7 Negotiating Strategies to Help Freelance Writers Make More Money

Life is a negotiation. You might feel uneasy with it, but you’ve been doing it your entire life. As a child you negotiated with your parents as to why you needed a specific toy. As a teen, it was likely about why you needed to borrow the car. Later in life you did the back and forth about why a person of the opposite sex should choose you over the other person. As an adult you negotiated with your spouse, boss and, probably, several other people.

Negotiation for your freelance business is no different. Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. Find the right type of client
  2. Know the project details
  3. Ask around to learn fee information
  4. Negotiate with authority
  5. Don’t be afraid to talk about money
  6. Know when to shut up
  7. Use silence as a negotiation tool

1. Finding the Right Type of Client

Negotiating with the wrong type of client won’t get you very far. Take the time needed to qualify your prospect. Have they worked with writers before? Do they seem to know the “ropes?” Do they have a budget in mind? Are they straight-forward or vague? Are they the right person to be talking about the project?

All this amounts to how much time you will need to educate them. Freelance writing involves more than writing. If you are required to take your client by the hand and walk them through every step of the way, your rate should reflect that extra time.

2. Know the Project Details

Getting the details is critical. Are they asking for a 2000 word tome or 500 word essay? Will in-depth research be needed? What about interviews? What is the tone of the project? Who, what, when, where and how applies when it comes to project details. Ask questions. Ensure that the scope and goals of the project are clear in both your head and your client’s. You want your thoughts on outcomes and goals to be the same.

3. Ask Around to Learn Fee Information

Gather as much fee information as possible. We are fortunate to live in the Internet Age. In days gone by, gathering this information took a fair amount of time and effort. Sure, there are always resources such as Writer’s Market and the Red Books. But, these types of resources tend to be a bit general and some are geographic. If you work outside of a major metro area you may be out of luck.

Consider joining some writer groups or your local ad club. LinkedIn is a great resource as are social media and online groups or forums.

A word of advice. Be careful asking around. It can be a little bit illegal. Within an industry, it can be seen as potential price-fixing.

4. Negotiate With Authority

Negotiating with authority doesn’t mean being a bully. It simply means knowing what you want and standing your ground. If you followed the first three steps and also know what you what as a fee for a project, you’re in good shape.

Knowing what you want means taking the time to prepare. What fee is appropriate, what usage rights will you keep, what timeline works for you, etc.? Preparation is paramount when negotiating. Give yourself the time to consider what you want out of a negotiation.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Money

Money can be a scary thing and talking about it can be just as scary for some. But, you’re in business to make money and that means talking about it. Being able to talk about money and being comfortable is a sign of a professional.

You need to know the terms, payment schedule and the fee amount. These topics are paramount. They are why you are there. Don’t shy away. Address them early on. You can deal with the finer points later, if needed.

6. Know When to Stop Talking

It’s also important to know when to stop talking. A wise businessman once told me, “Whoever talks about money first, loses.” It may sound counterproductive, but consider this. Unless you happen to be clairvoyant, you don’t know what’s in the other person’s head. You may want to ask for $2500, but the other person may be ready to offer much more. I knew of a writer who disliked working for a client. His strategy was to highball his fees figuring the client would take a hike. The client didn’t. The writer ended up making thousands more because he raised his rates and then kept his mouth shut.

7. Use Silence As A Negotiation Tool

People tend to be averse to silence. They want to fill the deafening silence with something. Let them fill it with some numbers. As with money, it’s said that whoever speaks first loses.

Conversely, when the tactic is used on you, consider ending the session. This doesn’t mean to end the negotiation. Just give yourself some breathing room. You might say something such as, “If there’s nothing more, let’s pick this up a bit later.” This puts the pressure on the other person. There are few things more powerful when negotiating than being ready to walk out.

Your client is not the enemy. It seems that way, at times, by what I read online. But, they’re not. They want a fair deal as much as you do. Okay … okay. There are some clients who may have been born in the depths of Hell, but they’re actually rare. Being good at negotiating means crafting a deal that’s fair and prosperous for each party. When that happens, everybody wins and isn’t that what you really want? You want to do a great job for an amiable fee. Your client wants you to do a great job, too and they want to look good.

Taking the time to brush up on your negotiation skills can be a very rewarding investment. As you become more comfortable with it you will become better at it. Becoming better at it means a bigger bank account balance, better projects and better client relationships.

About the author

Neil Tortorella

Neil Tortorella

Neil Tortorella brings with him over 30 years experience as an award-winning graphic designer, writer and marketing consultant. He has operated his own design and marketing consulting practice, Tortorella Design, for over 25 years. He is the author of Starting Your Career As A Freelance Web Designer and Starting Your Career As A Musician, as well as The Freelance Writer's Business Book and Freelance Business Bootcamp.

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