Written by Krista Bruun
Negotiating can be an art, but it’s one of those life skills that you’ll be able to leverage anywhere, from negotiating a contract with your clients on Upwork to buying a new car or house. And being able to do it well is even more important when you’re running your own business.
As a freelancer, setting and negotiating your rate is an important step in continuing to grow your success on Upwork. As you broaden your skill set and get more experience, you’ll want to ensure that your rate reflects your latest expertise and everything you have to offer.
We understand that deciding how and when to negotiate your rate takes consideration and planning. Here are a few tips we’ve heard from other freelancers that have helped them become master negotiators.
1. Keep it professional and positive
Diplomacy goes a long way. Be confident, highlight your expertise and experience, point out what makes you the best freelancer for the contract, and express your enthusiasm to work with the client. The best negotiations happen when both parties walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome.
2. Do the negotiating over video
It’s always a good idea to have a face-to-face interview via video before starting any contract on Upwork. It also gives you the opportunity to have a real-time discussion about the rate and details of the contract. You can pick up on your client’s reaction, their body language, and tone of voice, and adjust your response accordingly.
3. Be prepared
Winging it isn’t the best idea when it comes to negotiating. Do your homework, research the client, and plan out what you want to say ahead of time. Consider doing a mock interview with a friend to practice what you’re going to say, so you feel prepared and confident.
4. Support your case
You can’t say you want a higher rate “just because.” You’ll need to back it up with a reason why. For example, you might say that after doing research on Upwork, your rate is in line with the market demand on Upwork. If it applies, another approach could be to say that the rate aligns with your experience level and the experience level the client is looking for.
5. Mention supply and demand
In addition to knowing what strengths you bring to the table, you could also talk about how your skills are in demand on Upwork. If it’s the case, you could say that you looked around and noticed there are a lot of jobs and not a lot of freelancers with the necessary skill set you have. True to the laws of supply and demand, skills that are in short supply but high demand command a higher rate on Upwork.
6. Be a good listener
Negotiating is a two-way street, and it’s as much about listening as it is about talking. Really listen to your client and try to understand their point of view rather than just focusing on what you’re going to say next.
7. Negotiate other aspects of the contract
Your rate may be the first thing you think of to negotiate, but there are other aspects of a contract that could be open to discussion. For example, depending on your field, a rush charge for a fast turnaround might be negotiable. You’ll also want to discuss the deadline; there might be room to change it. Here’s where listening comes in. It’s ok to ask, but there might be some things your client won’t flex on. Be careful not to push too hard.
8. Find the right time with existing clients
While it might seem difficult to bring up a rate increase with an existing client, it might be easier than you think. You’re most likely becoming even more vital to a client the longer you have a relationship with them. Consider broaching the topic after you complete a big milestone or reach a six-month or one-year anniversary of your first engagement.
Your rate is a reflection of the quality of your business to prospective clients and a signal of the value you bring to their project. Put these negotiating tips to work for you and you’ll be well positioned to grow your business—and income—on Upwork.