You’re amazing at what you do, and you know enough that people will pay you to do the job for them. But as you’re venturing out into or expanding your career as an independent contractor, one skill you must have is recognizing your worth.
Maybe you struggle with knowing how much to charge a client for what you do for them, and that’s normal. Many of us have been told how valuable we are for years as employees getting an hourly rate. When it comes to telling others what our value is, it can take some getting used to.
But this is a crucial part of being a successful solopreneur and running your business well. You need to know where your starting wage is, when to hold that amount firmly, and when it’s okay to negotiate (up or down). Negotiation truly is an art that takes time to master. As you get started, follow these tips to help you negotiate with your clients and come out on top.
1. Get to Know the Client Before Your Meeting
The thing about negotiating is that it’s different for every client. If you’re dealing with the owner of a business or another entrepreneur, you have more leeway because they control the accounts and terms.
However, some companies, like UPS, have set guidelines the human resources officer must abide by, no matter how much you absolutely bring to the table. (Side note: Interested in becoming an independent contractor for UPS? Check out this article by Selfgood.)
By getting familiar with the client and their structure, you can avoid wasting time trying to negotiate outside of their scale. On the flip side, you may also enhance your negotiations because you know what your value is to them and their ability to provide what you’re asking for.
Part of that preparation includes backing up your numbers with evidence of your worth. What will you provide to them that makes it worth the amount you’re requesting? How does your rate compare to others within the industry with comparable skills?
2. Be Patient
No matter how badly you want the contract, don’t be jumpy or pushy. The client might be ready to agree to the basic terms, but if you aren’t careful to get all the details of the project, you could be signing on for something that is more than you want to deal with for the price you’ve quoted.
Walk through the project from start to finish, particularly if it’s an extensive undertaking. What are the mini-milestones along the way? What happens if there are expenses that occur that you didn’t account for in your initial rate? Are you willing to eat those costs, or do you want to negotiate a clause in your contract that requires the client to cover them?
Unless the job is cut-and-dried, ask for some time to review the project and terms of the job. Reschedule a time to revisit and renegotiate anything that you weren’t comfortable with, whether it’s money, deadlines, or something else.
3. Review the Terms
Take that time and review the terms one part at a time. You don’t want to miss an important detail, but you also don’t need to discuss every aspect with the client and irritate or overload them.
Make a list of the things that are important to you once you’ve looked everything over again. Have an alternative to those terms, and determine what you’ll be willing to accept as a negotiated compromise.
4. Have Evidence to Back Up Your Terms
You’re selling your services and your skills. In essence, that means you have to convince the client why you are the best person for the job. Until you’ve reached a level where you’re turning people away, you’re going to have to back up your terms with proof that you’re worth it.
Be confident in your discussion. When you explain your terms or choices, stick with factual claims, not “I feel” sentences. You are the expert; when you say “I feel,” it detracts from your expertise.
Prepare for your second meeting with evidence from your portfolio that shows your experience or a draft of how you plan to solve the client’s problem that proves you know what you’re doing.
You’ve asked for the time to prepare for more negotiations. Use it to consider any counter questions you may receive and know how to answer them.
Like any art, negotiating will become easier with each interaction. You may never be completely comfortable placing a value on yourself, or you may be an expert on it quickly. Either way, these vital tips will ensure you’re prepared for your meeting, and you don’t inadvertently sign on for a project full of unexpected additional work.