In a recent article we were discussing some of the pleasures of being freelance and some of the things most freelancers will tell you they wish they had known at the beginning of their career. One of the disadvantages of being freelance is, unlike traditional employment, it can be difficult to estimate your value. Make no mistake though you do have a value and often this is more than you think.
Let’s take a ’real world’ moment here though because we are freelance and yes, sometimes you just need to take the work. Sometimes you have nothing else on so a low paid bit of work fills the day and generates some income. Sometimes smaller companies or start-ups don’t have the finances available to pay full rate but they may be doing something interesting that you want to be involved with. All of these things are perfectly acceptable assuming they are a one off. If you allow them to become working practice they can lead to a pretty low income. You need to be aware of how much you are worth to be able to see when to make the exception. Before you sign the contract you will need to consider the value of the job compared to the terms of the contract.
(We discussed this in a recent article about contract negotiations in the Creative Arts industry, which may be worth reviewing)
While there may be the odd exception like the sci-fi blockbuster in the above article, chances are that a lot of jobs will pay the rate for the work and you will be fine. The bottom line is that as a freelancer working on a job you deserve to be paid the best rate for the work you do. To undervalue yourself in the job is to undervalue your skills; and this in turn undervalues everyone.
When you look at it from that perspective it becomes obvious that you need to negotiate carefully to get the right rates. Let’s dispel some myths and think about this the right way.
- Everyone works for less than rate. Actually, no they don’t. Some people do but they are usually new to the business or have a particular reason for doing it. If you don’t have a reason why do it?
- I will price myself out of a job. Or you could price yourself into one. Producers and other freelancers expect to pay a reasonable rate. Rather than pricing yourself out of a job you may just be throwing money away.
- I am working for a friend so I should work for less. OK this one can be difficult but just because you are working for an old friend doesn’t mean that you are not working. If you want to do a deal then fine but at least start from rate.
- The client pays and they don’t pay the full rate. Your first question here should be why? This one should set the alarm bells off. If the rest of the job seems to pan out then the reason they don’t want to pay rate may be, to be a little frank, down to greed. More worryingly it could be that they don’t have the funds for the production and are trying to cut costs.
- Negotiating rates is hard. For some people this is true. We may be able to help with this one. If you are not strong on this side of the business hand it over to someone who is.
In the final analysis working for next to nothing results in earning almost nothing. So remember, value yourself, value your work and ask us for advice, or let us negotiate for you.