September 09, 2022
Find out if (and what) people will pay
How much should you charge?
Closing a contract
Companies are always selling, and usually have full teams dedicated to prospecting, negotiating, and closing new clients. The sales teams might joke about ABC — Always Be Closing — but of all the cringe-worthy habits to form, this one can lead to good outcomes.
As with everything freelance, selling is all about going outside your comfort zone and trying new things. Here’s how to get started and continue to get new clients.
We recommend using a running document or spreadsheet to keep your research safe.
Please note: This blog post is part of our Lano Freelancer Guide. If you haven't read the previous posts in the series yet, we recommend you to do so before continuing with this post.
You can find the previous posts here:
Also known as demand in the market, essentially you want to understand if anyone will pay for whatever it is you want to do. If enough people are willing to pay, and you can cover expenses and pay yourself a decent salary, then you’re in business.
Google searches will help provide a broad idea of what’s happening in your market, and might also send you to useful trade publications, consulting reports, or industry blogs that will have more information. We keep these reference articles to hand, for example in that sales document we already created to store other information.
Additional options to understand what demand there is in the market include looking at freelancing platforms, such as Upwork or fiverr, and websites that measure full-time salaries, such as Glassdoor and PayScale. Though this may not give you a good idea of what to charge, it will tell you if other people are currently doing what you want to do.
They’re all easy to use platforms that will give you an understanding of the going full-time salaries for these roles — as a starting point.
If there’s no information available, maybe it’s not the right time or market, and it might be time to pivot.
Once you’re sure there are people out there interested in what you’re doing, it’s time to identify the ones you’d like to work with. You’ve probably identified a few of them already while doing research, so pulling those names together into a new list is a good place to start. Try to find as many companies as possible, and cut off ones that aren’t a good fit later.
Now, set the criteria for what makes a good client for you. These criteria can be anything from how creative the companies are, to the industry they work in, or maybe how close their office is located to your house. Choose the ones that make the most sense to you — there’s no right or wrong, just what’s right for you.
Number of employees
How much money the company raised
How long they’ve been in operation
Size of the customers they work with
Location of their offices
The experience of other freelancers who worked with that company
Interest of the industry
In every country, there are different negotiation cultural norms. The Culture Map written by Erin Meyer is a fantastic book that might be able to help you navigate international business relationships and negotiations by building empathy with the other person.
No matter the situation, it’s important to have an amount of money in mind, either a number or range, you’d like to walk away with if you were to accept the contract, and some reasons backing up why you believe that it’s fair. Sometimes you’ll get offers for this amount, and other times you won’t. And that’s part of the freelance pendulum swaying.
Also, there may be some things of value to you which aren’t money — for example getting a by-line on the content, be able to use the designs in your portfolio, or getting access to marketing materials which are paid for by the client. It’s all important and can provide room to be creative if budgets are fixed.
Being willing to walk away at any point from the deal means the negotiations are equal. This isn’t always achievable for a multitude of reasons. We’ve all been there. Even if things don’t go according to plan, always be respectful.
Coming to a number that you should charge as a freelancer can be a lot of trial and error. Plus, while you’re still tinkering with your pricing, each client may have a different rate. That can happen a lot.
Here’s a very simple formula:
Fixed operating costs + insurance + pension + taxes + salary + savings = Client rate
The first three items in the equation are paid for, depending on which country you live in, in part or entirely by any company who employs you full-time. So it’s important to understand that companies should be willing to look at that number rather than the gross pay (which doesn’t include all of the expenses of a full-time employee to a company). Sometimes it’s worth knowing these percentages off-hand, especially when it comes to negotiations if the company you’re speaking to is not used to working with freelancers.
To understand how much to charge, something as simple as a spreadsheet makes it easy to play around with numbers and make projections based on multiple scenarios — for example, a minimum income number required to continue operating, or more lucrative scenarios.
As soon as payment comes in, a good practise would be separating the estimated percentages for taxes, pensions, insurance and operating costs immediately. A separate bank account can be helpful for saving.
Now that you’ve negotiated the deliverables, timeline, and cost, it’s time to start working together, right? Sometimes companies prefer to sign legal contracts and NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), which have relatively standard terms on copyright and not disclosing company secrets — we suggest putting in writing what you can and cannot use as portfolio work.
Do read any contract you’re asked to sign, and ask questions. By this point, there’s very likely little chance the company doesn’t want to work with you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that’s not clear.
If the company is not used to working with freelancers, they may not have a contract template ready. Having one that you can quickly put together can speed up the time to actually working together, and makes you look all that more professional.
When you sign up for an account with Lano, you’ll get access to a template contract that’s ready to use. All you’ll have to do is add in your client’s details to the system and the rest is done automatically!
So, here's the most important info in a nutshell:
Ask the internet the right questions to understand if there’s demand in your market. Then, ask some experts
Decide what makes a good client for you, and create a long list of potential leads to reach out to
Negotiate with a number in mind, and be ready to explain why your prices are what they are. Be ready to walk away if it’s not right for you
Make your own client rate based on what your real costs are, not what they’d pay a full-timer’s gross salary
Read the contract and ask questions. Better yet, use your own template!
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