Negotiation And Freelance Writers – An Art

by Anne Wayman

freelance writers negotiateWhen you’re running your own freelance writing business you need to learn how to negotiate with clients. Most of the definitions of negotiation seem to emphasis getting what you want. I see it differently.

When I negotiate I not only keep my own needs in mind, but I also consider the needs and wants of the client. My business, my life, works better when I remember I offer a writing service.

Jonathan Fields and Mark Silver both have an attitude of service that I work to emulate. So does Liz Strauss.

I try to incorporate this attitude of service into my negotiations. What I really want is for the writing project to work for both of us – for me and for the client.

The Client Has A Problem

You wouldn’t be talking with the client about a project if they didn’t have a problem. They’ve come to you because they hope you can solve it for them.

You’re initial job is to understand the problem, and decide if you can help them or not.

If you can and you’ve got the time and the inclination, the next step is determining how the project will actually be accomplished.

Everything’s Negotiable

The negotiation is not only about how much money you’ll receive, although that’s a big part of it.

Negotiation also includes things like deadlines, revisions, the client’s access to you and your access to the client, what will happen if a wheel comes off and one or the other of you needs to get out of the project,  and pretty much anything else that needs to be addressed.

You want to come away with a contract and feeling good about yourself, the client and the project you’re about to begin.

In 9 Elements Of My Contracts or Letters of Agreement I’ve outlined the things I want in a ghostwriting contract – those elements work in most other kinds of writing contracts. Of course, for less complicated writing gigs many of these are implied, but be sure you cover all bases.

Money Negotiations

I get lots of questions that could be summed up “how to I bring up my price?”  I put my hourly rate on my website – If clients come to me through that site they often know I’m not inexpensive.

When, however, a potential client comes some other way, I often break the ice on the money conversation. Oh, I know there are so-called experts who insist that the first person to name a number looses; I don’t buy that.

I may start by asking if they’ve got a budget for the project. Sometimes that surfaces their thinking on pricing, sometimes they turn it around and ask what I charge. I usually say something like, “Oh, no more than a million a day plus expenses.”

Answering with an obviously ridiculously high price seems to break the ice. I’ve named a number they know I’m not expecting and we can enjoy a chuckle. I’ll then talk just a bit about basing my price on my hourly rate which I quote.

If I don’t know enough about the project to quote a price I say so and gather more information.

Once I’ve named my hourly rate we pretty much know if we’ll do business or not. For books, it then becomes a matter of working out a flat fee total and the other details.

Negotiation is an art – it includes close listening and some give and take. It doesn’t have to be an adversarial process.

How do you approach negotiations?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol Tice March 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Great advice here…though have to say I AM a fan of getting the client to name a budget or price first. I like your $1 million response. Over the past few years I’ve sort of started to get into the whole negotiation game…I’m enjoying the challenge of working with clients to explain the huge value they’ll be getting from my writing, and negotiating an appopriate rate. I put 10 Negotiating Tips for Writers on my site recently…as well as writing about How I Got Paid $300 a Blog,over on the WM Freelance Writing Connection, which has more negotiating tips.

I do agree that negotiating is a hot topic–get a lot of questions on it. It’s an art form writers would do well to take a little time to learn.

I’m impressed with people who just put their rate on their site, like they have only one rate. Maybe because I do a lot of different writing types, I couldn’t see doing that. I have a questionnaire I have clients fill out to define their project, and everybody gets a custom rate based on so many factors–how difficult their material is, how annoying I think they’ll be to work with, how short their deadlines, and so on.

Enjoy all!

Carol Tice
Make a Living Writing blog:
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..9 Time Management Tips for Busy Writers =-.


Anne March 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I think I’ve coached my rates in something like “my rates start at…” then some waffle copy ;) I don’t sell myself hard, I don’t seem to need to most times.


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