8 Tips on Negotiating a Freelance Contract

January, 18, 2021 by Vera Gavizon author workhoppers

Negotiating a freelance contract is one of the most stressful tasks. For talented freelancers who like to concentrate their efforts on developing their skills, negotiating a freelance contract might be the least pleasant moment in developing client relationships.

So here are some critical tips on how to reach a fruitful freelance contract:

When Negotiating a Freelance Contract Don’t Improvise

Negotiating a Freelance Contract

Have on hand all the facts and figures that can help you. The key to negotiating is to know your product, your skills, and the market. Have clear objectives of what you want the end contract conditions to be. Have clear explanations for what you are asking for, and for that, you need to know the client’s BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiating Agreement). Understanding your client’s options if he does not agree to your conditions is as important as knowing your BATNA.

Take Your Time and Ask for Help

Negotiating a Freelance Contract

Rushing is never a good idea, especially in business. The contracts signed in two minutes are poorly made, and there is always someone who loses out. As not everyone likes to negotiate, we sometimes decide to sign quickly to end the discomfort, and you might end up agreeing to something you did not want.

It is also essential to ask for help. While you are learning to negotiate, you may need advice from an expert on the subject. Perhaps you know what you want to get but do not have the ability to write in a manner that protects your interests and ensures no room for doubt or conflict. Consider having your lawyer, notary, accountant or confident help you check what you will sign, whether you or the other party wrote it. Undoubtedly, legal and qualified help is essential and is the ideal way to protect yourself.

Help the Client Understand Why You are the Right Person

Negotiating a Freelance Contract

Without being cocky, you have to show why you are the right professional for the job instead of someone else. Talk about past accomplishments based on the skills that they are looking for. Show previous projects and quantifiable results that can be transposed onto the situation you are negotiating. It is always good to know what the current rate is for freelancers in your industry. Be honest about it. You might want to position yourself below or above this rate, but have a reasonable explanation prepared for that positioning.

Don’t Underestimate First Impressions

Negotiating a Freelance Contract

When Prof. Deepak Malhotra (Harvard Business School) advises students searching for their first employment, his first advice is not to underestimate first impressions. Most of the time, in addition to having the right skills and right rate, the person hiring also needs to like you! Be respectful and find some common ground to create a more personal connection.

When Negotiating a Freelance Contract, Show Concern for Your Client’s Interest

approaches on negotiating contract

William Ury, a negotiation expert, who co-founded the Harvard Program on Negotiation, has a fascinating Matrix to define the different approaches that someone can take when negotiating. His approach is based on the concern for my own interest versus the concern for the other party’s interest. See the matrix below:

Rooster approach would avoid the negotiation or the subject on pricing since it is a tricky subject.

Taurus approach is where we have an intense concern for ourselves and no regard for others.

Dog approach is about an accommodating approach where we give in and give whatever the client asks for. Here the client is always right.

Finally, the Owl approach is about targeting for mutual gains. We show concern for the client’s interest as well as ours. We look for a win-win strategy. The Owl approach facilitates the accomplishment of your objectives in a productive working relationship with your client.

To apply this methodology, we should be able to focus on interests rather than positions. Always ask WHY, Why do you want this? Consider the other person’s motivation, desires, fears, which will reveal more than the position they are taking.


Something important to avoid is to talk too much. The ability to listen is fundamental to understand the other party’s interests. Also, listening conveys respect. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you will immediately connect with your potential client.

Be Flexible

To be flexible during a negotiation requires some creativity. There are several ways of splitting a cake, and you have to be aware of it when you enter the negotiation process. If the client does not have all the resources you asked for, you might want to present the option of working in steps or reducing some of the features you wanted to give but might not be essential to the main objective.

Flexibility is also about being willing to change tactics during the negotiation. Taking an elegant break from the negotiation might be useful to reach your goals. You might suggest that you think about another way to deliver what the client is asking at the rate they are offering.

Negotiating a Freelance Contract is not Only About Price

Negotiating a Freelance Contract

When negotiating a contract with a client, bear in mind that it is not only about the rate. Timeline is essential in a negotiation, and it is often underestimated. Professionals are fast in accepting the client’s demand without realizing that it will put a significant burden on them and might lead to disappointment. Issues to consider, such as Deadlines, end products to deliver, tasks not included in the project’s scope and client requirements and obligations, should also be negotiated from the beginning.

A successful freelance agreement’s key is to focus on the parties’ interests and not their position. Of course, this is all relevant once you have found the perfect freelancer. Luckily, Workhoppers can connect you with talented people that suit your business needs.

Contact us today to get started!

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