The most difficult part of freelancing — for me at least — has been negotiating my pay with confidence.
I remember the first time I found myself in a position in which I got paid for my writing. I had to write 15 articles at around 500 words apiece. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my rate should be. So I ended up getting paid around $15 to $25 per post. I’m pretty sure it was $15 a post. And if you factor in freelancer taxes, I was really making around $10.50 an hour.
That wasn’t sustainable. But I have to admit that I was a bit scared about asking for what I felt I should be paid. I started doing research on how to negotiate pay so that I could live without eating ramen every night.
The First Steps in Negotiating Pay as a Freelancer
I joined a closed Facebook group for freelance professionals and began to learn what other people were earning. It quickly became clear that I wasn't getting paid enough.
I also discovered that I wasn’t alone in being uncomfortable with the process of negotiating rates.
Before I joined this group, I felt like I was negotiating from a position of ignorance. But as I connected more and more with other writers, I realized that there were some basic guidelines to follow. Here's what I learned about how to negotiate pay:
- Make your limits clear.
- Do your research.
- Remember that you deserve that raise.
1. Clarify Your Limits
Make sure that you're clear about the absolute least amount of money that you’re willing to earn.
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At the beginning of my career, I was just excited to get projects to work on. Then I began charging at least $50, since that was more than what I used to earn per hour at my previous job. Plus, that rate took into account my tax burden as a freelancer. (If you need help calculating your taxes, you may want to consider using software like TurboTax.)
2. Do Research
If you have friends who are working for the same organization, see if they can give you a range of what other writers are earning for similar pieces. You don’t need to know what your friend is being paid, but having a clear range will keep you from underselling yourself.
3. Tell Yourself You Deserve the Raise
When I began negotiating my rates as a freelancer, I also realized that I had never aggressively negotiated my pay in any of the jobs that I had worked previously. In fact, I’m not alone in not negotiating a salary.
Numerous studies have noted that women in particular are not very good at negotiating their job offers.
The actual process of negotiating makes women feel physically uncomfortable, according to research in Why Women Don’t Ask, a book by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.
I have to admit that I, too, felt nervous about asking for a different rate. Am I being pushy? Will I lose this opportunity? What will they think? What I didn’t realize was that each time I failed to negotiate my pay, I reduced my ability to save for retirement, pay off debt, and take care of myself comfortably.
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The Next Steps to Take
If you didn’t negotiate your initial pay as well as you would have liked, you have another opportunity when you renew your contract.
Spend time putting together data that will support your request to earn more. If you’re a freelance writer, gather statistics on the number of shares for your posts and how well they were received. Give examples of how easy you are to work with and how you show consistent professionalism.
There is another way to raise your rates, as well, which is a little easier on the freelancer: Incrementally raise your rates for each new project or client. Your new clients have no idea what you made previously unless they decide to ask.
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So set a goal for yourself to raise your rates by a certain percentage. Depending on how often you add new clients to your roster, this could raise your rates substantially over a shorter period of time.
The Bottom Line on How to Negotiate Pay
Negotiating pay as a freelancer can sometimes feel like jumping out of a plane: You’re never completely sure where you’re about to land. So create a plan, connect with others, and do your research. That way, the next time you negotiate your rates, you get what you deserve.
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If a raise isn't in the cards, another way to increase your income is to reduce costs, usually by finding cheaper tools and services to help you manage. For example, instead of hiring an editor to look over your work, consider using a cheaper editing software like Grammarly.