How Freelancers can Expertly Negotiate Using Business English Phrases & Tips

As a freelancer, strong negotiation skills are crucial for getting fair compensation and profitable projects.

Unlike regular employees, freelancers don’t have set salaries and must negotiate rates independently for each client. Being able to negotiate firmly is essential for success; without it, you risk undervaluing yourself or accepting unfair deals.

Skilled negotiators can command higher rates in line with their expertise. In this lesson, we’ll cover 11 freelancer negotiation tips with phrases. Now, you might be unsure how to apply these phrases to a conversation, but don’t worry—I’ll be showing you 3 example negotiation conversations.

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1) Do your research

And this means checking industry surveys, freelance job sites, and talking to colleagues for opportunities. Let’s look at some example phrases which show why doing your research is so important.

Example phrases:-

When justifying your price

“Following research, the typical rate for this type of work is ‘$30.”

“Based on my research from surveying other freelancers in this field, the going rate is ‘$25 to $30 per hour.”

“Based on data from leading industry sources, the standard rate for this work is ‘$20 to $30.”

“Having researched rates on freelance job boards, the average pay for this type of project is $27 per hour.”

2) Be confident and assertive

Enter discussions with conviction. Don’t hesitate or sound unsure and set firm deadlines.

Example phrases:-

When setting your rate

“My rate for a project of this scope is $40.”

“Based on my background and experience, my rate for this work would be $35 per hour.”

“My rate is non-negotiable at $25 for this project.”

When setting a timeframe

“In order to reserve time in my schedule, I will need a commitment from you by January 25th.”

“My policy is that I can hold a spot open for up to 10 days before I must open it up to other clients.”

“I will need a firm commitment on rates and project scope by the end of next week in order to proceed.”

When having requirements in advance

“I need the contract signed before booking your project into my schedule.”

“To ensure I can prioritize this in my schedule. I require a 25% deposit upfront before beginning work.”

3) Aim high

As a freelancer, you must aim high. Quote high to allow room to negotiate, and have a minimum rate in mind.

Example phrases:-

“My hourly rate for this type of work starts at $60.”

“I would quote $600 for this project based on the estimated time and effort required.”

“I cannot accept less than $215 for this project, given my experience and skills.”

4) Justify your rate

Reference those specific expertise areas, your skills, and your experience to back up your rate.

Example phrases:-

“Given my 10 years of experience in this field, I believe $27 per hour is a fair rate.”

“Considering the level of skill and expertise this project requires, my rate of $48 is appropriate.”

5) Ask questions

Ask about budget range, decision deadlines, and if there’s room to compromise.

Example phrases:-

“What is the typical budget for a project of this size and scope?”

“Is there any flexibility in that hourly rate?”

“What is the scope for negotiation on the price?”

“When specifically do you expect to have a decision made by?”

6) Developing a formal quote

This is really important. It’s about taking time to provide a comprehensive written quote after an initial call, an initial meeting, or written dialogue. So, you can confirm they receive it and be willing to negotiate a timeline or scope but not your rate ideally.

Example phrases:-

When telling the client you will provide a formal quote

“Let me put together a full project quote and get back to you next week with details on scope and pricing.”

When asking what information they need in the quote

“What specific elements should I include in the proposal to help you make a decision?”

When giving a timeline

“I can give you a detailed quote with pricing and timelines by the end of the week.”

When sending a written quote

“I can give you a detailed quote with pricing and timelines by the end of the week.”

“As discussed, please see the attached proposal for the website redesign project. It outlines the scope, deliverables, timeline and my proposed rates.”

When asking to set up a call

“I’ve sent over a quote. Let’s set up a call to review it together and answer any questions you may have.”

When asking for confirmation that they received it

“Just wanted to check if you received the proposal I sent over last week. Looking forward to discussing.”

When following up if no response

“Checking in on the quote I provided last Monday. Please let me know if you have any other questions or need any clarification.”

When demonstrating flexibility on small details

“I’m open to tweaking certain aspects like the timeline if needed.”

When standing firm on rates

“I cannot compromise on the proposed rate given the effort involved.”

“The rate I have provided is fixed and not open to further discounts.”

7) Be flexible

You can give discounts for buying more or committing long term, and you can also bundle services.

Example phrases:-

“I could offer a 10% discount if you contract me for at least 20 hours per month.”

“We could settle on a flat rate of $215 for the entire project, but revisions would be limited to three rounds within that price.”

“I can prioritise your project and start right away if you are able to increase the budget by 15%.”

8) Don’t undervalue yourself

Be willing to say no to low offers; know your worth.

Example phrases:-

“I’m afraid $18 per hour is below my normal rate for this kind of work.”

“While I appreciate the offer, I could not complete the project for less than $720.”

“I must decline any rate lower than $42 for this work.”

