Last week, I encouraged freelance editors not to discount their rates and gave three examples of when not to.
But sometimes we do have to negotiate to win the day. Should you negotiate your rate?
First, consider whether negotiating is worth the effort. Too many discounted projects won’t get you to your financial goals. And a lot of negotiating can take precious time away from actually earning your fee.
Start by asking yourself why you want this client or project. Consider what value it brings to you. For example:
- It means steady work in the long run, becoming a bread-and-butter client.
- It will teach you something you can then charge other clients to do.
- It will connect you with a lot of potential clients.
- The rent is due. (While sometimes this is the case, you don’t want to build a career on it.)
Knowing your reason for wanting the client will help you determine how best to negotiate. In general, it’s better to negotiate on scope rather than price.
Perhaps you can do the job for a reduced rate if you don’t edit the time-consuming bibliography and citations. Or you can limit the edit to one round rather than the two you usually offer. Consider what tasks you typically perform that you could skip, saving considerable time without sacrificing a lot of quality.
For example, one of my clients sends me reports to edit on a semiregular basis. The editorial director understands the value of editing, but she is new to the company and is trying to educate her supervisors on its value; she’s got a budget that was set before she was hired. The workload is enough that I want to keep this client.
So rather than reduce my hourly rate, I reduce the workload and charge her a smaller project rate. The result is that the client pays the rate that will be authorized and I make the hourly rate I’m aiming for.
For another client, I reduced the hourly rate slightly to fit her budget, but I also increased the turnaround time. The initial fee would have covered rush jobs and allowed for a same-day turnaround time, which is often a demand for this type of client. For a slightly reduced fee, the client can still have my services, just not as immediately. Again, she’d send enough work that the volume and the extended deadline make the reduced fee worthwhile.
Sometimes, though, price is the only thing the client will negotiate on. Consider whether you can afford to take the project for the reduced rate. Will doing so mean you can’t take on a better-paying project? Or is nothing on the horizon and the wolf is at the door? Will you be locked into this rate for the foreseeable future? Is there anything else the client can offer you, such as free access to software you otherwise would have to purchase, to balance out the loss?
Before you negotiate your rate downward, think a little creatively. Consider whether you can reduce your workload for the proffered rate or gain something in addition to offset the loss.
And if you can’t justify the lower rate?
To quote a former First Lady out of context, “Just say no.”