ASK US WEDNESDAY: “What are the best ways to negotiate on salary?”

by Leo Wiles
29 November 2017

In last week’s AUW you brought up negotiating as an essential way to a better pay.  Got any tips for someone like me who is filled with dread at the idea? Ro

Hi Ro. Unfortunately you’re not alone.  Many freelancers are uncomfortable with negotiating for a better fee and / or contract. Especially when the reality is being potentially knocked back by a job-poster’s serious budget constraints.

But, while often the budget isn’t moveable, if you know you’d be perfect for something and have the qualifications to back it up, you’ve got nothing to lose by going in and playing hardball. It also costs nothing but the price of a phone call to check and see if they could find more money or reduce the scope of the project for the same fee instead.

Here are 8 ways I’ve learned to negotiate for a great result. Start by saying, ‘I’d love to apply for your role.  However, the budget / salary is less than I am looking for.  Is there any room to move, or is there a way we can work something out? I would welcome the opportunity to work for you’. Then consider one of these strategies to back you up…

1. Be clear about what’s in it for them. Look at it from their viewpoint and highlight your skills and vast experience in the genre, making you a far more valuable player than the pay grade they’re offering. (Which, let’s face it, will only cost them more money down the track.)

2. Offer to work less days. Showcase your portfolio and explain that you can deliver a diamond service working for the same money but doing it in less hours / days than the job advertised.

3. Break it down for the job-poster. It takes guts, but if you can deconstruct the job spec and present it as core work and areas that should have additional loading, you might find the job-poster hasn’t really understood what the actual job entails in terms of hours, and understand your point of view.

4. Offer to do the work as a freelancer. If you offer yourself up on an ad hoc basis for a casual rate until they find the right person, there’s every chance you’ll do the job so well that they’ll fall in love with you (and decide to meet your price).

5. Know the market inside and out. By this I mean, research exactly what the same rate / salary a comparable role would be paid in-house, so that you can be really confident talking turkey.

6. Suggest that their current salary is a starting fee and negotiate a deal that if you prove yourself, your salary will go up in quarterly increments until you reach the amount you feel you’re worth.

7. Ask for an expense account / stock option or some other sweetener that that tops up your salary to the bracket you feel it should be at.

8. See how flexible they can be.  Perhaps you could suck up the lower pay scale if they can compromise on the five days in-house and allow you to work two days from your home office instead.

What tried and true methods have you used to negotiate a better rate?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.
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