First Mistake in Salary or Freelance Fee Negotiations

In honor of Labor Day, let’s discuss salaries and pay. Negotiating salaries, project work or freelance pay all have one thing in common besides creating anxiety for most people; they all involve numbers.

The responsibility of naming a value belongs to the person who created the job. What does that mean? NEVER, EVER, EVER, put the first number down. The person offering the job or freelance work should put the first number down.

Remember 2 things:

  • People become attached to numbers. It’s hard to get them to forget a number or “reset” their understanding of value.
  • People also tend to undervalue themselves and that’s what future bosses count on.

When you’re being offered a job, a prospective employer may ask, “how much are you looking for?” in relation to the job being offered. Don’t fall for it. Never put the first number on the table because it is usually lower than what the company is expecting to pay unless you are applying for a job for which you are sorely overqualified.

If you are asked “what salary are you looking for to do this job” or something like that, respond by saying, “You have my salary history. What is the salary you want to pay for this job?”

If you are less experienced than another candidate, the company should adjust the offer accordingly, knowing you may need more training, supervision or time to get up to speed. They may also base it on your salary history, which they can ask you about. There’s no reason for them to ask you what “salary you’re looking for” except to use it to underpay you.

Asking you what you want for the specific job is a way of getting you to set the base for the negotiation and that’s bad for you whether it’s new job or a consulting or contracting role. If you’re a freelancer or consultant and you’re hired to write an article, do a report or create a website, the company should know what they want to pay for articles, and reports or even web related work.

Do not get pushed into a corner. Most people would undervalue themselves in this case and employers know that. That’s why they ask. Don’t let that happen to you.