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8 Tips For Freelancers To Negotiate Fair Rates

At Storyhunter, we’ve created a culture where negotiation between freelancers and publishers is not just tolerated, but encouraged. While…
8 Tips For Freelancers To Negotiate Fair Rates

At Storyhunter, we’ve created a culture where negotiation between freelancers and publishers is not just tolerated, but encouraged. While we don’t fix project rates, we do set floor prices based on day rates, location, and the scope of the project.

As a skilled freelancer or production company, you have a lot of bargaining power. If publishers set a low price range, they won’t attract quality talent. Publishers want high-quality work and you can supply it — for fair payment. Whether you’re using the counter offer tool on our platform, or navigating the world of negotiation on your own, make sure you know what your services are worth.

Storyhunter filmmaker William L. Wroblewski shot this video for AJ+.

Here are eight tips on negotiating fairly and effectively:

1. Know your own value.

You are a skilled professional, who worked extremely hard to get to where you are now. Don’t sell yourself short. Remember there are many jobs open to you because of your skills, and you close yourself to good opportunities if you jump on one that doesn’t value you.

2. Ask detailed questions about the project.

Your ultimate goal should be to figure out the true scope of the work. Often the commissioning editor or producer doesn’t really know what they need or want from you. By asking detailed questions about the scope of the project, you will often uncover extra pieces of information that will require more of your time and resources, and, as such, should be factored into the deal.

Storyhunter storyteller Barbara Beltramello shot this video for The Huffington Post.

3. Document any changes to the project.

The act of writing down any changes in the production ensures that the communication between you and your publisher was effective and understood. This will ensure that both sides understand the scope clearly, and sometimes a visible list of line items or project benchmarks can show the client just how much work the project entails and provide additional leverage.

4. Work backwards from your day rate.

Once you’ve figured out the project’s scope, be realistic about the number of days it will require. Then work backwards to figure out if you’re actually getting paid fairly for the amount of time that you expect to be working. This is how you figure out your minimum. Then, if you see that you’re undervaluing the cost, ask your publisher if they can pay at least your day rate.

Storyhunter filmmaker Ivan Abreu created this video for Ensia.

5. Double check expense policies.

Sometimes producers aren’t aware of their company’s expense policies. It’s always better to know your allotment for expenses — if any — before starting a project. Make sure you clarify whether expenses are covered in the deal. If not, you want to make sure there is a policy for adding them later. If there is a cap, make sure your production plans do not exceed it.

6. Don’t work on “spec”.

While some media companies will promise you a rate for work on spec, it’s best practice not to do any shooting until you have a firm commitment from the company. Once you do a job on spec, even if you come back with the material required, you lose all leverage for negotiation. Agree on price, get the commission, and then do the job to ensure you never waste your time or resources.

7. Ask for more rights.

If a company won’t budge on pricing and you still want to do the job, ask if they’ll let you keep the footage or the rights to the video you create. This way, you have the option of selling the same material again and again.

8. Learn how to say no.

The first rule of negotiation is being ready to walk away. If a publisher won’t offer you what you’re worth, it’s better for you to just say no, however difficult that might be. The effect of this action is that you protect your time, and the publisher understands the actual value of the project. Often they will come back to you because they appreciate your work and unique skills.

What other techniques do you use to negotiate freelance rates?

By D. Simone Kovacs, Storyhunter Editor