Negotiating With Clients

As exhilarating as it feels to be a creative freelancer building your own brand and business, the challenging part comes in persuading interested companies to invest. This involves that all-important meeting with managers to talk through details.

Negotiation skills are at the core of every part of your business, from purchasing supplies to finding a venue: Whether new or experienced, negotiating doesn’t always get easier. With the thrill a new project brings, it can be easy to want to fulfil everything the client requests. Although you want to guarantee the best brand quality, it is important to think through the details to ensure both you and the client benefits.

  1. Remember Limits

Naturally you want to go beyond expectations for a new client to prove you provide quality.  However, it is important to be realistic about what you can deliver to ensure you do not raise expectations you cannot meet. I’ve offered unrealistic timings before, which meant I had to work around the clock to complete a project and compromise personal commitments.

It is acceptable to compromise about requirements that you cannot meet.

2. Clarity About Who is Providing What

Clarifying expectations is crucial to any project’s success. Before meeting a client, I write down questions that might slip my mind in the meeting. Remember the details: What is expected in the first month? Who will I need to report to? Is the initial concept ready? Can I work in the client’s office? What will the client’s input be? I once had a client that had no input and expected me to come up with the entire project from scratch. Find out how you will be expected to communicate and appropriate times to contact the client. It is best to check these details to save potential issues later on.

 3. Refer to Other Clients

Making a reference to another client project you have been working on can present your brand as being more credible and as a successful freelancer in your own right. This can be done professionally by referring to another, similar project, the fees charged and the benefit you brought to their business.

This will help make the client want your services more – and they may be willing to accept a rate that you suggest.

4. Don’t Undervalue Your Brand

It can be tempting to charge a lower rate if you don’t yet feel you have enough experience or credibility. This is not a good idea though, as low rates do not suggest good value. Use standard industry rates as a guideline until you have more experience. Check whether the project is hourly paid or fixed fee and build expenses into your charge. Limit the revisions you can provide – each of these is more of your time, skills and effort. Valuing your skills and brand this way will mean that the client will value it, too. Charge an extra fee for additional edits.

5. Listen, Clarify , Reflect

Active listening involves techniques such as mirroring the client’s body language to show you can relate to them. Clarifying is repeating back what your client has said to you and is an excellent way for the client to go through aspects you may have misunderstood and repeat what they mean in a clearer way. Reflecting involves paraphrasing your client’s words, which can be used to show the client that you have listened and understood.

6. Timings

Timings fall into all project stages, from the time taken to do research, to completing the first draft. Break down timings for each project stage in advance. When editing a draft, give a time limit for these as well. A client once told me they would pass my work to a third party and come back to me with changes. The clients did not come back to me for a month and I had to request an update.

7. Get It In Writing

Taking notes during your negotiations is crucial, followed by asking for all discussion points to be sent in writing. Instead of confirming the contract as it is, it is acceptable to take time to consider it before signing your name to it.