ABCs of Freelance Writing: N is for Negotiation

negotiateWhat’s that? You’ve never negotiated the terms of a contract with any of your freelance writing clients?

Well, my dear, you’re doing it wrong.

Now, I’m not a haggler by nature, so I know from experience that it can be difficult and downright awkward for the inexperienced to ask a potential client for more money.

First, there’s that nagging fear that you’ll lose out on the bid and spend another month on the ramen noodle diet. And then there’s that moment you let your imagination take over. You dream up a scene where the client explodes into laughter the moment you announce your counter offer. So, rather than risk rejection or humiliation, you simply shake hands and sign on the dotted line.

But if you never negotiate, never make a counter offer, never ask for concessions, there are real consequences for you and the client. Accept a freelance writing job that doesn’t pay enough and chances are good you’ll lack the motivation to give the client your best work. That’s not good for the client’s business. And, quite frankly, it’s not good for yours.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to negotiating a better deal.

Negotiating for Better Pay

The most common way to get the pay you want is to ask for it.

  • Ask for more money. This is what we all think of when we hear the term negotiate. I promise you won’t die from giving this one a try. If the client says no, you can still accept the original offer.
  • Change the fee structure. If the client is uncomfortable offering you an additional five cents per word, consider proposing an alternative fee structure. In addition to per-word rates you can also suggest fixed-rate or per-project compensation. Retainers are another solution. Finally, if you know your client values a speedy turnaround, you might want to propose adding an early delivery bonus in the contract.

Negotiating the Project Scope

When you’re uncomfortable asking for more money, you can suggest making changes to the scope of the project so that the compensation you receive is more in line with the work you are required to do.

  • Suggest changing the word count. By lowering the word count you can effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on a job. In the end your clients can stick with their budgets and you can work at your standard hourly or per-word rate.
  • Reduce the workload. Here’s what I mean: If your client wants you to write, proof, edit, format, select images, and then publish five blog posts a week but she’s not budging on the compensation, let her know how many of those responsibilities you are willing to handle at her price. It might be worth it to her to find the images and publish to WordPress herself.

Negotiating the Deadline

One more way to make a project worth your while is to work on it at a more leisurely pace. It takes the pressure off and allows you to prioritize your better paying freelance writing gigs.

  • Extend the deadline. If your client wants website content completed in a week but refuses your usual rate, it might be worth it to you to have the job waiting in the wings when things are slower. Ask if the client is willing to push back the deadline.
For additional tips on the negotiation process, you might want to read these articles:

How to Use the Power of Silence to Boost Your Writing Career
Freelance Writing Negotiating Tips
How to Negotiate Effectively

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0 thoughts on “ABCs of Freelance Writing: N is for Negotiation

  1. Pingback: 10 Articles to Help Writers Make More Money | Clear, Concise Writing from Bold Visions
  2. This is a very good list. I’ve just recently decided to practice the art of negotiation. However, I noticed that you didn’t include the rights in the list. Is that because you feel as though rights are not something that can be negotiated or because you have limited experience in that area? I’ve received work-for-hire and all-rights contracts from some magazines and websites and would really like to negotiate for better terms when the issue arises.

    • I find that most of the time rights are dictated by the nature of the project. But you’re right that there are some instances where they could be negotiated.

      I didn’t include rights in this list because the emphasis for me at the time I wrote this was about making more money from the assignment right in front of you. It’s good to remember that negotiating the rights could earn you more money from your work, but that’s all assuming you can find another buyer willing to publish something that’s been printed elsewhere. 

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