Thanks to the fact that the gig economy has grown explosively in recent years, more freelancers populate the ranks of the modern workforce than ever before. Despite the increased number of freelancers who have made their services available to companies and entrepreneurs alike, many business professionals who aren't familiar with this new style of work aren't always prepared to negotiate with freelancers effectively. Worried that they might spend too much money or hire the wrong freelancer for the job, many business owners refuse to negotiate altogether with freelancers.
Here's how to negotiate with freelancers properly, including how to avoid getting ripped off while keeping your end of the bargain.
The negotiation process
Negotiation isn't something that can always be tidily wrapped up after a single meeting. Sometimes the negotiation process can wear on for a while, and both sides need to be patient and flexible during the process so both sides achieve their goals.
Conflict is natural during negotiations – after all, business owners want to reduce costs, and freelancers want to get paid more – and these opposing aims inevitably conflict with one another. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for negotiating with freelancers is to understand things from their perspective. This will allow you to better navigate the negotiation process.
Freelancers know their worth. Lowballing a seasoned professional who deserves a higher rate of pay can reflect poorly on your business's reputation and you, and it can send otherwise ideal candidates scurrying for other offers elsewhere.
Besides pay, establish how you'll pay your freelancer early on in the negotiation process. It's an unpleasant surprise for both parties if you both spend a significant amount of time negotiating – and then arriving at an agreeable rate – only to discover that how you planned to pay the freelancer is at odds with him or her.
Now that you're aware of the basics of the negotiating process, you must prepare yourself for the intricacies of the gig economy. This is doubly true for business owners and professionals who have no experience working with the gig economy before they try to hire a freelancer.
Expect the unexpected
Nothing in the gig economy can be taken for granted. The going rates for a freelancer's special services could suddenly spike or decline based on broader market trends, or you may suddenly be introduced to new candidates whereas there were only a few candidates a few months or weeks ago. In other words, remain flexible when negotiating and keep an eye on the future. One of the perils of the gig economy is that it's less than stable by nature and thus prone to wild swings insofar as payment and recruitment are concerned.
The good news about the gig economy is that it's relatively easy to partake in. Freelancers can frequently work from the comfort of their living rooms, or anywhere else they can get a Wi-Fi connection, so a disruption to your freelancer's mode of living isn't necessarily the end of your arrangement. When a freelancer under your employ notifies you of some life changes, weigh your options. Sometimes, it may be better to adjust to their new living arrangement than to find and hire a new worker. Other times, however, you may need to cut them loose and find a more suitable candidate.
The only surefire way to bolster your negotiating savvy to the point where you can confidently navigate the tumultuous freelancer market is to consistently train yourself when it comes to fierce negotiations and tense debates. This skill will also come in handy when you negotiate with others, such as suppliers.
Be wary of offers that are too good to be true
If you're being approached by a freelancer who's offering to take on a massive amount of work for a price that's ludicrously low, you could be exposing yourself to some big risks.
Be aware that there are legal hurdles to jump through. Conducting international business with a freelancer can be alluring, but associated fees or political difficulties may render this arrangement less suitable as time goes on. You must also constantly be on the lookout for fraud, as some freelancers without qualifications pretend to be from elsewhere to bolster their hiring prospects. Never be afraid to ask for credentials and proof of identity if your suspicions are aroused with a potential freelancer.
There's nothing worse than hiring, paying and relying on a freelancer only to discover that they produce lackluster results and can't deliver what they promised. That's why business professionals should be hesitant to embrace gig workers who are willing to take extraordinarily low payments – like those drastically below the minimum wage – as you could end up outsourcing work to shoddy employees when you were really looking for a dedicated, professional freelancer who can produce good results.
It’s never easy to find good freelancers, survey several options before finalizing your decision. Companies like Upwork offer helpful guides and have candidates to choose from, but never be afraid to peruse as many options as possible. If you silo yourself into one community of freelancers, you may miss out on some great talent that could be found elsewhere. Understand that the search for a good freelancer is a job that's never truly finished.