Negotiating freelance contracts with potential clients can be a bit of a dance. You might know all the moves, but be lacking in rhythm. Your client might seem really attractive, but have two huge left feet.
It’s all about the way we move that helps us to build strong, ongoing business relationships. However, getting your pretty, pink pumps repeatedly moshed may lead to a reluctance to add that client to your recurring dance card.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about freelance contract negotiations from occasionally getting my toes crushed on the business floor.
1. It takes two
I may be working for a client, but we are both running a business. Time is money … for both of us. I expect clients to be fair and stick to their word, because that is what I do.
Unfortunately, sometimes an initial (or verbal) agreement doesn’t hold as much sway as twerking seems to. The onus is on you to ensure that your terms are met.
Lesson – Be mindful of what you are agreeing to. Discuss what you are going to do, who leads, who follows, and how long it is going to take, before you start moving. And put it in writing.
2. Know your steps
Before I agree to anything, I research my clients and assess their needs. I need to calculate the actual cost of doing the work, and know my worth for the effort required. If I forget one of these steps, it can cause me to lose time, or worse, fall.
Lesson – Try to understand the lay of the land before you step onto the floor. Avoid bending over backwards unless you are confident that your client is strong enough (and willing) to support you.
3. Wear the right shoes
I bring a certain skill set to the projects I work on. I need to be able to do what the client expects of me using these skills. But I also need to be myself whilst doing it. If my personal tempo and balance is adversely affected by unreasonable client restrictions or expectations, the associated discomfort makes me think twice about stepping up again.
Lesson – Dress the part but do it in your own style… and be practical. Heels might make you look statuesque, but you can only wear them for so long before your sciatica starts playing up!
4. Choose the right partner
The tango is meant to be passionate. Dance partners need to be fully in tune to pull it off with sizzle. I believe in finding the right fit with my clients. I’ve learnt the hard way that when I don’t focus on compatibility, no amount of hard work from my side will make the work relationship ignite beyond a spark.
Lesson – Know your reasons for agreeing to work with a particular client, and accept them. Then, work to make your client look good in the spotlight. If they are attuned, they will recognise your worth and do the same for you.
The Macarena isn’t my thing, and a client can’t do Gangnam Style. So, that first attempt at agreeing reasonable terms may not pan out as planned and we may need to refine our moves.
It’s not always easy for my clients to accept that occasionally certain contract elements require re-negotiation. When they do though, we work together far better the next time.
Lesson – Complicated or simple, in the end, negotiating reasonable freelance terms takes practice. If your client bumps you, don’t take it too personally. Decide whether it is worth trying again. If you’ve had one toe crushing too many, take heart. There will be someone else out there to jive with you, and they may be even better looking!
Let’s keep it simple. How about starting with a two-step in our socks and taking it from there?
Michelle Bondesio is a member of the Southern African Freelancers’ Association (Safrea). Follow her on twitter @michbondesio
IMAGE: Wikimedia Creative Commons
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