Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?

In these times of necessary financial restraint (boo!), it’s more important than ever before to make sure that you’re setting your rates at a level you deserve, and that you’re receiving full compensation for the work that you do.

This has always been a struggle for me. When in an office setting, I was never aggressive enough to pursue or negotiate the raises I felt I deserved, and now that I’m a freelancer, setting fair rates seems an impossible task!

Why is it so hard for me? Aside from being a wussy-wuss, it’s tough for me to objectively judge my worthiness — as I’m never certain that I’m as good as the next guy — and to demand generous compensation seems presumptuous and scary.

Just the other week, I realized that I was not receiving the proper compensation for a regular gig, and was forced to speak up on my behalf. The e-mail I sent was friendly, yet professional and firm (or so I like to think), and I wanted to vomit after sending it (I hate conflict).

Imagine my surprise when I received a positive response! My client acknowledged that I was certainly deserving of additional compensation, and then offered me more than I had expected. Well color me blown away.

What did I do right in my e-mail?

1. I talked myself up.

I have a tendency for humility when it comes to my professional life, which can make me pleasant to work with, but can also lead to me being short-changed. In the correspondence mentioned above, I justified the additional compensation I was requesting by listing the additional responsibilities I had taken on, and making a note of the additional time it took to do my job. After all, why should a client or employer give you more money for nothing? In some cases, they’re not even aware of how much time specific tasks can take.

2. I cited industry standards.

It’s hard to argue with a request for money when your case is built around solid research of what others in your position are receiving. Check out local and national professional organizations for going rates and average salaries. Talk to others in your field. Gain a working knowledge of what the norm is for you geographic location, your area of expertise, etc.

Obviously, I’m improving on this front, but I’m far from an expert at getting paid what I deserve. All you wise and knowledgeable freelancers out there…let us know what you do to bring the moolah in.


  1. Way to go, Steph!! When I was working as an employee, I found it tough to negotiate starting salaries or pay raises (though I did it anyway), but I do find it easier to send a short, well thought out email to an editor or client explaining why I feel I’m worth more money. I’ve had hits and misses, but I try not to take it personally.

    I usually start out by telling the editor how much I enjoy working with him/her and appreciate the opportunities s/he has given me. And seeing as how we’ve worked together on X stories or for X month and they seem happy with my work, I wondered if we could discuss pay rates. If that doesn’t work, you can also try selling them additional material like “would you be interested in a podcast or my interview?” or “how about a sidebar on X?”

    James Chartrand seems to have this money stuff down:

  2. Asking for a raise is just plain frightening. In the back of my mind, I always worry my employer will fire me instead of giving me the raise for some reason. But, really the worst that can happen is a rejection. I think it’s important remember that it’s easier and more cost effective to make you happy and give you the raise rather than finding someone else to hire because you’re unhappy and quit. Anyway, congrats!

  3. @Susan: Thanks for the link! As for negotiating the money-stuff (or anything else, for that matter), I’m always better in writing. I suppose that’s why I became a writer!

    @Kristine: Yes! Exactly! I’m always worried that they’ll just get rid of me because they don’t feel like dealing with the dissension!

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