Simple Negotiation Tactics for Freelancers

In this article, marketing expert Steve Slaunwhite shares some ideas on what you can negotiate instead of dropping your price.

I'll admit it. The first time I tried to negotiate my price with a client I was nervous. I didn't want to lose the project! I felt a little like Oliver Twist holding out his soup bowl and tepidly asking, "Please, Sir. May I have some more?"

As it turned out, the "negotiation" went fine. The client and I discussed the project fee and worked out a compromise that was fair to both of us. It was actually quite painless.

In fact, if you approach price negotiation the right way, it is painless. After all, all you're doing is suggesting an alternative arrangement that gets the client what she wants "“ you're valuable freelance service "“ while getting you what you deserve "“ your professional rates.

Say, for example, that you provide a client with a project quotation and she gets back to you with, "Ah, your price is a bit too high for us."

You know is wrong, wrong, wrong to drop your price just to get the job
. So what exactly do you negotiate "“ and how?

Let's begin with some ideas concerning what you can negotiate:

1. Offer to get the job done sooner. If the client wants the job done in three weeks and you can do it in two, offer to do that as a bonus. The client may be willing to pay your price in exchange for getting the project done sooner. It's a stress reliever.

2. Throw in an extra. Can you offer some value-added extra that doesn't cost you a lot of additional time and money? Perhaps you can submit the press release (if that's the project) to the media release company, saving your client time? She may be willing to pay your full fee for that extra service.

3. Ask for more time to get the project done. For many freelancers, getting a few extra days or weeks to do the job is a real benefit "“ one that may be worth being paid a little less. So if the client wants a better price, offer a discount if you can get four weeks to do the job instead of two.

4. Offer a discount for paying your full fee in advance. I learned this technique in Alan Weiss's excellent book, "Million Dollar Consulting". I say to the client, "I offer a 10% discount when my quoted project fee is paid in advance." That savings may be all the client needs to award you the work. (And it sure is nice to get that cash in the bank right away!)

5. Offer a volume discount. Query the client about upcoming projects and offer him a package deal. For example, if you've just provided a ballpark quote for a new website, ask her about other online marketing she may need created such as a blog or social media profile. Then offer a lower overall price for all three projects.

Those are just some ideas. You can probably come up with more.

But do you see what I'm getting at here?

The idea is not to drop your price for no good reason but to suggest an alterative arrangement that works for you and your client. That's what negotiation is all about. Nothing scary about it. It's just a conversation!

Take a look at this example of a negotiation between a freelance advertising consultant and her client. They have just had an initial conversation about the project and the client has predictably asked, "What's this going to cost me?" Here's what happens next!

Freelancer: "Based on what you've told me so far about the project, my ballpark fee would be $2,000-$2,500. I will, of course, send you a formal quotation with an exact project price later today."

Client: "Oh. Um. Well, actually, that price is higher than we expected to pay. In fact, I'm sure we don't have the budget."

Freelancer: "I can appreciate that. Although that fee range is typical of what professionals charge for this type of project, I'm sure we can work something out. How much were you expecting to pay to get this ad done?"

Client: "Well Dave, we had planned to pay about $1,500."

Freelancer: "Okay, let's discuss how we can tweak this project to meet both of our needs. You want three concepts of the same advertisement, so you can select which one you like best. Plus, of course, completed artwork and copy for the ad concept you decide to run with. Do you think you could work with two concepts instead of three? And, allow me an extra week to get the entire job done?"

Client: "You could do that for $1,500?"

Freelancer: "Under those circumstances, yes I can."

Client: "That works for us. Send me your quotation and I'll sign it back today."

Can you have a conversation like that? I think you could.

So resist the urge to drop your price for no reason and, instead, negotiate. Clients will respect that you stand behind your professional rates. And, more often than not, you'll stand a good chance of landing the project.

Action step:

Create Your Negotiation List

This is simply a list of things you're willing to negotiate in situations where the client is unable or unwilling to pay your full quoted fee.

Keep the list handy. That way, when you're discussing price with a client  you can quickly review the list and, if necessary, quickly suggest alternative arrangements.

Steve Slaunwhite is the author of How To Price, Quote & Win Business-to-Business Writing Projects, which includes the industry's only "Almanac" of B2B writing and copywriting fees. To learn more, visit: