You know the drill – the more stable and trustworthy a relationship is, the easier it is to engage in difficult conversations. The business world is no exception. Do money talks and contract negotiations make you shudder? Don’t worry! With these 12 tips, you'll create the right bond with your customers so that no topic ever gives you a headache again.
Five factors to building a trusting client relationship
Since I started working as a freelancer, I spotted five main factors that are necessary for creating a good relationship with clients. These are:
If I were to name one thing that could make or break successful freelancer-client cooperation it would be communication. Lack of it can lead to concern and worry on the client’s side. So, it’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate. Keep them up to date with work progress, and let them know about any problems you’re facing. Especially, if they can result in project delays! The sooner you let the client know, the more time they’ll have to prepare for it.
Delivering on promises
When you start working with a new client, it’s perfectly normal to want to make a good first impression and quickly gain their trust. The key here is to make sure you’re not taking on too much responsibility or promising results you can’t guarantee.
For example, if you’ve been asked to work on visuals for a new app, but some of the brand guidelines are missing, tell the client about your concerns. Don’t put on a brave face and say that you’ll figure it out and that they’ll be happy with the result. After all, if the specifications aren’t clear, you can’t be certain that it will align with their vision.
The same goes for taking on too many tasks simultaneously – be realistic, and only promise outcomes that are entirely within your reach and responsibility scope. This way, you’ll make sure you always deliver on time. Speaking of, this brings us to the next point.
Sticking to deadlines
If you’ve worked as a full-time employee for most of your career, you might think of ‘deadlines’ as something that applies mainly to you and not the hiring party. When you become a freelancer, you need to revisit this approach. The client isn’t your team leader; they’re a partner. To guarantee your project’s success, you can expect them to meet deadlines the same way they expect it from you.
When estimating the delivery date for a task you’re working on, always give yourself an extra 1-2 days to make sure nothing unpredictable stands in the way.
As for the client, don’t be afraid to follow up if they haven’t met their end of the deal (for example, forgot to submit the project requirements or get back to you with a decision regarding your next steps).
Asking for feedback
Next, be sure to collect feedback from your client. Even more importantly, implement it in your work! For example, if they have asked you to use a different font or set of colors, and you follow their instructions from that day onward, it will positively influence your client’s trust and satisfaction. That being said, feedback works both ways. If there is anything on your mind, you should contact the client early on so you can solve the issue and prevent any tensions.
You can collect insights on an ongoing basis (for example, ask clients to leave comments to your work in collaboration tools), as well as schedule regular catch-up calls. Ultimately, collecting feedback will help both sides improve and boost transparency.
Emotions are part of human nature; we all have good and bad days. This is something we have to take into account while working with clients. Sometimes, however, no matter how hard we try, we just lose it and say things that we later regret. When it happens, it’s crucial to apologize and forgive – holding grudges will prevent you from performing at your best.
If you receive an upsetting email from your client, instead of responding instantly, leave it. I guarantee that you will feel completely different about it the next day, and your response to it will also be different. Not communicating with your clients when you feel emotional will help you stay out of trouble.
12 tips to making money talks comfortable & effective
Now that we’ve mentioned the five pillars of successful client–freelancer relationships, let’s get down to business! When it comes to salary, here are some of the most important things that we’ve learned throughout the years.
1. Decide when to disclose your rates
A potential client reaches out with a promising project and you seem like a perfect fit for each other… And yet, you don’t know when’s the best time to disclose how much you charge. Does any of this ring a bell? Knowing when to share your rates can be particularly troublesome when you’re new to freelance work. Display your rates too soon, and you’ll worry that you might have scared them off before they understand your services’ worth. Do it too late, and risk having the client back away due to lack of funds. How do you tackle this effectively?
Take a few steps back, and start off with some market research. See how many fellow specialists offering services similar to yours disclose their rates online. In your research, stick to professional communities like Dribbble and StackOverflow over massive marketplaces, where the rates tend to be undervalued.
Depending on your niche, freelancers might either be transparent about their rates or keep them secret until they’ve made sure they’re dealing with a qualified lead. If you ask me, the latter approach has one key advantage – it keeps your rates secret from any potential competitors looking to outbid you.
To learn more about setting rates, be sure to read our recent article on making money as a freelancer.
2. Ask for prepayment from new clients
If you’ve been approached by a potential client and haven’t heard of their company before, it might be a good idea to ask for prepayment – at least for the first month. This will particularly apply to any fixed price and retainer agreements.
You see, part of being a freelancer is making sure that you avoid working with clients who aren’t financially stable. Especially, if the new project you’re considering would be your only source of income.
How to go about this? Depending on where you’re based, you can consider submitting a pro forma, i.e., a document that works as an order request.
You can also use a service like PayPal, Revolut, or Wise, all of which allow you to create fast, one-click payment requests (be sure to check their fees to choose the best option).
Once the client has settled the invoice, you’ll be able to start work with peace of mind.
3. Discuss who covers extra fees
One of the perks of freelance work is getting to cooperate with clients from across the globe. If you decide to go down this road, be ready to engage in money talks such as:
Who will cover international bank transfer costs? If you decide to cover them yourself, consider increasing your base rate so that you don’t feel like you’re being underpaid.
Whether you’ll be issuing invoices in your local currency. For example, if your local currency is Yen, and you decide to collect payment in US dollars, make sure to set up a dedicated USD account. This helps me avoid the pricey conversion rates of traditional banks.
4. Sign a contract
Take it from me – signing a contract will do wonders for your long-term relationship with the client. It will set clear expectations for both parties from Day One, such as who is responsible for what. This will help you avoid any misunderstandings, including those that relate to payment.
What does a ‘good’ contract include? On top of the other tips in this section, make sure that it specifies:
Your standard rate and any extra compensation for additional work. If the client has a retainer of 80 hours a month and asks you to clock in an additional five, then you should make sure that the contract specifies how you charge for them.
Who will be responsible for processing payment? Is it the team leader you’re working with? Or maybe someone in the accounting department? Ask for the email address you can send any payment-related inquiries to.
When you’re entitled to submit the invoice. For example, is it the last day of the month, once you’ve completed all the tasks, or used up all the hours in the retainer?
How many days does the client have to pay? Aim at getting payment before any tax and contributions are due in your host country so that you don’t have to cover them from your savings.
If there are payment delays, do you reserve the right to put your services on hold until all invoices have been settled?
Would you rather avoid this sort of paper and legal work and back-and-forth negotiations with the client? Good news! Sign up with MVP Match, and we’ll take care of all the formalities for you. All you need to tell us is how much you want to make and we’ll handle the rest.
All set? Let’s now move on to our advice for on-the-job work.
5. Specify payment deadlines on the invoice
You might be wondering: “why should my invoice include the due date if my contract already made it clear?”. The answer is that your payment will most likely be handled by someone in the accounting department, who’s never laid eyes on your contract. They simply receive the invoice from your contact person and are asked to process the payment. To avoid back-and-forth communication about unpaid invoices, be sure to specify the exact due date on every single invoice.
6. Explain when extra charges apply
It’s impossible to predict every possible scenario that could impact your project’s end cost. It might turn out that your final work due to specifications’ change is significantly different from the initial idea, which you put a price tag on. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s good to be prepared for such situations as they take place often. Include a provision in your contract to explain when extra charges will apply. This will protect you from any potential financial losses while letting the client know what they can expect in case their requirements change.
7. Contact your client when the payment is overdue
The tough reality is that, occasionally, late payments will occur. To avoid unpleasant conversations with your client, state in your contract what will happen in such a case.
You can decide not to draw any consequences, or impose fees. Whichever option you choose, don’t be afraid to contact the client as soon as the payment is overdue. I realize that sending reminders might feel uncomfortable, but postponing them might give an impression that you accept the delays. If you don’t receive any information on when the payment will be settled, be persistent and keep contacting your client until you do.
Asking for a raise
8. Inform clients in advance about the raise
While no one expects you to keep your rates unchanged for years, it’s best not to surprise them with a sudden increase. Making sure that your clients know you’re planning to put your rate up boosts your chances of getting a thumbs up.
You can include a provision in your contract that says that your rate will increase annually to match inflation. Alternatively, you could send them an email to say that you’re planning to increase your pricing by 10% (or any other number) in two months. Letting them know in advance gives them time to decide how they want to proceed, and gives you a chance to find another client in case they don’t accept the raise.
9. Choose the right timing
Timing is everything, so I recommend checking when your client usually negotiates rates with contractors or freelancers. Is it at the beginning or at the end of the year? If you shoot them a message at the right time, then you won’t make them feel like it’s coming out of the blue. And when they’re more prepared – both mentally and budget-wise, then there’s a higher chance of success!
10. Justify the price raise
If you want to make it easier for your clients to accept the price bump, then explain the reason behind it. It can be any of the following:
Rising living costs
Growing operational costs
Change in initial project requirements – you now have to put in more hours to deliver the work.
Regardless of the cause, it’s good to clarify the change in pricing, so it’s easier for the client to empathize with you.
11. Show them the value of your work
Have you ever heard the saying “show, don’t tell”? I bet you did! It also applies to your work. It’s a lot easier to ask for a raise if you can prove your work’s value. If you’re able to demonstrate that your project has generated $10,000 in profit or was able to save them $10,000 in costs, then you can prove that working with you is a good investment.
Recently, a client that I write articles for, sent me a message saying that one of the pieces I have written converts into product demos. Not only was it a great mood booster for me, but it also assured her that cooperating with me pays off!
12. One higher raise is better than a few small ones
Asking for a raise is time-consuming and might negatively affect your image. And since you have to justify it every single time, it’s better to opt for one higher raise than to ask for smaller ones every few months. I imagine it would be hard to constantly come up with new reasons for putting your rates up. Not to mention, the inability to correctly price your work could make you look inexperienced or unprofessional.
Becoming a money talks pro
Money talks, although potentially nerve-wracking, are part of being a freelancer. The good news is, the more experienced you are, the easier they get. If you build a trusting relationship with clients, and you’re able to prove the benefits of your work, then rate negotiations shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you need help with starting as a freelancer, then join MVPMatch. We will take care of all formalities and help you kick off with exciting projects.