Do You Make These 5 Common Negotiating Mistakes?

Negotiations are key for successful freelancers. Nearly every project starts with negotiations (or if it doesn’t, it should). Freelancers who can’t negotiate a profitable deal are at risk for losing money, or even worse, going out of business.

So, it stands to reason that negotiating skills are also important. In this post, I identify five common negotiating mistakes that freelancers often make. Read the post to make certain that you’re not guilty of making any of these errors yourself.

Mistake #1: Being Dazzled by a Large Dollar Figure

A large dollar figure can seem enticing. If you’re offered one for a project it’s easy to forget to take into consideration the amount of effort that the project will actually take. This is especially true if it’s your first really big project.

But a large dollar figure is no bargain at all if the amount of work required is out of proportion to the amount of money being offered. Always take the time to make an estimate of the number of hours you think a project will take you before accepting the project. If you don’t, you may wind up sorry later on.

Mistake #2: Accepting Rush Work

Many freelancers accept or even encourage rush work (work with an extremely short deadline). One reason is that rush work often comes with a bonus.

However, over the years I’ve come to the opinion that accepting rush work is usually a mistake for most freelancers. Here’s why:

  • Once you accept a rush work project, the client is likely to expect you to always be available for rush work.
  • You are much more likely to make a serious mistake when hurrying to complete a rush assignment.
  • Taking on too many rush assignments can lead to freelancing burnout (and we all know where that leads).

The fact is, many deadlines can be negotiated. This is often true even of so-called rush deadlines.

Mistake #3: Assuming the Client Wants to Pay Less

Freelancers often assume that the client is most concerned about lowering costs, when in fact they may not be. Consequently, some freelancers lower their prices at the first sign of any resistance from the client/prospect.

This is not a good policy. If you’be been doing this, stop it right now. Instead, take the time to find out what the client really cares about. Then, you can go about discovering a way to provide what is really most important to the client.

Mistake #4: Not Being Specific Enough

It’s not good to be vague, especially if you are a freelancer. Being vague can lead to misunderstandings.

Make sure that all of your client agreements contain specific language, even down to specifying exact due dates and identifying differences between the client’s time zone and the freelancer’s time zone. Here are just some of the details freelancers frequently forget to include:

  • Number of revisions included in the price–While it’s a matter of professional courtesy to provide some revisions (especially if they are minor), consider setting a reasonable limit on the number of revisions included in the cost of the project. You don’t want to get stuck doing the same task over and over.
  • Cost of updating or supporting service provided–This point is similar to the one above and applies specifically to web developers. A limited amount of customer support is reasonable and expected, but providing support does take time. So, after a while, it’s reasonable to begin to charge for support.
  • Payment details (PayPal vs. Direct Deposit vs. snail mail vs. …)–Never take on a project without knowing how (and when) the client intends to pay you. Even if you have specific payment preferences (as many freelancers do), you can’t assume that your client will adhere to them unless you spell them out.
  • Penalties for late payment–Nearly all businesses add a fee for late payments and there’s usually no reason why you shouldn’t also. You may want to check with your attorney to get the language right, but don’t be shy about adding a late fee to your client agreements.
  • Details of delivery–When will the client consider the project to be complete? Make sure you know the answer to this important question since it can make a real difference in when you get paid.

Mistake #5: Not Negotiating at All

This last mistake is perhaps the biggest one of all. Many freelancers fail to negotiate at all. Instead, they let the client totally dictate the terms of the agreement without any negotiation.

This is a mistake because the client doesn’t always know what’s best. They may not understand the amount of work involved or even what they really need. Remember, the client contacted you because of your expertise in your field, so don’t be afraid to use that expertise and make a few recommendations.

Your Turn

Did I miss any negotiating mistakes? Add them into the comments.

Image by ke9v