How to Set and Negotiate Your Rates - Elizabeth Stapleton
Elizabeth Stapleton
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How to Set and Negotiate Your Rates

One of the trickiest parts of being a freelancer and in particular, a freelance writer is pricing out your services. Everyone seems to underestimate the value of their services because they are just hoping to be hired. But it is important that you feel confident when you set and negotiate your rates. 

However, as a freelancer, you are not only providing value in the content you write, but you are saving money for the client. They aren’t having to pay taxes, benefits, or for work equipment like they would if they had an employee doing the work. Additionally, as a freelancer, you are responsible for all those things and need to price your services accordingly.

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Don’t Undersell Yourself Just Because You are New to Freelancing

Even if you are new, it doesn’t mean you should work for peanuts or even for free. I know it can sometimes be easier to build your portfolio by guest posting and writing for sites like Huffington Post that don’t pay you. However, once you have a portfolio, stop working for free. Exposure doesn’t pay your bills.

If you are a native English speaker and have any experience writing then you have the skills necessary to successfully write. Let's face it, most office jobs require writing in some form. Or chances are you have taken courses writing (have a high school or college degree?) which means you have the experience.

This is not to say everyone is a good writer and when you’re new you will have a lot to learn. However, if you enjoy writing and can demonstrate that you are capable then you should be working for real money. Do not pennies.

How to Come Up with Rates

I’ll be honest I have a range of rates that I’m willing to work within and then pitch different rates for different clients. The rate I pitch depends on the type of work. It can also depend on the length of articles, the budget of the clients, and how much I will enjoy the work.

For example, if the work is on a topic I know really well and can do quickly, I’m sometimes willing to work for a little less.

Additionally, when I propose a rate I build in the room to negotiate. So I know the absolute bare minimum I’m willing to work for and won’t go lower than that amount. However, the first rate I propose is usually at least 15% more if not close to double.

You won’t get the rate you want unless you ask for it. When you’re negotiating, you must explain why you are worth that rate. Sometimes the client just doesn’t have the budget. However, if they seem easy to work with and it’s work you’d enjoy and can do quickly it’s ok to take a lower rate. Really whatever you are comfortable with is ok, it’s up to you.

Negotiating is Supposed to be a Dance

A successful negotiation is a dance. This is something I learned when I worked in sales. In a successful negotiation, both parties walk away happy. It’s not about one party getting everything they want and the other party getting nothing. The same goes for renegotiations.

I recently had a client ask if I would be willing to move from a per word rate to a flat rate. Not only that but a flat rate at a lower rate than I was currently earning as their budget had changed. Since they were actually paying me more than most of my other clients I agreed to lower my rates to align more with what other clients were paying me. However, I added a late payment fee since I have on more than one occasion received a late payment from this client.

Remember you have other things you can use to negotiate an agreement both parties can be happy with besides just your rate. Communicate but don’t show your hand. Know in your head what the lowest rate you are willing to take is and be willing to walk away if they won’t meet that rate.

Being willing to walk away is the hardest part. But think of it this way, let's say you go ahead and take on that client that is paying lower than you wanted. You will not only resent the work but because you are busy with that client, but you could end up missing out on a better-paying client.

By walking away you free yourself up to find and land that better-paying client. You are worth what you charge and don’t forget that.

Don’t Sign a Contract Until You’ve Read it Carefully

Lastly, once you have come to an agreement, make sure you read the contract carefully before you sign it. Pay close attention to non-competition clauses. These may prevent you from working for other companies in that niche.

If they have a strict non-competition clause, they need to pay you for that exclusivity. It is impacting your ability to take on new clients, so that cost should be built into your rate. Also, make sure all the clauses referenced in the contract are actually included in the contract.

Bottom Line to Set and Negotiate Your Rates

The bare minimum rate for freelancing varies by the type of work. As a freelance writer myself, I don’t think any freelance writer should work for less than an average of $0.10 per word. Ideally, everyone will be earning more.

While there are a number of things that go into setting and negotiating your rates, remember to not undersell yourself. Also, don't be afraid of negotiating, you are providing them a service in exchange for being paid. Both parties are getting something from the agreement, make sure you’re happy with what you agree.

Related: Can You Really Make a Living Freelance Writing

setting rates | freelancing | freelance writing | set your rates | self-employed | running a business | girlboss | set and negotiate your rates
setting rates | freelancing | freelance writing | set your rates | self-employed | running a business | girlboss | set and negotiate your rates
setting rates | freelancing | freelance writing | set your rates | self-employed | running a business | girlboss | set and negotiate your rates

About the Author Elizabeth Stapleton

Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.

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