When should you stick to your freelance rates? And when should you relax a little bit?
Every now and then, a freelance writer has to take stock of the situation. A client might cut back on how much work they send you. They might even decide to outsource your tasks to AI. When you hit the job boards again or start sending pitches, you need to ask questions about your freelance rates.
Recently, I had two different interactions. The first involved a potential client going back and forth with me, trying to convince me to cut my rate in half. No, thank you. I asked if they wanted a referral to a beginner who might be interested in a lower rate.
The next potential (and now new) client was different. I sent my rate. There was no counteroffer. They were happy to pay. I even wondered if I needed to increase rates again. For now, I've set my rates at a level that I'm comfortable with and that works for me.
Agreeing to a Lower Freelance Rate
Agreeing to a lower rate isn't about undercutting someone else. I know that there are plenty of freelancers willing to write 1,000-word articles for between $10 and $20 apiece. I did something similar long ago, when I first started out. However, I don't accept the type of lowball offer anymore: I have some experience as a freelancer now.
When I do agree to lower freelance rates, some of the things I take into consideration include:
- How well I know you: Nothing's worse than accepting a lower rate, doing work for someone you don't really know, and then finding out that they won't be paying what they owe you. If I know you and like you, I might give you a small break. Especially if I know you'll pay on time.
- Revenue sharing/bonus: In some cases, I'll accept a lower rate if there is a traffic bonus or a revenue-sharing agreement. The bonus can make up for the lower base pay.
- Byline in a good place: Having a byline somewhere specific isn't as big a draw for me anymore, but it still helps. I am prone to charge a little more when I'm expected to write without getting any credit.
- How much work/regularity of the work: Sometimes, if it's a regular gig that guarantees long-term “employment”, I'll go with a reduced rate for the “job security” involved.
That doesn't mean that I'll always agree to a lower rate. Most of the time, I stick to my guns. I turned down three jobs so far this month because I wasn't willing to go lower in those particular instances.
Risks of Sticking to Your Freelance Rates
Whenever you stick to your freelance rates, there are some risks you run into, so it's important to weigh them.
- Negotiations can break down: If you come to an impasse, you might not get what you want, and it can be an issue. Especially if you need the money. If negotiations break down too far, you might not be able to come to an agreement and lose the client.
- Might not be able to replace the prospect: As a freelancer, you're likely applying for gigs and pitching regularly. As a result, you might feel like you can stick to your rate and be ok with a different prospect. But if you turn down too many gigs, you might run dry.
- You could end up being seen as too expensive: I'm kind of a diva, and my rates are on the higher end. People know this. Editors in the space know this. Luckily, I've been around long enough that it doesn't stop me from getting work. In some cases, though, you could end up with a reputation for being too costly.
Basically, when you stick to your rates, you run the risk of not having enough work. Sometimes you have to strike a balance. At the beginning of my career, I was willing to be flexible with my freelance rates. However, after building a reputation, establishing different income streams, and getting more clients, I've been able to get in a position where I can stick to my rates more often without risking my well-being.
Once you build your business, you can potentially make that shift too.