's no need to make this a drawn-out or complicated process, just follow our email sample to easily give a price quote to your next potential client.
To make negotiations easier Indy has contract and proposal tools, check them out today!