Have you ever been in the following situation?
You have met a potential client who has expressed interest in working with you. You’ve met in person or had a call where you’ve talked about the idea, goals and the general scope of the project.
The client, however, didn’t mention the budget. You also didn’t ask. So, you do a research, prepare an estimate and mail it over to the client. Then there’s radio silence.
After 2 weeks, suddenly you get a reply. Something in the lines of: ”We love your work and totally want to hire you, but your estimate doesn’t fit our current budget. Could you adjust your offer, so we can take you into consideration?”
You are basically left with 2 choices: politely decline or try to negotiate. In this blog post, I am going to give you my best advice on negotiating a freelance rate with a potential low-budget client.
Do a background research
First, don’t get discouraged. I haven’t met a designer who hasn’t experienced this situation at least once in their career, if not much more often.
Do your homework. Before starting to work with a new client, I recommend that you do a “background check” on them. You want to make sure you are not going to work with someone who won’t pay you on time or doesn’t have enough money in the bank. Ask your friends and friends of friends whether they have any information about this client.
Educate your client
Get into the habit of educating your clients. One of the reasons why your client thinks your freelance rate is too high might be that they don’t fully understand the task. So, you need to jump in and clarify that.
Research more information about the task- what is it that the client needs and are you the right person for the job. Sometimes, it can turn out that what you can do for your client and what they are expecting you to do are two very different things.
It is your job to explain to the client the difference between a graphic designer who can design a beautiful flyer and a UI designer whose job it is to design a well-converting website. If you are not on the same page and you are not managing expectations, then expect this to become a much bigger problem once you have signed the contract.
If this doesn’t help, then…
Narrow down the scope
Basically, what happens sometimes is that you have briefly talked about the general idea and the scope, maybe you have put this in writing, but again, it’s very general. If you want to have a good basis in order to negotiate your freelance rate, then you need the exact project scope.
You want to have a detailed description of the tasks as possible, so you are aware how time-consuming those tasks are and whether the client knows what they want (they usually have a pretty good idea, but are not 100% sure).
One of the easiest things to do in order to fit into a budget is to narrow down the project scope. Maybe this one feature is not exactly needed for the MVP. So, the client agrees to remove some tasks from the original project scope.
Once you’ve covered the steps above, it’s time to move into the next phase.
You might also be interested in this blog post: 5 newsletters every UX/UI designer should be subscribed to
Be clear about your skills
So, let’s say everything goes smoothly and the client is considering you for the job. What do you do next? Or what don’t you do. Being a generalist is a good thing in my opinion, but when it comes to your craft- you need to be as precise as possible.
Are you a UI designer who also designs her own icons, or do you leave this to the pros? Are you also building an animated high-fidelity prototype or a simple click prototype? Details matter.
Once you have agreed on your tasks, you should create a list of exact tasks that will be done in order to complete the project. Think of it as your design process. This way you can prime the client for what they should be expecting from you. Don’t forget to add how much time each of those tasks is going to take you to complete.
If you are taking on a bigger project, it’s essential to write down your responsibilities. You do not want an unhappy client who is accusing you of sloppy work.
Ask for a final number
Last but not least, you have to ask about the final budget, and I mean you want to hear/see/read a number. Is it 1.000 € or is it 10.000 € that they are ready to pay.
Most creative people are afraid to talk about money. They think that you can’t put a price tag on creativity. Well, we both know that’s not true. Everything has a price and it’s your job to justify yours.
If the client is hesitant to disclose the budget, then don’t take them in- that’s a bad sign.
However, If the budget is smaller than what you expected, keep asking questions until you understand what’s essential and which tasks need to get done no matter what. Go through the list of design tasks and pick only the ones that are essential to completing the project.
Have a contract template ready
You went through hours of negation with your client and now you are finally happy to finally start working on that thing. The client seemed to really like your approach and you are 100% sure that they will send you a contract. As usual, they say they “will get back to you”.
If you are meeting the client in person and they are super excited to work with you, you better have a contract ready. Then all you need to do is pull it out of your bag and have them sign it. If they really do want to hire you, they will sign that contract.
If you are negotiating over email or on the phone, don’t let them set the rules of the game.
What I usually do is give my clients a deadline, by which I need to hear back from them, as I also have other obligations and possibly other potential clients, so if they want to have me in their team, they have to act fast.
I hope you enjoyed this article, as always I am interested in hearing your opinion, so share it below :)