9) Keep negotiating

You can make counter offers; you can keep pushing forward towards a fair rate.

Example phrases:-

“I propose $32 per hour. Does that work within your budget?”

“Would you be willing to increase the rate to $32?”

“Perhaps we could find a middle ground at $25 per hour. Would that work for you?”

10) Know when to walk away

Walk away when negotiations stall or rates are unfair; it’s as simple as that.

Example phrases:-

“I’m sorry, but I cannot accept less than $250 for this project.”

“I don’t think I can make this project work within your budget constraints.”

“Unless you can increase the rate to $24, I will have to walk away from this project.”

11) Concluding negotiations

Conclude the negotiations and get all the details in writing before starting work. This tip is essential.

Example phrases:-

“Does this hourly rate and estimated total price work for you?”

“Shall we move forward with this agreement at $22 per hour?”

“If you are agreeing at $22 per hour, I can send over a contract to formalise.”

Could you confirm this in writing so we can finalise the agreement?”


FIRST EXAMPLE DIALOGUE

The scenario is a freelance web developer negotiating with a potential client on an e-commerce website project.

CLIENT: “I’m looking to hire a web developer to build an eCommerce site for my small business.”

DEVELOPER: “Based on my research, the typical rate for an e-commerce site is $75 to $100 per hour. Given my expertise with eCommerce platforms like Shopify, my rate would start at $90 per hour for a new site. What budget do you have in mind?”

CLIENT: “I was hoping to keep costs down, so I’m looking to pay around $50 to $60 per hour. Is there any room to negotiate your rate?”

DEVELOPER: “I’m afraid $60 is below my minimum rate for a complex eCommerce build. However, I could offer a 10% discount if you contract me for at least 120 hours over 3 months. That would bring my rate down to around $81 per hour.”

CLIENT: “Hmm, even $81 per hour is still quite high for me I really can’t go over 7,000 total for the project.”

DEVELOPER: “I understand, however that rate properly reflects the time and expertise needed for a quality eCommerce site. Perhaps we could find a middle Grand at $85 per hour? Would that work for you?”

CLIENT: “I’m sorry but $85 per hour is still beyond my budget. I may need to look for another developer that fits my price range. But please let me know if you reconsider.”

DEVELOPER: “I cannot go below $85 per hour for an eCommerce project of this scale. Thank you for your time but unless you can increase the rate to $85, I will have to walk away. Please keep me in mind if your budget changes for this project.”

SECOND EXAMPLE DIALOGUE

The scenario is a client is looking to hire a freelance graphic designer to create branding assets for their new startup company.

CLIENT: “We need a graphic designer to create branding assets for our new company. What are your rates for something like our logo, letterhead and brand guide?”

DEVELOPER: “For comprehensive brand identity work, my rate starts at $75 an hour. Given my branding expertise and the strategic work involved, that’s my base rate. What budget do you have in mind?”

CLIENT: “We were hoping to keep it around $50 an hour to be cost effective. Is there any flexibility on your rate?”

DEVELOPER: “I offer discounted packages for larger projects and could do $65 an hour, if you contract me for at least 60 hours over 2 months. I also offer volume discounts and capped revision rounds.”

CLIENT: “Hmm that could work – $65 an hour with just one round of revisions included would fit our budget.”

DEVELOPER: “That sounds fair. Shall we move forward with an agreement at $65 an hour with one round of revisions for minimum 60 hours over 2 months? I can send over a contract to formalise.”

CLIENT: “Yes, that works for us. I’m excited to get started on this branding project.”

DEVELOPER: “Wonderful! I’ll get the contract sent over today so we can get this agreement confirmed in writing. Looking forward to working with you on this project.”

THIRD EXAMPLE DIALOGUE

The scenario is a client reaches out to a freelance social media manager about handling their Instagram account.

CLIENT: “We need help improving our brand’s Instagram presence, what are your rates for social media management based on average rates?”

MANAGER: “Social media services start around $50 per hour. With 5 years experience growing Instagram followings my rate is $75 per hour for this work. What budget do you have?”

CLIENT: “We were hoping to pay around $50 per hour to be cost effective. Is there any flexibility on your rate?”

MANAGER: “While I aim for affordability, $50 is below my minimum. Given the expertise this work requires, I could offer 10% off if you commit to a three month contract for at least 10 hours per week bringing the rate to $67.50 per hour.”

CLIENT: “I think we could make $67 per hour work.”

MANAGER: “That’s great before finalising, I’d suggest I put together a detailed proposal outlining the full scope strategy and estimated costs for you. I can get it to you early next week.”

CLIENT: “A proposal with examples of your work, detailed costs and timelines would be great.”

MANAGER: “Perfect, I’ll get that sent over within a few days and then we can discuss the details together. Once you approve we can move forward to formalise the agreement in writing. I look forward to partnering on your Instagram presence.”


Activity

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