I realized just how poor my negotiation skills have been when two former bosses of mine dropped in casual conversation that I used to do the work of two or three people while getting paid the salary of one.
But both of us are getting better at this key skill for freelancers. Here are a couple of techniques that we’ve worked out.
1. First, it’s really helpful to have another freelancer to bounce ideas off of. You not only get an idea of what’s fair in the market, but you can share strategies that have worked for each other in the past. Obviously, trust is crucial here: Another freelancer might go for the same job and undercut you.
2. It hardly ever hurts to go in high, especially in industries where brashness is commonly admired. Go in 20% higher than the sum you’ll actually settle for.
3. Remember to include the intangibles when you are negotiating. Is this a job that requires you to use the network that only you have developed? Don’t be afraid to make that point that if, for instance, you’re a journalist, you shouldn’t just be paid on a per-word basis.
4. If you’re worried the job will be subject to “scope creep,” you can agree to a rate upfront, but reserve the right to come back at the end to ask for more. This is a risky move — What if you and the assigning editor disagree at the end? — but it’s often worked for us in cases where we have long-term relationships with clients.
Here’s a helpful video, “Negotiating on the back of a cocktail napkin,” that may help you with your own deal making.
What’s your best negotiating tip? Tell us in the comment area.