Putting Up Prices Not Fences

Putting Up Prices Not Fences

Money is one of the reasons why people freelance. When the work is there, the rates can be excellent. So money is going to be a prime concern when it comes to renewing contracts with clients.

New terms time

It's always slightly awkward to renegotiate a contract with an existing client. It's particularly difficult when this is your biggest and oldest client. The client that's so lasting, in fact, that the rates you've been charging him all this time are now well out of date. You'd never dream of charging so little to new clients these days. But how do you tell him that you're raising your fee by what might seem to him a huge and perhaps cheeky leap?

Business is business

You don't want to offend or alienate your most loyal source of business. Your personal relationship with him is important and it's largely this rapport that's kept the partnership going so long. But, while good personal relations are a valuable element of any consulting arrangement, the health and prosperity of your business must be your bottom line.

If you're the kind of person who's afraid to even barter at a rip-off tourist flea market while holidaying where haggling is quite the custom, you might have some trouble asking a long time supplier of work for more of his cash.

So how to renew a contract without squirming in your skin or burning bridges you can't afford to char?

For starters, you don't simply ask for more money without good reason. You need to give a rationale for increasing your fee.

You're underrated

Higher expenses and overheads are perfectly good grounds. You could be renting extra office space, hiring new personnel or undergoing the latest training course in order to develop your own professional skills, all of which directly or indirectly help to improve the service you are offering your client.

Rather than simply increase your daily or per project rate, however, you could restructure your charges. This might mean asking for mileage reimbursement, if a client requires you to travel to his office, or charging for time spent at client meetings, if you didn't do so before.

Intellectually speaking

Aside from increasing your price for actual hours devoted to a client or project, you can sometimes renegotiate your intellectual capital rights. Quite often, freelancers, either knowingly or unknowingly, sign an agreement to give away all rights to the intellectual assets they create. Looking back, this might be imprudent, but it's by no means irreversible. Consider renegotiating the intellectual property terms of your agreement.

Whether it's a clever software code, a slick art design or a brilliant copy line, you might produce work for a client that you recognise to have commercial value beyond the company's specific needs. It's worth asking the client to deed that intellectual property back to you, especially if it's something he will never use in the future. Satisfied with the results of the project at hand, he may not want to go to the trouble of realising the additional value you have created.

You may also think about asking for royalties on uses of future works created while you're under contract.

Intellectual rights are a complex issue so, if you're unsure about the ins and outs, consult a lawyer before approaching your client.

Speak up

At the end of the day, when it comes to wanting more money, you've simply got to ask. You never know, your client might be anticipating your broaching the subject, bemused that he's still enjoying your services for what he knows are sub-market rates and wondering why it's taken you so long to get around to the question.

The Price Of Freedom

The Price Of Freedom

Freelance is a trade off: autonomy, satisfaction, variety and freedom in return for an equally compelling list of downsides. Immense insecurity and little opportunity to switch off from work are just two of the problems faced by freelance workers in all walks of industry.

Famines and feasts

Money worries. Financial risk and instability are part and parcel of working for yourself. But choosing to freelance is a calculated decision so you will have worked out that your contract rates of pay will normally make up for periods when business is slow.

But what if you're busy working and simply not getting paid? This is a problem that you should learn to prevent rather than solve. When you first begin or agree to a new contract, ask straight up about the company's pay procedures. Who signs off contracts? Should you complete timesheets? What expenses, if any, are reimbursed? When will you receive your cheque? If you're still sceptical about getting paid, it's worth asking for half of your fee up front. You'll be surprised how many clients are willing to oblige.

Chasing up payment for a project you've already done is frustrating. You can't turn to the person who brought you in on the project. It won't be their job to worry about finances and you don't want to appear such a pest that they won't relish the hassle of hiring you again.

Instead, you must make direct contact with the company's accounts payable team. Talk to them early and often. Long before you'd expect to see your cheque in the post, call them up to find out their standard payment terms for contractors. If it's 60 or 90 days, you might be able to change this to 30 or 45 days by simply having spoken to the right person at the end of the phone. Don't wait for a problem to arise. And if you do have a problem, don't be shy about saying so. Accounts people are used to being pursued by suppliers and contractors. You've fulfilled your service to their company and you're entitled to their attention. So do what you can to get it.

Highs and lows

An infuriating client . The work is fine. It's the person you work for that's driving you crazy. This is a personality clash like orange and pink.

Remember who's boss and learn to say no. Part of your decision to go freelance will have included less stress and the choice to work with who you like. But how do you spot a potentially troublesome client before a project's begun? Some of the telltale signs are a client who negotiates overly hard on your fee, demands an extensive written proposal or asks you to do a lot of preliminary work for no charge. If you sense any niggling doubt, go with it. If you're already committed to the contract from hell, finish the job, do it well, and then fire your client.

Ups and downs

No time to market yourself. When you're busy juggling jobs for and meetings with a number of clients, there's often no time to do that essential freelance task of marketing yourself to potential new ones.

If this is your problem, it needn't be. You're probably thinking about marketing as if you still worked for a large corporation. Break out of the old mindset. Promoting yourself as a freelancer is not about responding to newspaper ads or dropping flyers through people's doors. But it's about almost everything else, including the quality of your work, the reliability you demonstrate, the look of your website, the articles you write, the networks you join, the conferences you attend and the conversations you have with the people sitting next to you.

Peaks and troughs

All work and no play. Even if you do find time to update your website or revamp your business cards, freelance life can make Jack a very dull boy. If you are your own business then there's a natural reluctance to close the business for even one second of the day for fear of missing an opportunity. Time to fix some boundaries. Set a daily quitting time, designate an hour for the gym and arrange a date to play squash. Schedule days off, and not necessarily at the weekends. You dictate your own timetable so treat yourself to a weekday away from your computer. The shops will be less crowded and you can enjoy a stroll in a relatively empty park. And the joy of being off work in the middle of the week, while everyone else is at their desks, will give you an added sense of appreciation and empowerment.

Swings and roundabouts

Feeling lonely. Having longed to escape all those corporate annoyances like time wasting meetings, political promotions, back stabbing gossip and obligatory socials, there are moments when every freelancer feels out on a limb. And if you do most of your work from home, you can go quite stir crazy.

Even the most hardened of loners crave personal interaction. But as a freelance worker, other people won't come to you – you have to go to them. So call an old colleague. Call a new one too. Then call a friend who has nothing whatever to do with your work. Read magazines outside of your field. Surf websites on new topics of interest. Check out the latest film releases.

In short, stimulate yourself by whatever means are needed to keep your intellectual curiosity on its toes, while achieving a healthy balance between your professional life and the personal and social lives that keep you sane. It's important to love what you do, but remember to work to live and not live to work.