How to Negotiate a Freelance Rate (Tactics & Arguments)

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According to Upwork research, around one in every three people in the United States are freelancing these days. This means that from a workforce of 160 million people in the US, almost 57 million people are freelancers. It’s evident from these statistics that freelancing is a growing trend, not just in the United States but the world over. One of the most mentioned benefits is greater autonomy on your working life and finances.

A big part of setting yourself up as a successful freelancer is getting the right clients and getting the right rate. But for this, you would have to learn the art of negotiation. The money you’ll earn as a freelancer will largely be dependent on two things. First is the rate you charge and second is the number of hours you’ll work. While we can always increase the number of hours we work (reasonably), the rate will be dependent on your negotiation skills.

If you want to learn how to negotiate a freelancer rate, here are certain points you must keep in mind –

  • Know Your Rate and Competitor’s Rates
  • Let them name a rate first
  • Give only one rate, not a range
  • Start with a high rate
  • Don’t give a discount
  • Make it a personal story
  • Know the details of the project
  • Demonstrate examples showing your worth
  • Show your costs and efforts

Knowing Your Rate and Competitor’s Rates

Before you start out with any negotiation, the first thing you’d have to do is figure out your rate. If you go into a round of negotiation with the client by asking what they’d like to pay, it would come off as you being uncertain of your work’s value. It can also make the client doubtful about your quality of work. Most freelancers usually provide their clients with some type of quote along with the proposal. If you are not sure how you decide your starting rate, here are some tips that’ll help you arrive at a figure –

  1. Previous job experience: If you’ve held a job previously, calculate what benefits and pay that job provided you. Make sure to include the value of various benefits like 401(k) contributions and health insurance. This is a great way to arrive at your hourly rate as a freelancer.
  2. Education and experience: When you are coming up with a rate, you can ask your client for more if you have greater experience or possess unique credentials. A freelancer with an extensive portfolio and years of experience under their belt can always set a higher rate.
  3. What your competitors are charging: If you are making your way into the freelancer industry, the best way to arrive at a starting rate is by examining the rates of the other freelancers. If you don’t know any freelancers, you can also join our Lancebase community where we provide a table full of rates that freelancers are actually earning. If you want to learn more read our service here:

Besides your starting rate, you would also have to decide how you want to receive your payments. You can either charge by the project or by the hour. However, this will mostly depend on the nature of projects you undertake and the field you’re operating in. Now that you have a starting rate, you can get to the next step of negotiation.

Tactics to use

1. Let them name a rate first

When you are negotiating rates with a client, it’s always best to let the client reveal their offer or budget for a project. Ask them what they would be happy to pay for the work and what kind of budget they’re working with. Even if a client does not have a number to start with, they will provide you with some useful information about their budget. This information will then help you negotiate a better price for your work. You and your client will both be able to arrive at a place where you are happy with the rates.

2. Give only one rate, not a range

When you are working as a freelancer, it’s important to establish your worth. You know the time and effort it took to hone your craft. Why should you let any business undervalue your work and services? When you are starting negotiations with a client, always give them a one number instead of a range. This will show your confidence in your work, is more transparent and is often perceived as a quality insurance. And don’t worry, your rates don’t have to be permanent. As you grow your business, you’ll be able to gain more experience, and you can demand higher rates too even with the same client.

3. Start with a high rate

For many people, negotiations are a part of the business. When you start working as a freelancer, you’ll find that many clients will try to haggle just for the sake of it. For them, it doesn’t matter if your rate seems reasonable or not. In such a case, it’s always best to start with a higher rate than the one you normally ask for. This will give you greater room for negotiation. Eventually, your client will haggle you down to a price that was your initial asking rate.

4. Don’t give a discount

When you are just starting out as a freelancer, your primary goal would be to build a relationship with your clients. You will be tempted to offer them discounts or other incentives, but this will not always guarantee a win for you. The competitors who do offer discounts are usually larger in size and confident in their ability to recoup the losses. If you offer discounts as a freelancer, it will be less sustainable. It’s always better to work with a fixed fee.

Arguments to use

1. Make it a personal story

Establishing authentic connections and relationships with your clients will help you grow your freelancing business. It’s a fact that people like to do business with someone they can trust. And, familiarity drives trust. When you are negotiating rates with your clients, it’s important to tell them about your brand, your unique abilities, and your qualifications. Make it a personal story and find some common ground to build connections. Here’s how you can build your own narrative –

  • Start by stating your passions and what fuels you.
  • Explain what led you to this profession and weave in your qualifications.
  • Connect your story back to the client, by ending it with the impact you want to make with your work.

2. Know the details of the project

It is absolutely crucial to know the details of a freelancing project before you even get down to the negotiations. There will be clients who’ll provide you with a rough outline of the project and then immediately ask for your rates. To navigate this situation, it’s best to state your rate and then add that it can fluctuate according to the nature of the work. Thereafter, you can ask the client to provide you with more details on the project.

3. Demonstrate examples showing your worth

A common mistake made by many freelancers is operating from their own perspective about what their services are worth. Ideally, you should be thinking from the perspective of the client. What the client thinks about your work and worth will make all the difference when it comes to negotiations. You need to think of ways to show how your work will benefit the client and positively affect their bottom line. By showing examples of your worth, you’ll be able to ensure that the negotiations go about smoothly.

4. Show your costs and efforts

When you are working with a new client, you need to show the costs and efforts involved in your work. Every freelancer knows that it is difficult to get ahead in the job by ripping off your clients. Ideally, both parties should emerge from the negotiations feeling like they got a good deal. By showing your costs and efforts, your clients would be able to better understand your rate and the negotiations will go on smoothly.


This wraps up all the important tactics and tips on how to negotiate a freelancer rate. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some great insights on going ahead with negotiations more smartly. Equipped with this knowledge, you will now be able to get the best value for your worth.

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