How to Negotiate a Writing Contract

by LoriAnne

writing negotiationIf you’re going to be a successful freelance writer you must learn how to negotiate contracts or agreements with the people who hire you. Many writers seem to be both confused about negotiation and maybe even a bit afraid of it.

When you look at the definition, however, it’s not so scary. According to the definition of negotiation is simply a

mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement. 

In other words, you and the client talk about what the client wants done, any deadlines, payment and payment terms. When you are in agreement and that agreement is reduced to writing, in an email, a formal contract or a letter of agreement, the negotiation is complete and successful.

In fact, those are the four musts of a negotiation:

  1. Scope  or description of work
  2. Deadlines or due dates
  3. Payment amount
  4. Payment terms or due dates

Each element is up for negotiation. For example, you might want to break a long project into parts, or you might suggest a magazine article instead or in addition to a blog post. The scope of the work is redefined.

The client wants it done by tomorrow and you know darn good and well you can’t do a decent job in less than a week – so you tell your client you’ll have it in a week.

The client offers X amount paid 30 days after completion and you counter with X+ amount, 50 percent down and the balance due on completion.

At any point the negotiation can fail if you and the  client don’t come to agreement. I don’t consider those failure s. If the client and I can’t comfortably come to agreement on any of these issues I know I’m better off letting them go find someone else. While I’m willing to do some give and take, it has to be within what’s really acceptable to me or the project is in trouble before we start.

Ask for what you want – just like a cat

It’s up to you to ask for what you want and need. That’s part of the responsibility of a freelancer. Only you can determine what kind of writing your best at and enjoy the most, how much time you’ll actually spend writing each day and how much money you first need to earn and then want to earn.

When you know these things you’re in a position to successfully negotiate a writing contract – if you don’t, you’ll hesitate and probably settle for the kind of writing job you really don’t like to do.

I actually do use my cat, MzTiz, as a model for negotiation – she knows what she wants, when she wants it and doesn’t hesitate to ask and ask. And she’s pretty reasonable when she doesn’t get her way too.

Asking for money

Naming the price you want, asking for the amount you need seems to be the hardest problem freelance writers have, particularly in the beginning. At least it was that way for me.

The biggest thing I had to learn my worth as a writer – not everyone can do what we can do. In my case I also had to believe I was worth it – improving my self esteem through counseling and groups helped immeasurably. So did just getting older.

Asking for what you want is a practice and it takes practice. The first time I upped my hourly fee by 30 percent I was scared to death. Today I name a price and I’m not frightened a bit, because I’ve learned about myself, and the writing markets I play in.

Another trick I’ve learned is that if I’ve got a fair amount in savings it’s much easier to negotiate than if I think I’ve simply got to have this next contract.

Yes, not everyone who contacts me hires me. Which is fine. I know there are always more clients out there.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman



mage: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Mikey G Ottawa



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