Negotiation of terms begins the first part of any contract agreement among freelance writers and their customers. A negotiation at the beginning of a writer’s contract agreement is not usually a resolution process for a dispute. Rather, negotiations a freelance writer encounters prior to work are entered into to prevent later disputes. Below are seven negotiation tips for writers working independently with freelance customers.
1. Set a fair and reasonable price for work. Most employers will ask “up front” for the writer’s prices per piece or word count or for an hourly rate. Writers are expected to fulfill their work at the rates agreed upon. Performing more work does not mean obtaining more pay. If a freelance customer requests more work within the scope of the existing writing project, a re-negotiation should be approached.
2. Define the scope of the writing project. Exact deliverables expected for the price of work need to be set in the negotiation of terms. The amount of time and other resources it will take to complete the writing project should be firmly in the writer’s mind when conducting this aspect of the negotiation. If the writing project scope is not clearly defined, a fair and reasonable price cannot be determined.
3. Listen closely to all verbal agreements. A writer that listens to their freelance customers verbal agreements picks up on the customers’ preferences. From a freelance customer’s preferences, a writer can infer what the customer will not like included in the deliverables and project scope as well.
4. Be aware of cultural bias regarding formal or informal negotiations. Some cultures and some clients prefer informal agreements to formal terms. Usually this means there is room for the agreement to project scope and price to change later, but not always. An informal negotiation is just as serious about the binding terms of price, scope, and deliverable as a formal negotiation even though an informal negotiation process resolution may not be concrete on paper or may be based on something a simple as a promise.
5. Recognize that negotiation is not bargaining. Bargaining is the act of trying to pay the least amount possible for an item in question. In a bargaining situation the seller possesses most of the leverage. In writing project negotiations, leverage is possessed equally by the writer and the freelance customer.
6. Keep an open and honest during negotiations. While negotiations are in progress, both the freelance customer and writer may change their minds over the terms of agreement and the decision of employment. Some freelance customers view writing projects as continually “on spec” and subject to cancellation at any time. Writers should approach negotiations honestly without holding back information that might affect the writing project for this reason.
7. Settle all disputes before beginning the writing project. Any open ended disagreements not resolved before the start of a writing project will be reopened later once the writing project is in progress. Open disagreements are detrimental to customer satisfaction and severely limit the writer.
Further recommended reading:
1. “The Forgotten Art of Listening” (Brodow, Ed, 2015)
2. “Negotiation and Freelance Writers- An Art” (Wayman, Anne, 2015; About Freelance Writing)