Frequently, one of the most stressful areas of freelance working isn’t delivering great projects or finding your next gig but negotiating a decent fee and making sure you get paid within a reasonable timeframe. If you are just starting out, how do you decide on your market rate? And if you are well-establish but have been working for a client for some time, how do you negotiate an increased fee?
These are our tips for navigating freelancer fees and payments with ease.
Know your rate
It is easier to make a request to a prospective client if you have some data to back you up. Spend some time researching what your contemporaries are charging and the nuances of your client’s sector. Unlike asking for salary information, people tend to be happier to share their days rates so simply asking in a freelancers forum on LinkedIn or Whatsapp will give you an idea of what other people are charging. Bear in mind that length of contract and the sector may also play a factor, so expect to charge less for a six month project than a couple of days on a small project.
There are also some great tools available to help you calculate your rate, such as https://www.freelancesolutions.co.uk/day-rate-calculator/
Day rate or project?
In some instances, particularly when you are confident that the brief is clear and if it is work you have experience of delivering before, you may want to offer a fixed project fee rather than a day rate, This can help the client who is really only interested in total project cost. However, be clear on specific outputs and agree how many revisions and meetings are included when negotiating this type of fee. Above all, don’t get tied to a project fee if the brief is unclear or the client inexperienced as the capacity for brief-creep is too risky.
Be prepared to negotiate
Even seasoned freelancers can feel uncomfortable having to negotiate a fee, however it can be a great way of securing new business, especially if it is a project that you are particularly interested in. If you are prepared to negotiate on a fee, avoid putting out your number first but instead ask for a sense of the client’s overall budget. When you do offer a rate, build in some wiggle room, either in terms of projected number of days or rate level.
Hitting clients with unexpected costs rankles. As discussed in previous blogs, keeping timesheets is incredibly helpful in giving clients transparency and protecting you from questions later.
If a project is taking longer than expected, either because the brief has shifted or because you have come up against unexpected challenges, be upfront and communicate this as early as possible. For longer projects, a quick monthly update of where you are against the original project timetable can be invaluable. Don’t work overtime without charging, but do flag with a client when they are running out of time.
Getting paid on time
Late payment by clients is far too common but shouldn’t be tolerated. Setting out clear payment terms when appointed helps set expectations. If you do find a client paying late, ensure you follow up with a polite but firm email straight away, rather than leaving it for a few weeks. Having a reputation for requiring prompt payment is unlikely to lose you any work but will hopefully get your invoice moved to the top of the pile.
Getting a rise
Increasing your fees for a repeat or long-standing client can be challenging but remember that this is not an unreasonable request. Avoid doing this too soon in a relationship and make sure they understand your value to their business or organisation. Above all, give them plenty of notice so they can build increased fees into their budgets.
Hopefully, the tips above will see you negotiating fees and getting paid with ease. The CommsPeople community is a friendly one and we are here to support you, so drop us a line if you would like to join.