Don’t negotiate your rates

At some point it’s bound to happen. You have a potential client that you’re excited to work with and they love everything about you. 

Except your pricing.

Unfortunately, they go after your hourly rate because they expect that’s the place a negotiation should take place. It’s easier for them to pick apart your rate rather than scale back on the deliverables for the project.

For designers who are beginning out as freelancers, it’s very tempting to go negotiate like this because you might not know better.

If you set your business up, right, you likely figured out an hourly rate that’s based off of a number of things. Things like how much it costs to keep the roof over your head, how much it costs to feed yourself and of course, always important, taxes (which usually take up a good chunk of your rate).

But at the end of the day, when you do have your hourly rate, it should be reflective of what it takes to keep your business running.

Most businesses that I’ve worked with in the past always have some sort of back and forth. Everyone wants to make sure that the deal is good for them and their business. A client will almost always negotiate to favor themselves, not you.

It’s an issue for me if somebody goes right after my hourly rate. In recent contracts, this is why it’s no longer included.

But if they do come back and start poking at that, what do you do?

First, find out why there’s push back to the price. In some cases, this could be resolved by asking for the budget upfront and planning things accordingly. But if you’re past that, it might be worth looking at breaking the project up into smaller pieces.

What’s great about being designers in this day and age is that something doesn’t have to be done in one go. We have the opportunity to go back and change, adjust or build on things, especially when it comes to web.

If the client isn’t comfortable paying that full price up front, it might be possible to break up the project and turn it into smaller monthly payments or payments after milestones throughout the project. 

By negotiating deliverables in a project you’re taking more control about what your value is that you’re bringing to the table. You’re not diminishing your hourly rate. you’re not diminishing how much your paycheck is. You’re putting the focus on what somebody gets for the price that they pay.

It’s no different than going to a restaurant and ordering a five course meal. You don’t order one and then decide you don’t like the price. If you don’t like the price of a five course meal, there’s always the option for a three course one course meal. It’s kind of the same idea here.

But the most important thing when you’re negotiating, is never being afraid to walk away.

This is something that I know every single bit of negotiation advice out there includes. But I think it’s one of those things that can’t be overstated enough.

It’s especially difficult when you’re hurting for income with your business, or if you’re just getting started out. But I always remind everybody I talk to, the most important negotiating tactic you can learn is being able to walk away when it’s not a good fit.

I found a couple things happen from this. Either number one, you walk away and it turns out that you may have dodged a bullet (because some clients can be that kind.)

On the flip side walking away gives that potential client the time to really think about how important the project is to them.

I’ve had some potential clients come back and actually re-open negotiations with me after this. They were able to better understand where I was coming from, and why I was charging what I charge. It’s amazing the power behind being able to walk away when things aren’t working out.

But remember that you have to stand up for yourself. At the end of the day, while you are a one person that’s being a graphic designer, you’re also a business and you have to treat each negotiation as such.

Sign up for Finally Friday

Get weekly updates from me, as well as a free sample copy of my typeface Harvest Stout!

Daniel Nisbet will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. You acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.