How to Negotiate With Clients for Better Fees

John Krautzel
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How do you negotiate with clients? It's one of the hardest skills to learn, but an essential skill to master. Whether you are a freelancer, a consultant or a member of a firm, learning how to negotiate with clients is one of the best ways to raise your fees and bring in more money. The following tips and tricks will help you develop your negotiation skills and get you the client fees you deserve.

First, you need to figure out the minimum fee you will accept. Many freelancers or consultants go into a negotiation without knowing how much money they need to earn to keep their business running. It's time to take a good look at your accounting system and determine exactly what your minimum fee needs to be.

This minimum fee should be framed as an hourly rate, and should be enough money to cover your business expenses, your self-employment taxes and any other outstanding expenses. It should also include a profit, both to put into growing your business and to fund your living expenses. The profit is what you take home, after all, and it is one of the most important parts of your fee.

Once you figure out your minimum fee, determine the fee you'd actually like to earn. This number is higher than your minimum fee, often by a factor of two or more, and it is the number you need to aim for when you negotiate with clients.

Before you begin your negotiation, consider what the client hopes to gain from the partnership. Then, when you start to negotiate with clients, frame the conversation as a way for both parties to get what they want. Opening with your common interests is the best way to ensure both of you reach an equitable agreement and you get the fee you hope to earn.

If a client makes a counteroffer that is lower than your desired fee, it is your job to convince the client that the services you are offering are worth the higher rate. As FastCoDesign notes, remember that you have time on your side. The client needs your work to fulfill a goal or meet a deadline. If you stand firm to your desired pay rate when you negotiate with clients, it is likely that the client will choose to accept the rate rather than go without your services.

You also need to know when to accept a slightly lower fee in exchange for an important job. Negotiations where you accept less than you want should be few and far between, but they are an occasional part of doing business.

No matter what, never go below your minimum fee. If you accept work that is below your minimum fee, you accept a job that does not pay enough to fund your business or your personal expenses. This is the type of move that causes freelance and consulting businesses to fail. If a client is not willing to pay at least your minimum fee, say no and look for other clients that can afford to pay.

Learning how to negotiate with clients is one of the best ways to raise your fees and bring in more money. Follow these tips to improve your negotiation skills and earn better fees.


(Photo courtesy of Ambro /


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