Taking the step into freelance and self-employment is a big adjustment. There are many unknowns to contend with, but one that often presents a particular challenge is the matter of pay. Just how do we put a price on our individual background, knowledge, skills and experience? Added to that, if you have taken a career break you may not feel in a confident position to set your value high. Many parents testify to a loss of confidence in these areas as they get their heads around the change in priorities and focus in their lives. Negotiating pay suddenly seems a daunting prospect.
More women are working as freelance consultants than men, which makes the issue of underpayment a real problem. We have previously discussed the issues surrounding the gender pay gap, and a large portion of the problem lies in attitudes towards women and financial negotiation. There is the perpetuating problem of women simply not asking for a pay rise. Due to institutional and societal imbalance there is the sense that they aren’t entitled to ask for more, and that they should be grateful enough for the opportunity alone, rather than looking for a rate that truly reflects their performance and value.
Stop devaluing yourself
As a freelance consultant, it is important to quantify your experience and expertise when setting a rate for your work. Value all the knowledge you have built, including the soft and transferable knowledge and skills. Working for yourself requires adaptability, networking skills, organisation, time management and above all, self-motivation as you are no longer working in a structured environment. Take all that into consideration when putting a price on your experience.
Don’t just set a rate based on previous salary and earnings; the change in your working structure offers as many benefits to your clients as it does to you. Think about the advantages you can offer as a legal consultant. You are in control of your availability and hours, which means you can offer flexibility, accessibility, more channels of communication, cost effective ad hoc support. Clients are benefiting from this structure and can afford to pay in kind for that.
Remember rates for work aren’t just about you. The job at hand has to be assessed too when decided on rates. Sometimes you will need to take into consideration the complexity of a contract, any unique conditions, any extra travel expenses and convenience factors that will have to be incorporated into your charge. This links in with the above point: you need to consider the rate from the client perspective of your value, not just your own perception.
How to negotiate successfully
Choosing to work within a consultant network like Obelisk means you have access to network of clients who you know have experience of working with freelance legal consultants. In our experience clients want to have certainty in advance and so the rate will be negotiated between Obelisk and the client. We are aware of the market rates and these vary from specialism to specialism.
Being paid through the consultancy rather than individual clients also means more reliability and on time payment, a bugbear of many independent freelancers!
A;ways be sure to set out your position from the get go: it’s important to be accommodating but you mustn’t compromise yourself in doing so. You will have a minimum acceptable rate – an absolute deal breaker limit – in mind, so stick to it consistently. That said, ensure you go in high, and articulate your value and any special conditions clearly. The more precise and certain response you give, the more likely you are to get the rate that suits.