You don’t get paid what you’re worth, you get paid what you negotiate.
These words first said to me by a friend and mentor are etched in my mind whenever I’m talking facts and figures with a lead.
If you’re a freelancer, you would do well to remember these words as well. Even if you’re not a freelancer, this is an important lesson to remember when you’re negotiating your salary.
Many people whine and complain that they do not get paid what they’re worth. Others are too timid to ask for a reasonable, professional rate. The truth is that as great as you may be at your craft and as much as you might love your work, you’re going to have to step up your negotiating skills if you wish to make a living from it.
You may indeed be worth more than you’re being paid, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, it won’t matter very much. Your talent, abilities, and hard work will not pay the bills if you don’t name your price.
Here are 5 ways to negotiate so that you get paid what you’re worth:
- Establish set fees.
Before you can negotiate what you’re worth, you need to decide on what you’re going to charge for your services. Often, new freelancers have trouble with this, but here are some ideas. Have an exact figure or a price range ready to go the next time a prospect acts you what you charge. If you hesitate or don’t have a number/s prepared, it will not reflect well on you. For one thing, having exact prices makes you look legit and professional. When you reply with: “Well, I’ll try to get you a quote later,” you seem less trustworthy in the eyes of the prospect. While it may not be your intention, it comes off as: “I’m going to figure out how much I can get out of you and come back to you when I have an answer.”
You certainly don’t have to be rigid. Obviously, you can negotiate or come down in price, and it’s good to present a flexible set of options, which prospects can choose from. You can even come up with a customized deal tailored to their needs. But, be sure to have a price range and list of fees for services as a starting point for negotiation. Also, have the courage to stick to your price and determine beforehand the lowest price you’re willing to settle for in a negotiation.
If you’re in business for yourself, then you’re in the driver’s seat and you need to steer the negotiation process. Having set prices helps you set the tone. People don’t quibble with the clerk about the price tags in Sax Fifth Avenue, but they’ll haggle with the merchant selling his wares in the bazaar because they know the merchant will come down considerably if need be. When prospects see that you are confident and have a clear idea of what you’re quantifiably worth, they will feel less able to push you toward a figure you aren’t comfortable accepting.
2. Put it in writing.
If you can’t put it in writing, then you can’t be in business. Period. Make sure to put your terms, conditions, and requirements on paper. Many new freelancers are afraid to do this out of fear that they will drive away business or come off as paranoid and suspicious of their customers. But, in reality, most people would actually be more hesitant to do business with a contractor without a contract than with one who has them sign on the dotted line. Not having a contract looks shady and unprofessional.
You do business without a contract at your own peril. Assuming that there will always be some measure of scope creep, in every business relationship, having your terms spelled out will establish mutual obligations and expectations as well as minimize scope creep as much as possible. A contract or letter of agreement helps both parties know what to expect. It also enables them to move on amicably if things don’t work out. Without a contract, you cannot expect much from your clients and you leave yourself open to getting screwed. And anyone who would refuse to do business with you, because you require them to sign a contract, is someone you don’t want to do business with anyway. Protect yourself and your interests by putting everything in writing.
3. Get paid up front.
When you purchase an item, you pay at the store or on the Internet before you take it home and use it. If you don’t like it, you can always return it or try to get a refund, but you never predicate paying on whether or not you enjoy your user experience. In other situations, such as eating in a restaurant, you pay after the fact even if you didn’t enjoy your meal! So, why should freelancing be any different? Don’t run the risk of people using your service and your time and then leaving without paying. Don’t leave it up to chance. Make sure you get paid for your work. Clients who pay up front will be literally and figuratively more invested. They will, therefore, be more likely to work with you and provide you the resources you need to do your job and succeed.
4. Say “yes” as much as possible.
People love to hear the word, “yes.” “Yes,” is what leads to sales and new relationships. It’s called a negotiation for a reason. Be open to compromise and seek to please the prospect. Bend and yield whenever possible. Now, don’t promise more than you can deliver or settle for an agreement that makes you feel less than comfortable. This can breed resentment later down the line. But, always seek to agree and reassure the prospect that the job is doable and their needs can and will be met if you are able and willing to do it at an agreeable price-point.
5. Publish, publish, publish.
Publishing content on your marketing channels (blog, social media, podcast etc.) as well as on news publications, such as The Huffington Post or Inc Magazine helps you build authority and credibility, which gives you negotiation leverage. When you can demonstrate expertise and knowledge in your field and that your thoughts are worthy of being published in sources with third-party credibility, prospects will be more willing to trust you and pay your asking price.
If you’re upset about getting underpaid, then stop complaining and venting about it to your friends, your spouse, and to strangers on the bus. Instead, try these five negotiating tactics and start getting paid what you’re worth!
Do you have any other negotiation tips that you would suggest? Share them in the comments below!