If only there was a freelance salary calculator to cook up the numbers and come up with a “fair” freelance pay rate for every project… that would be something right?
Every freelancer has definitely experienced this: After successful discussions with a client, they ask you to send a quote which you email the moment you get home.
You carefully try to estimate the hours needed to complete the entire project plus your hourly pay rate for that particular project and come up with a figure say…$1,250 for 42 hours work at $30 per hour.
You hit the send button, satisfied that you’ve put everything into consideration and even offered the client a $10 discount;
Two agonizing days later the customer replies to your email with the all dreaded question;
“Can we work the price down a bit? I’m running a few concurrent projects right now that will cost me a lot and the best I can do for this project is $840. Is that fine with you?”
They might even throw in the oldest arm-twisting dirty trick in the book…
“I have two more guys willing to do it for less…!”
Basically, if it really takes exactly 42 hours to complete the project (as per your professional assessment) then what the client is saying is that they’d like to pay you about $20 per hour for your services.
How do you respond to that?
Walk away from it all, or take the money?
You’re probably thinking…“mmh, I’ve already given the client a $10 discount without them even asking, can I possibly afford to lower my hourly rate by that much?”
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Standing Your Ground in Negotiations
Now, people haggle for prices in various deals everywhere across the world but a freelancer is most likely to be asked for an hourly rate or fixed price reduction almost 98% of the time!
Its funny how these clients will probably not think to ask for price reductions for other professional services; but, these same people will not even bat an eyelid when asking a freelancer to drop their hourly fees.
Many freelancers are at crossroads every time they are faced with this quagmire. Is there a way to stick to your guns and still keep the client happy?
How can you balance the equations and make sure both of you walk away with a smile?
1) Haggling Doesn’t Help You
With reference to the above example case study, 9 out of 10 new freelancers will almost always, 100%, come back with a: “Can we meet in the middle? Somewhere like $1,000?”
Please never do that!
No matter how strong the force within you is.
While this might seem like a good idea at the time (or strangely work out sometimes…), it actually works to your disadvantage in two ways.
A – The price is still more than what the client is asking for and therefore they’re still not happy paying more than what they feel they can afford or is fair according to their judgment.
B – Whichever way you look at it, you still end up with the short end of the stick.
More problems crop in when the client tries to pile more work on you to justify whatever they feel they’re paying as extra.
Even worse, you could be tempted to deliver shoddy work by cutting corners to give the client what you assume to be their money’s worth.
2) Step in Your Client’s Shoes
One thing you have to understand is that the client’s decision on the project’s budget could be driven by two major factors.
The client might not be ready or comfortable to spend more money on the first deal with a freelancer they haven’t worked with before.
People have gotten burned on the internet and have become very cautious about how they spend their money and who to trust.
In other situations, the client may be answerable to partners or investors at the end of the day and it may be difficult for them to explain a $1, 250 loss.
Passing off $840 as “bad” business expense may be more feasible for such a client.
On the other hand, it could be true that the client only has exactly $840 for the project.
3) Setting Yourself Up For Repeat Poor Pay
Jumping to a quick yes for the $840 can mean even more problems for you as a freelancer. One, you can be sure that the client will keep pushing for further price reductions on future projects.
Two, every time they refer their friend to you, they will most certainly quote the lower fees; but not before pointing out that you can be haggled for even much more lower rates.
Saying yes this one time can make it very difficult to ever renegotiate back to your original hourly rate of $30.
4) Call or Fold?
The problem with freelancing is that “folding” is not a justifiable option, especially for newbies. Taking a stance and simply saying no to a client’s offer is only for the seasoned freelancers who are in high demand.
Entry level freelancers will most likely take the bait (or any deal for that matter…) in hopes of building up their review ratings.
A Wise Bargaining Strategy: Saying No Without Saying No…
How do you say no without saying no? Simple, break down the project into modules then present the client with an option to pay only for work done.
This ensures that you don’t compromise on your hourly fees and the client gets the chance to clear any doubts they had on you.
So instead of reducing your hourly rate, you could propose to reduce the tasks or work for fewer hours that cover the price – say… putting in 28 hours instead of 42 hours for the $840 or delivering 8 pages instead of 14 pages in a writing project.
You might be lucky that the client decides to pay the full amount once they see the quality of your completed work (maybe even throw in a tip…) and realize that they need to pay more for their project to be completed successfully.
In what other ways can you ensure that negotiations favor your corner?
1. Specialization is the Key to More Freelancing Success
Make your mark; let everyone know that if not the best, you’re somewhere up there with the best in your chosen niche.
You are less likely to lose out on bids this way.
Building credibility in a particular niche over time earns you the trust of customers and this almost guarantees more return business from good-paying customers.
You will also notice that you will rarely receive any requests to lower your rates because you will be dealing with people who understand and appreciate your efforts.
2. Find More Established Clients
Avoid new companies and new project owners looking for freelancers. This group is almost never sure of what they want or what they’re looking for therefore it becomes a bit of an uphill task trying to explain your prices to them.
Respect and appreciation comes from understanding what the full project requires and what the freelancer endures to complete the project in time and to the client’s satisfaction in terms of quality.
These clients don’t.
Look for more established businesses and customers. It works even better for you if you can manage to piece up your own website that people can visit when looking for a freelancer.
3. It’s About Value Not How Long It Takes
Quantifying whatever value you’re likely to add to the website is a good way to get the client to your side of the table.
If you can prove that for example; an article you write for them can generate upwards of $50, 000, then it would be easier to get them closer to your initial $1, 250.
You can do this by presenting your portfolio. Talk about past similar projects, experience or extra training classes you’ve had on the subject matter.
Don’t Sell Yourself Cheap
It’s not always admissible to accept lower pay from every haggling client. Although it’s not advised especially for new freelancers, sometimes walking away from the deal might be the right thing to do.
Focus on setting up your worth and sharpening your expertise; and you will eventually stumble on customers who really recognize the true value of your services.
Can anyone ever come up with a freelance salary calculator? Maybe…
Is there a way to standardize the basic freelance pay rate for all freelancers across the world? A bigger maybe…
What do you think?