Negotiation is a key skill for any freelance and one that can mean the difference between getting ahead and just getting by. Whether it is discussing with a recruitment agent what earnings you want to achieve, trying to get the best rate for the job you have just been offered, or upping your remuneration if a client wants to extend your contract, it is essential that you are able to negotiate your way to the best deal possible.
Tips to negotiating:
Know the market rate
There is no point in undervaluing yourself, but at the same time there's no point in pricing yourself out of the market. Know what the market rate is in your area by keeping an eye out for contract rates for similar roles and by talking to other contractors.
When you are new you could gauge the reactions of recruitment consultants when you pitch a rate - if they agree to it straight away raise it the next time you speak to a consultant and keep doing this until they start questioning the amount. This will give a good indication of the local market rate for your role.
Always pitch for higher than you want
You're unlikely to get your first offer anyway, and being prepared to drop a little shows that you're flexible.
Be vague if you have to
Sometimes it pays to be vague, especially if you feel that you might be railroaded into accepting a lower rate later. If asked you could try saying "I charge market rates, what can the client afford?"
If you are asked about rates in the interview you are unlikely to be able to negotiate hard later, so ask them what they feel your skills and experience deserve and go from there.
Know how much you need the role
It sounds obvious, but if you're in desperate need of the role you need to be a little more flexible than if you're "cherry picking" contracts.
Contract rate isn't everything
The rate may actually be non-negotiable, so be prepared to consider other bonus payments, such as a retention bonus.
Know what stage the process is at
If you know that you are the only one that has been interviewed for the role, or were the only strong candidate (you could find this out in the interview with some clever questioning) you will be in a strong position. Your best bargaining position is when you leave the interview room having been told that you will be offered the position.
If the interview process has been long and drawn out with various stages you may also find that you are in a strong position as the agency may be prepared to lose some of their margin in order to commit your signature to paper and avoid going through the whole process again.
Don't negotiate over a small amount
If you're haggling over the odd pound it is really not worth it as you will only have to secure an even higher rate within the next couple of weeks to make it worthwhile and end up earning the same amount of money over the course of the year. Leave the heavy negotiating for instances where there is a higher prize on offer.
Don't try to negotiate after accepting the offer
This could lose you the role - always negotiate between receiving the offer and accepting it, not after.
Be confident and don't appear overly keen. Ensure that you make the recruitment consultant or clients know that you're confident in your skills and experience, but try to avoid sounding over-confident.