This article was published on January 21, 2018

6 things you should negotiate for as a freelancer (that aren’t money)

6 things you should negotiate for as a freelancer (that aren’t money)
Kayla Matthews
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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer for The Next Web, VentureBeat, Digital Trends and The Week. She is also a senior writer at MakeUseOf and the owne Kayla Matthews is a writer for The Next Web, VentureBeat, Digital Trends and The Week. She is also a senior writer at MakeUseOf and the owner of Follow Kayla on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

When business professionals do well at their jobs, they get to negotiate for a higher salary at their next review. 

When we freelancers do well at our jobs, we usually don’t get that kind of adjustment option.

Worse yet, many freelancers get sucked into working for free. Recent research from found that 70 percent of freelancers were propositioned to work for free in 2016. And, out of all the creative freelancers studied in this research, photographers and graphic designers were the most likely to be asked to do free work.

In the past, other surveys have found that the amount freelance designers earn is usually under $60 an hour, regardless of experience levels or location. So, let’s get something straight: You should never be required to do your work for free. That’s not what this post is about.

What I’m going to be talking about here are supplementary payments that freelancers can negotiate in addition to setting their rates. It’s not something you should negotiate instead of payment, but a way to get as much compensation as you can for your hard work.

Many editors and project managers who are looking for freelancers don’t have the budget to pay us the rate we want to negotiate for. When that happens, negotiating for these alternative compensation options instead can be a good way to make the work worth your time.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that many freelancers are vastly underpaid for the quality of work that they do, and you shouldn’t settle for a lower rate or accept supplementary compensation if it isn’t truly going to benefit your professional work.

If you feel there are still benefits to be offered by taking a lower-paying gig, though, try to also negotiate for one of these six kinds of supplementary payment options, too.

1. LinkedIn recommendations

Think of LinkedIn recommendations as the modern version of favorable letters from clients and past employers. Recommendations allow employers to discuss the quality of your work in ways that relates directly to the projects you’ve completed for them.

If you encounter a client who wants to pay you less than your asking rate, you can negotiate with them to have them fill out a LinkedIn recommendation for you upon completion of the project. The more well-known their company’s brand name is, the more valuable you should consider a recommendation from them.

2. Social media shares

Talk to your clients about the possibility of having them share your content as a form of payment. This is especially valuable if you’re a freelance writer, but could also be beneficial if you do freelance design or development work.

This practice gives your material traction and makes your name more recognizable. This type of compensation also benefits your clients by helping them fill up their social media feeds and (hopefully) earns more shares and likes for their posts.

3. Permission to use work in your portfolio

One of the potential challenges of being a freelancer is the high likelihood of doing many projects on a work-for-hire basis. That means once the work is submitted, you usually cannot claim it’s yours.

Work-for-hire arrangements, though often welcome by freelancers, can lead to a pitifully puny portfolio, because you spend a gigantic amount of time doing work others ultimately take credit for completing.

See what your clients think about the prospect of working out a deal that allows you to include pre-approved pieces in your portfolio as a method of supplementary compensation. Taking that approach could be extremely valuable for helping you make a name for yourself.

4. Access to subscription-based services

Many freelancers depend on expensive tools to complete their projects. Designers often use pricey Adobe products to manipulate graphics and make web-ready designs, and writers need grammar checkers and plagiarism scanners to ensure their wordsmithing skills stay at a top-notch quality level.

Some freelancers also need access to research materials like subscription-based websites or industry-specific journals. These costs add up, especially if you’re not commanding high rates as a freelancer yet.

That’s why it’s absolutely worth it to ask your clients to purchase such subscriptions for you, or to share their accounts with you. By working out an arrangement with your clients to get some of these necessities paid for in exchange for services, you have fewer ongoing expenses.

5. Tickets to conferences or industry events

Conferences and other events that allow you to learn, meet others and check out new developments are advantageous for all freelancers, and especially those who do not have a local network of peers.

However, those gatherings can be costly, particularly if they require travel. In addition to potentially having to pay for flights, a rental car and hotel, there is the cost of the conference ticket, plus your meals — and that’s just a bare minimum.

Also, because freelancing doesn’t offer the luxury of paid time off, you might have trouble justifying permitting yourself to go.

Asking for conference tickets and/or coverage for related expenses as payment for freelance work is an ideal way to do something beneficial that supports your career growth, without having to pay for it out-of-pocket.

And, whether it’s writing up a review of the turn out or describing the new products and services that might be revealed there, you can use the opportunity to give back to your freelancing clients, too.

6. A fitness membership

Many companies offer gym memberships to their employees, so why shouldn’t freelancers get the same perk?

Being physically active tends to provide natural stress relief. Plus, when you are physically active, you could notice clearer thoughts and more resilience, both of which result in better project outcomes.

If your client doesn’t want to pay your standard rate, they may find paying for something like a Planet Fitness membership more appealing. After all, $10 per month is hardly anything to most businesses.

Again, don’t allow a potential client to corner you into working for free. However, if you need some supplementary compensation options to haggle with, give these a try and see how they work.