Hi there. I wonder if we could talk about modes of finding freelance projects as I have previously only worked through employment agencies and find that they do not really negotiate the best rate for me. I work mainly on residential refurbishments and commercial fit outs and would like to stick to these areas as they are my strong suits.
This was a recent comment on a previous blog post (we’ve already written loads about the freelance mode of working, you can have a browse here)
It’s an interesting question on a few levels – the first that Arras People is of course an employment agency so it might seem a bit odd to ask us this question!
There are, however, some answers we can bring to the table and we’ll take these in turn.
The Agency is there for a reason!
When an organisation is looking for resource, the rate they are willing to pay is only one aspect of the decision process that they consider. Whilst many freelancers feel that they could provide the service without the middle-man (and take a bigger slice of the pie) they are generally failing to recognise the reasons organisations use the services of an agency. The reasons are numerous but include many of the following;
- Agencies are on preferred supplier lists with agreed terms and conditions
- Agencies advise and protect the organisation with regards to IR35 and other such legislation. This is especially important with the introduction of the Off-Payroll worker legislation in the Public sector.
- Agencies offer organisations access to a broad spectrum of candidates from who they can choose, based on rate/experience/availability etc
- Agencies simplify the supply chain for hiring organisations.
Set your “Get Out of Bed Rate”
Whilst we understand that freelancers want to be flexible with regards their rate there is nothing more frustrating than someone who does not understand their get out of bed rate. By setting this you help everyone in the supply chain including yourself.
As the recruitment process depends on a high degree of trust, then nobody appreciates someone who wants to negotiate a higher rate once they have entered the process at an agreed rate.
What is the Best Rate?
At Arras People we totally understand that any freelancer is looking to maximise their rate for any assignment that they take. As an agency, we always negotiate with our clients and set a band of rates against which we can submit candidates.
In turn, once we have identified candidates who are suitably skilled for the role, we will then give them the opportunity to bid for the work by setting their own rate within this band. The client then has the opportunity to consider candidates in terms of a whole package.
So best rate only exists if the buyer appreciates the additional value that may be forthcoming if they were to choose candidates at a higher rate!
Many freelancers opt for the recruitment agency route because it’s easier than trying to drum up sales opportunities themselves. That being said, it is not the only option.
As stated previously rate is only part of the puzzle and if you want to get to the point where you are free to negotiate your own rate then you really need to be in a position where you can replicate or improve the service provided by an agency. You need to eat their dinner!
The challenge must be obvious? They have a whole sales and marketing operation, a legal team, an operations team, not to mention a whole raft of clients signed up to whom they supply their services.
So, you have to either find a niche or a channel to market that the agencies do not have or use. Obvious candidates here are;
- Your Personal Network
- Previous (non-agency) Clients
- Work brokering web sites
- Word of mouth
If you can generate opportunities through these channels you will then have the opportunity to set your rate, though of course you will need to understand what you can charge based on the current market conditions; what your competition is charging for the same work; how specialised that piece of work might be – or what type of experience the hirer is looking for. There’s also potentially room for manoeuvre based on things like fixed price; less working hours to get the job done or the potential opportunity of repeat work in the future!
Now you are more than a freelancer, you’re running a business.
Feast and Famine
Many freelancers who look to build their own funnel of work suffer from feast and famine as they do not have the bandwidth to maintain both business development and delivery throughout the years.
So what are the options here?
Here’s a few thoughts:
- Working with a close circle of clients – which gives you the time to keep networking and developing the opportunities when the pool is smaller.
- Make sure time is built into your contracts for business development opportunities, perhaps half a day a week?
- Try working with another freelancer – someone you know and trust to share the work and opportunities (does this mean a consultancy business is a possibility?)
- Use social media channels to your advantage – little and often to remind people that you’re there.
It’s difficult being a one man band sometimes, keeping everything ticking over and keeping the plates spinning however there is a reason why so many people opt for this mode of operating.
It’s exhilarating and challenging. You’re making a go – and being successful at something you really love – on your own terms. It’s hard-won and all the more appreciated for it.
So how about you, ready to be a project management freelancer?