'In business you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate'- Chester. L. Karrass
If you have chosen to be a freelancer, you know there is a lot more to it than working on your own terms. Although freelancing is a trend that is slowly picking up, if you are new to the game, chances are you will take time and experience to learn the rules. Also, in the digital world, negotiations may become even more hectic mainly because there aren't any face to face interactions. All you have is email correspondence or maybe a few phone or skype calls. This means that you have less time to make more of an impact, and it needs to be done effectively. Here are some things that could help you along the way:
Be clear about what is needed from you
Before you begin to negotiate, you need to understand every aspect of the project you will be undertaking. This means asking for clarifications and voicing your doubts. It doesn’t mean you nitpick but do know well what is being asked of you. This will include understanding your client’s timelines, their schedules and expectations. It is always a good idea to do your own background research as well, if you want to understand the people or organization you are working for, as it will give you more clarity on what to expect.
Establish your credentials
As an independent professional, you will often face the question 'why should we pick you?' This question may not be addressed to you directly, but clients looking for specific expertise and skills need to make sure that you are capable of doing a good job. So you need to prove it to them. For this, be clear about what are your key selling points and make it clear in case of any doubts. You may have more years of experience, standout publications, or more relevant prior experience. Whatever the case may be, make a mental note of it so you can convince them that they have made the right choice. Negotiating correctly needs a good amount of self assurance and self confidence, so be sure to stock up on those, in order to prove your worth.
Be firm but flexible
Freelancing will mean that you work with different kinds of people all the time. So you need to be flexible enough to accommodate yourself in different situations with different employers. At the same time, you need to set some non-negotiables for yourself, so that you don’t overstretch or sell yourself short. You need to spend some time on deciding the minimum fee levels you will work for and the hours you can put in, and stick to these fundamentals while you negotiate. At the same time, know the kind of pressure your client is in and if the project or the client is worth it, decide on where you won't mind pushing yourself to do more.
Meet in the middle
At the end of the day, most negotiations are about making both parties happy, and so it should be exactly that. Most of the time, we end up trying to please the client too much, or get the most we can out of it. Both approaches may not be good in the long term. You may agree to work for a low pay for a while, but how long will it take to make you unhappy about your job. At the same time, how long can an employer tolerate unrealistic demands till the competition takes over and you end up losing an employer/client. So keep in mind the bigger picture even while you negotiate.
Don’t hesitate to say ‘no’
People often don’t negotiate too much because they feel the deal may turn sour. This is not the case; a client would rather understand your terms and conditions in advance than getting rude surprises in the middle of the project. As John. F. Kennedy puts it, 'don’t negotiate out of fear, but don’t fear to negotiate’, speak up and say your piece, even if you think it’s silly or unimportant. Know that as a freelancer, you are solely responsible for your satisfaction within the project, no HR department to help you here. So be clear, and that even includes saying you still not satisfied at the end of all negotiations.