For many freelancers, the most nerve-racking aspect of the job isn’t the job itself, but negotiating fees with clients. Many fear the possibility of rejection if they aim too high. But then, aim too low, and they risk losing money to clients who can afford to pay much more for their services.
Freelancing covers countless roles, spanning several industries, but above all things: freelancing is a job. Like everyone else, freelancers have bills to pay, and dreams to save up for.
And in order to fulfil these obligations, freelancers must first command a high enough price. But how?
1. Highlight your Strengths
Talking about money with a client is inevitable. But before you get there, steer the conversation in the direction of your strengths. Let your client know what you bring to the table – and therefore what they stand to lose if they pass the project on to someone else.
If you apply by email or some other written source, then be sure to include this in your message. For instance, I always include that I bring ten (now eleven) years of experience in content strategy to the table. If you have a large following on social media, have been published, or received an honourable mention in any major media sources, then share this as well.
At the end of the day, clients are more interested in what they can get from you, than the fact that you need something in return. So set the tone. To this end, be sure to provide a resume, CV, or links to your portfolio and work samples – whether they ask for it or not.
2. Build a Website
Virtually anyone can build a website – or at the very least, have one built for them. Even so, nothing says professional, like having your own website. A website adds credibility to your personal brand, and professional services. It’s also a great place to showcase your expertise through blogging, or through publicly posting your portfolio.
Remember to keep the design simple and professional. That means white backgrounds, black fonts, and relevant images. Freelancers who work in highly creative areas – like graphic design or illustration – may take greater risks with the design to create truly captivating websites.
3. Publish a Price List
After building your website, one important piece of information you should publish is a price list. Why? Because the primary reason freelancers become anxious during a price negotiation is that they haven’t given proper thought to:
- the parameters of their services,
- how much to charge for each,
- and under what conditions.
Creating a price list compels freelancers to do exactly that.
Clients also trust a published list far more than an arbitrary number a freelancer pulls from seemingly nowhere on a whim. In fact, a price list often completely eliminates the need for a conversation about price. Many clients find the price listing at the same time they discover your services, and simply “place an order”.
If you don’t have a website and have no interest in building one, then consider creating a PDF document with the price listings – sort of like a menu. You can then forward this to clients via email when the subject of money comes up.
4. Decide on your Minimum Rate
Price lists determine the ideal amount of money freelancers expect to make for their services. But some potential clients may still want to bargain for a lower price. This isn’t always synonymous with a low price, so freelancers should consider their options before saying “no”.
To do this, freelancers must have an idea of the minimum rates they are willing to accept for their work. This is private information and not something you should publish publicly, or share. Freelancers need to know how much money it takes to break even, and how much profit they need to meet financial obligations. Charge clients accordingly.
For more information on how much you can charge your clients and why, check out my article: 10 Factors Affecting how Much you can Charge your Clients.
5. Create Packages
In retail, sales and marketing teams often mark down the per-unit costs of products when bought in bulk, to encourage people to make larger purchases. This is a strategy that works great in freelancing, as well; especially for freelancers who charge by the hour.
For instance, I currently charge $17 per hour for content strategy work, but allow clients to pay $150 for 10 hours up front instead. That saves them $2 on every hour, if they’re willing to commit to a 10-hour block of work. What’s in it for me? I’m guaranteed 10 hours of work, and its payment; instead of just sporadic and uncertain bits of two or three here and there.
Along with bulk offers, freelancers can also provide packages, grouping services clients usually purchase together. For instance, I provide packages that group blogging with social media management, since a client who wants one usually wants both. I then provide different levels of involvement, ranging from a newbie package to a pro, and price them accordingly.
Making a living from freelancing begins with setting fair prices, while knowing when to let up and take a loss. As many experienced freelancers come to know, there are two main types of clients: the ones who pay well with few assignments, and the ones who pay less but provide a steady inflow of work. Both are important to your client portfolio, so when negotiating a price, choose wisely.
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