Negotiating payment for short-term projects

Everyone wants to be fairly compensated for their work, but not everyone knows how to ensure that happens. Many individuals who take on freelance projects and temporary jobs aren’t paid as well as they could be because they botched the negotiation process with their client or skipped it entirely.

To avoid this scenario in your own career, consider the following tips provided by Dr. Kristin Cardinale, a serial entrepreneur and author of The 9-to-5 Cure. According to her, these are the five cardinal rules to keep in mind while negotiating your rate.

1. Don’t make the first offer.

Cardinale says your potential client should make the first offer, and you’ll learn a great deal from what he or she first proposes. “For example, if the offer is an unreasonable lowball offer, observe the body language of the person delivering it. Is that person uncomfortable or confident? If the person confidently names a rate that is 50% less than market value, you may be dealing with someone who is simply looking for a bargain and may not be a good match for you. If the individual is uncomfortable, then perhaps he or she figured it was worth a try to start low and work up the pay scale,” she explains.

2. Don’t ditch the negotiation just because the initial offer is disappointing.

Cardinale notes that it’s important to remember that a client’s first offer is never his or her best offer. “This process is a negotiation, and the job of the potential employer is to hire you for the best price possible. Therefore, simply view this initial offer as a starting point, not the bottom line,” she advises.

3. Know your worth and what you want before diving into negotiations.

Research what a position or project typically pays and determine the absolute lowest rate you’d accept for your efforts before negotiating. According to Cardinale, if you lack this knowledge you’re more likely to fumble throughout the negotiation and feel disappointed with the outcome. Keep in mind that your rate of pay needs to account for the fact that you are a no-risk hire, benefits-free, short-term commitment. There is a premium to be paid by the company for those advantages that greatly favour them.

4. Be confident.

When you name your price, speak with confidence, advises Cardinale. She then suggests that you smile, sit in silence and look the potential client in the eye in a polite, relaxed manner. “If this is your standard rate, then say so; if this is less than your standard rate, then be sure to inform the client. The delivery tells the employer a lot about how much wiggle room exists,” she says.

5. Don’t sell yourself short.

If the potential client can’t or won’t offer a wage that meets your bottom line, don’t be afraid to pass on the job or project. “You can always call back at a later date and agree to the lower wage, but keep the ‘happiness’ factor in mind. If you go in working for peanuts, working long hours or some other configuration of factors that causes you frustration, you will likely not be the stellar professional with the great attitude that you need to portray in order to get a callback in the future,” she says.

Bad behavior could tarnish your reputation, causing poor word-of-mouth marketing about you to other potential clients. If the terms are not a match for you, enjoy the freedom of walking away from the table — politely, of course.”