Negotiating with a client about how much to pay you for your services is a lot like negotiating your salary at a corporate job. However, freelancers experience greater freedom in deciding their pay rate, and with that freedom comes great responsibility.
In another blog post, I’ll offer tips on how to negotiate with a client for a fair price. But in this post, let’s take a look at ten factors that decide what a fair price is. After all, to get a fair price in freelancing, one must first set a fair price. Here’s what you should consider.
1. Field or Industry
Different fields command different going-rates. For instance, freelance writing doesn’t command nearly as much money as graphic design. Likewise, building a website doesn’t attract nearly as much money from clients, as building an app.
The more technical an area is, and the more scarce the skill, the more clients are willing to pay for it.
2. Professional Experience
Professional experience refers to the number of years you’ve worked in a specific field. It also refers to the range of work completed. For instance, a writer is nowhere near as marketable as someone who has also done editing, social media management, website building, and HTML coding.
Consider the professional areas you’ve dabbled in over the years that can bring value to your clients, and the task at hand.
3. Freelance Experience
It may seem like professional experience may be enough, but it’s not. Freelancing requires a level of independence and self-motivation that working a corporate job does not.
You must also have resources on hand that you can no longer rely on an office to provide. These may include private office space, computers, printers, scanners, phones, special computer programs that cost a fortune, and graphic tablets.
If the freelance position requires working from home, then virtual experience becomes even more important. Many clients are hesitant to hire freelancers who have not worked in a virtual environment before, no matter how impressive their professional experience.
4. Educational Qualifications
Some clients may not ask questions about your educational background at all, and only pay attention to portfolios and work samples. However, for freelancers in more technical areas, degrees and certifications definitely provide a one-up over other candidates.
Larger and more established clients are more likely to be interested in your educational qualifications. They may insist on English degrees for writers, business degrees for assistants, and so on.
5. Portfolio or Work Samples
It’s virtually impossible to survive freelancing without a portfolio and work samples, even if you have a website declaring how amazing you are. People want to see what you’re capable of before hiring you, and may even request that you complete a trial piece before taking you on.
Store samples from projects you’ve worked on with clients, or even in school. If you’re new to freelancing, and don’t have many samples, then create some. Design something. Write something. Edit something. Build a random website for no good reason, and toss it in there.
To get a feel of what a portfolio may look like, check out my portfolio here.
6. Work Quality
The point of the portfolio is not only to show potential clients that you’re capable of completing projects, but also the quality of work you produce. While professional and educational experience have some bearing on this, this is more closely affected by a freelancer’s work ethic and natural talent.
No matter who went to school for it or who’s just starting out, some people are naturally better writers, editors, photographers, designers, and even programmers than others. You just can’t beat raw talent.
7. Social Proof
Social proof refers to the footprint you have online, and how well you’ve established yourself in various online communities. How many followers and subscribers do you have on your blog? Is it all just numbers on a screen, or are people actively engaged? Have you written for any major publications; or even better, have any written about you?
You can throw in any article or social media post that went viral, big campaigns you may have worked on, memes people fell in love with, or an impressive following on your social media pages. For more ideas on what constitutes social proof, here are some examples below.
8. Completion Time
Charging for time is a tricky position. Sometimes it makes more sense to charge more for speedy or rushed work, and sometimes it’s better to charge more for work that will take a long time to complete. How you decide which one makes more sense depends on the situation, the task, and your area of expertise.
For instance, if a client usually requests ten articles in a week, but suddenly needs an extra five in three days, then this is a great opportunity to charge a higher rate if he expects the same quality. This is because you will need to set other work, and your recreation aside, to finish his project.
At the same time, if a client hands you a project that will take a lot of time to complete, or may run the course of several days or months, then it’s time to either up the price, or start charging by the hour.
9. Size of the Business
The size of the business in question is not the freelancer’s business, but the client’s. The larger the business backing the client’s demands, then the more they can afford to pay. Individual clients and start-ups tend to have a much smaller budget, while big companies can afford much more.
Keep this in mind when deciding on your price, and be prepared to cut the smaller clients some slack. Often times smaller clients may pay less, but offer more regular work; while larger clients pay more, but rarely have any work for you to complete.
10. How Much you Need
The Head of Alumni at my university once advised that when negotiating a salary amount, we shouldn’t look at a number and then see how best we can adjust to live on that. Instead, we should do the reverse: lay out all your expenses at the bare minimum, and then the more comfortable, and then the ideal. Now you have a range.
Armed with that information, freelancers can know how many projects to complete per week, or how many paid hours to put in, in order to make the living they need. From there, assigning a number becomes a lot easier.
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