Hate to negotiate? Scared to ask for more money? You're not alone. I was a lawyer in my former life and it still took me more than 13 months of fulltime freelancing before I summoned up the courage to ask to ask for more money. Now, more than 16 years later, I do it as a matter of course.
But if you're new to freelancing, or if you're wondering how to go about negotiating better rates, here's a simple and effective way to do it. Think TEA:
1. Thank. When you're offered an assignment, express your appreciation. Let her know you're excited about or looking forward to working with her. (i.e., "Thanks so much for thinking of me..." or "I'm glad you want to assign this piece..")
2. Explain. Now give a reason (or more than one) why you're asking for more money. The way you make your case will depend on the assignment, but I've used the following reasons to ask for more:
- A tight (or extremely tight) deadline. (i.e., "I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work nights to meet it...")
- An all-rights contract that the editor won't budge on. (i.e., "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k...")
- A story that requires a lot of legwork. (i.e., "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story....")
- An assignment that requires a certain level of expertise or experience. (i.e., "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require..." or "I've written more than a dozen book proposals that have sold, so you know I can write a proposal that will capture an editor's attention..."
- A market that I've written for before. (i.e., "You already know I'm going to do a great job for you...")
3. Ask. It's that simple. After you've expressed enthusiasm for and appreciation of the assignment and stated your case, ask the editor if she can "do better". (You don't have to say, "Pay me more, dude!" even if that's what you're thinking.) The way you phrase it will vary, so use language you're comfortable with. Here are some sample scripts, using the above scenarios:
- Tight deadline script: "Thanks so much for thinking of me for this story. I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work some nights to meet it. Considering that, can you boost your rate a bit?"
- All-rights contract script: "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k--I don't have a pension plan. Keeping that in mind, could you do better money-wise?"
- Legwork-heavy story: "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story...it can take days just to find the right person! Can you do better than $1/word for that kind of legwork?"
- Complex or complicated assignment script: "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require, but this is a story not everyone could write. Can you do better money-wise to reflect my experience?"
- Regular market script: "You know me and my work, and you know I'm going to do a great job for you and turn the story in before deadline. Could we talk about me getting a raise?"
Thank. Explain. Ask. It's that simple. Forget your regular cup of coffee. Try TEA instead, before you say yes...and let me know what happens!
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