Freelancers, here’s how to answer the dreaded ‘What’s Your Rate?’ with ease
One of the questions that many freelancers find difficult to answer is the terse and too direct: ‘What’s Your Rate?’.
It’s often thrown into conversation before us freelancers have had a chance to deliver a full pitch or have a thorough discussion about the work involved, writes Emilie Heaney, founder of Start-Up Marketer.
When ‘What’s Your Rate?’ is fired (duck)
Get the answer ‘wrong’ or splutter it out in a way that the prospective client doesn’t like, and it could result in no commission for you whatsoever. And that’s even if you have prepared properly by calculating your hourly rate, your Minimum Acceptable Rate (MAR) and your optimal rate.
Given that it sounds like anything but an open-ended question, it might surprise you to know that there are actually a number of ways you can answer the dreaded ‘What’s Your Rate?’
However be aware that the response you go for, if you want to avoid giving an instant quote in pounds and pennies (which you probably do because it will invariably sound too much or you’ll get knocked back), will largely depend on your understanding of the scope of the project.
Response 1) Wait until you know more
In some instances, or if you just want to be cautious, it can be better to wait before answering any rate or pay questions at all, until you have a clearer picture.
So you could say in reply: “Let’s discuss in a bit more detail what you’re hoping to achieve so that I can get a more accurate picture of the project and then price it up for you specifically.”
Freelancers, just be careful to then actually have that discussion! So don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to understand exactly what the client is expecting you to provide.
Response 2) Give a nice range
If you have all the project details you need (or just can’t stall any longer for additional details!), it can be less off-putting to the potential customer if you provide a range of figures in answer to the question.
So you could say in reply: “Most of my clients pay between £XX and £XX per hour for this kind of service, or for this type of project it can vary between £XXX and £X,XXX.”
Freelancers, just make sure that the lower end of the scale of what you quote is still a reasonable figure (above your MAR), so that whatever happens you’ll still be paid a rate you’re comfortable with.
Response 3) Offer different options, and maybe a freebie
Alternatively, you may prefer to offer different pay models and let your client decide which they feel most comfortable with. If you’re planning to work on retainer, for instance, you could offer a few different options and allow your client to choose the one they prefer.
So you could say in reply: “It’s up to you really. We can definitely provide ‘X’ hours per week for £‘Y’ with an additional hourly rate of £‘Z’ if we go over the set hours”.
Freelancers, then have ready THREE different options for the set number of hours.
Be clear what this rate includes so that the client knows what to expect.
Here, you could also throw in something that costs you very little, but that you know the client will appreciate as an EXAMPLE of something that WON’T incur any cost at the additional rate (£ ‘Z’). A ‘freebie’ they will perceive it as, and while this thing/task/item will cost you something, it’ll be small compared to the good will that you’re buying here by getting them to agree to your overall price.
These are just three of the many ways to respond to ‘What’s Your Rate?’ to help avoid getting instantly knocked back or immediately negotiated down. But:
Be prepared to negotiate if necessary
If you are clear on the rates you wish to work for, you will be able to negotiate in a more confident way. Negotiation is a natural part of business and a key skill for freelancers to learn. The dream client is one who accepts your rate instantly. But many wish to negotiate.
When doing this, be clear about the scope of the service you are providing, your previous experience and your preferred rate. Crucially, avoid using emotional language and be firm about your expectations. This type of discussion will get easier the more you practice!
Finally, beware the clients who are NOT willing to negotiate
As a freelancer, you are providing a valuable service to your clients. You are not asking for charitable donations. Knowing your worth as a freelancer has a lot to do with your perception of your role. You’re not a beggar going cup in hand to businesses, you're a valuable asset providing a service that they don’t have the skillset to do themselves.
With this in mind, negotiation should always be an option. It’s proof that your client values your services and is willing to work towards a solution that benefits everyone. If the answer is ‘no’ and always ‘no’ when you’re negotiating rates, you might need to rethink that relationship!