How to Negotiate as a Freelancer.

Today, 1 in 3 working Americans are freelancing. That’s about 57 million workers from a force of 160 million, up 4 million (13%) since 2014.

Freelancers are experts in their own fields, but they are also business managers: branding themselves, marketing their services, managing finances—and negotiating deals with potential clients. Those conversations can be challenging for independent contractors. But freelancers who fail to negotiate well can miss potential revenue, delay the growth of their project portfolio, and lose future opportunities that might otherwise come in through with the referrals that come from successful relationships with clients.

In my 25 years of advising corporations and independent contractors on how to negotiate, I’ve found that three specific areas often trip up freelancers in their work with clients. First, they focus on the business aspect of the relationship to the detriment of building a personal rapport; second, they attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors with price discounting, and third, they waste their negotiation time on the wrong clients. Let’s look at each of these.

Make it personal

Relationships and authentic connections drive business. People do business with people they know; familiarity is the basis for trust at a chemical, physiological level in the brain.

This principle is particularly important for freelancers, for whom trust and confidence are table stakes. In a large corporate negotiation, the desire to let a relationship drive a deal might be tempered by the needs of the parties’ bosses or their shareholders. But if you’re a freelancer, you stand on your own. A client’s relationship with you is your business. From initial discussions with a possible client to the moment you seal a deal with them, the success of the negotiation hinges on their decision to invest in and engage with you.


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