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How do you negotiate work?

Most freelancers feel uncomfortable about negotiating.

There seems to be an assumption that pinning things down might come across as too forward.

In fact you will come across as organised and business-like if you talk about certain things up front.

And you should get a better deal if people think you know what you’re talking about.

There are two bits of information you need before you can work for someone:

  1. What are you expected to deliver or do
  2. By when will it be delivered or completed

Of course you also need to agree how much you are going to charge for the work. But you can’t work that out until you have the other bits of information in place.

Don’t make the mistake of rushing to agree the fee before you know what it’s supposed to cover.

Pinning down what you’re expected to do might seem pernickety, but you need to be sure you and the person giving the work understand each other.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • avoiding complications and grief later in the project
  • protecting yourself against ‘project creep’ – where someone keeps on dumping more tasks on you

And you’d be amazed how many clients and employers are vague about what they really want. It should be part of your role to help a client work out what they really want.

Pinning down the deadline is essential for any freelance.

Among the reasons:

  • you need to put start and end dates of jobs in your diary
  • you need to put the next job in the diary so that it doesn’t overlap with the previous one
  • you need to plan occasional breaks to recharge your batteries
  • you need to know when you’ll be paid
  • you need to stop jobs being extended and extended unless that’s been agreed with you first

Templates and tips

Many clients and employers will like to be a bit vague about some of this, as it gives them room for manoeuvre. Many jobs are agreed informally over the phone (or over a pint).

However the best way to protect yourself is to get something in writing once you’ve discussed things verbally.

If you send something simple to the person offering the work, and ask them to confirm the details by return, it’s not adding to their workload.

You can make this easy for yourself by setting up a simple ‘confirmation of booking’ template in your computer. The template should include all the points mentioned above.

Here are two example templates which you can adapt to fit your own needs:

These are essential if you are self-employed, as you need to protect yourself against a client moving the goal posts at the last minute.

For more complex projects you can put in a payment schedule so that it’s clear you are going to invoice in stages.

All of this is open to discussion, and the template stops you forgetting something vital.

Don’t forget the rule of thumb: Get it in writing!

Which means you should download our freelance contract template to get yourself covered.