Negotiating with freelancers

There’s a night and day difference between good freelancers and bad ones.

From the many freelancers you’ll ever work with, only a select few will be truly amazing. They are not only good at what they do, but also understand you and understand your projects. They fill in the gaps when something is missing from the specifications.

You’ll be better at spotting talent as you get more experience in hiring, but it’s still rare to find someone great. So if you find someone you can work with, do hang on to that relationship and treat it as treasure. With each completed job and every delivered project, working together will be easier. Working with tested partners is more efficient and more fun.

Approach each negotiation with this in mind.

Long term relationships

Every time you talk to a new potential vendor, aim to create a sustainable cooperation from day one. Agree on a price that works for both you and the freelancer, and make sure to pay on time. Be a good sport: follow through, be around for questions, and don’t change the specifications without increasing the budget.

With that, your side is mostly taken care of.

Now you need to make sure the vendor is prepared for a long term relationship as well.

If you hire a freelancer for a massive project because they gave you a good quote, you want to make sure the initial enthusiasm lasts. What looks like a great price on day one, might be the source of regret in a year’s time.

Whoever cares less

As a rule of thumb, each job specification is a negotiation, and negotiations are won by whoever cares less.

As soon as you’ve agreed on the price, the freelancer can only do one thing to increase their upside or hourly rate. They need to spend less time on your project.

To continue operating their business, they’ll have to immediately look for a next project, and therefore, spend less time on yours. The worst job they do, the better off they are.

To have a better deal, you’ll have to structure a one-time job into a long term project. Break the single job into multiple stages, and work in smaller steps to finish the project. You get better prices if you negotiate the whole project at once, and set up frequent delivery and payment milestones.

With freelancers on Upwork or, we usually achieve the best results by taking on project management ourselves. When logo designers design logos, backend developers design databases and website developers build websites, everyone has the job they are the best at. If you can break the project into single-skill elements, you can talk to each of those vendors separately.

By identifying the specialized skills and how they fit the whole, you’re in a position to replace each part of the system.

Whoever has more options will naturally win every negotiation.

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Richard Dancsi

Founder & Techie

Startup founder and management consultant with over 15 years experience in building technology teams, products and companies.