7 Easy Steps to Negotiating a Freelance Invoice

29th October 2019

Whether it’s copyrighting and marketing, graphic design or website creation, your freelance skills are endlessly valuable to hundreds of businesses across the UK. However, that doesn’t mean that your skills stretch to the realms of finance or negotiation – and that’s where we come in! Our experts can help you simplify the freelance invoice process.

As well as the skills that you provide as a freelancer, it’s also important that you know how to invoice someone for freelance work. It can be a difficult conversation to have, especially if it’s the first time you’ve worked with this client.

Here are seven super simple steps to help you invoice for freelance work without under-selling yourself or setting your relationship with your client off to a bad start!

Decide on Your Minimum Acceptable Rate (MAR)

Before you start your negotiations, you need to have a bottom line for your fee in the back of your mind so that you know to walk away if the client won’t meet it. This is where you need to use a mixture of maths and self-respect!

Use our Freelance Rate Calculator to determine what your minimum hourly rate should be for you to have a comfortable salary – it considers factors such as tax, expenses and non-billable hours so you can be sure that you’re not left short.

Charge Per Project Instead of Per Hour

This seems like a drastic change if you’re used to charging by the hour – but it can work out to be much more beneficial for you and the client.

We have an article that explores this idea in more detail, read it here to see if this might work out better for you than invoicing for a standard hourly rate.

Base Your Rate on the Client’s Valuation

This one can be a bit awkward, so it’s best to use it on a case-by-case basis rather than a blanket rule. Essentially, the concept is that you should be comfortable allowing clients to invoice you based on what they think you are worth.

Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean you should start building sites and creating copy for free! It just means that you may end up invoicing more than your usual fee from a company that has a million-pound turnover, while you may give a discount to a start-up company because their perception of value and cost will be slightly more limited. It can also mean taking on jobs that pay less just because they come with creative freedom and enjoyment, but then evening this out with more corporate jobs that may be duller but will pay better.

More on this in the next point…

Get the Client to Name Their Budget First

Finding out a client’s budget before you start freelance invoice negotiations is crucial, so that you know that you’re not wasting your time if it’s way below your MAR.

Most clients will know to be savvy, and will try not to reveal this right away, so your magic question should always be ‘what kind of budget did you have in mind?’

Once you have this information, and you have a good idea of their perception of value, you can decide on if the work will be worth your time.

Start High

This sounds like a brave move, but it’s what most clients will expect from you. Clients with bigger budgets will be happy to pay it, and clients with stricter limits will make you aware of this early on so that you can start negotiations.

The worst-case scenario is that a client brings your fee down to your MAR – making you appear as a freelancer who is willing to be flexible, but still ending with you agreeing to a job. The best-case scenario is that you get paid well, and you can celebrate your new client with a nice bottle of fizz!

Make Sure Your Final Decision is 100% Mutual

Don’t forget that this is only the start of your relationship – once you have agreed a rate, you then have to continue to work with this client until the project is complete and the freelance invoice is paid, so the last thing you want is to get off on the wrong foot and spend days/weeks/months having uncomfortable conversations.

The best way to avoid this is to be as transparent as possible with your expectations, and also to listen and understand what your client needs – don’t be tempted to take a rate that is below your MAR, but also know when to walk away if a client is not happy to pay you what you need.

Use Difficult Negotiations as a Tool to Increase Future Rates

If you end up getting talked into taking the bare minimum for a project, then utilise it to boost your freelance invoice rate on future projects with the client, e.g.

‘I’m happy to work on our first project for a lower rate than I would usually accept, with the understanding that if you’re happy with the work and with our relationship, then there will be the opportunity to discuss the option for future projects to be billed at full price, or at least a fee that is closer to my usual rate.’

Fee negotiations and invoicing as a freelancer can be daunting, whether you’ve just started out or you’ve been working for yourself for years. Every client will be different, and every project will present completely unique challenges and excitements. It’s all part of the fun of being your own boss – and hopefully with these seven tips, your future negotiations will be a breeze!