Tips for Negotiating Contracts as an Independent Contractor

Negotiating skills are among the most important ones that independent contractors can pick up and solidify. 

After all, entrepreneurs establish their rates and procure new business, and their negotiating abilities determine how much they will earn on their next gig and future ones.

In addition, their skills determine how often freelancers work and whether or not the work remains steady.

Successful negotiations start with leverage. Then, professionals must understand the anatomy of contracts

Contract terms that entrepreneurs will negotiate include:

  • Project scope
  • Deliverables format
  • Deadlines
  • Timeline
  • Rates and pay
  • Payment terms
  • Copyrights and ownership

Rates and payment terms are the two most essential contract elements that freelancers must negotiate. Project scope, deliverables format, and ownership rates follow.

What Is Negotiating Contracts?

Negotiating contracts is the process where independent contractors establish project terms with clients. Contractors lay out the blueprint for expectations. 

In addition, the process occurs before independent contractors start working on client projects. Otherwise, negotiating terms in the middle of projects can lead to unnecessary headaches and losses for freelancers.

The following are tips for negotiating contracts as an independent contractor.

Study the Market

Remember that negotiations start before freelancers speak with clients. It’s essential to arrive at the table with leverage, which requires studying the market.

Then, compare the market to the contract elements you hope to obtain. 

For example, most contractors must negotiate the contractor payments for additional expenses incurred during the project.

Selfgood provides more information and resources for professionals already completing work as independent contractors or individuals who plan to dive into freelancing. 


Now, self-assess. Determining where your skills land and how the assessment strengthens or weakens your leverage compared to the market.

Are they on-par, above average, or below average?

Then, determine what you must do to obtain more favorable contract terms.  

It’s common for entrepreneurs to undervalue their skills and services. However, it sets a negative precedent that makes future negotiations more challenging. 

The self-assessment should help independent contractors gain confidence, even if they need more experience. Use the findings to build a better negotiating position. 

Set Goals

Freelancers trade their time for payment. To negotiate the most appropriate terms, set goals. 

For example, place a monetary value on time. Then, freelancers should determine the gains they hope to achieve from every project.

Some independent contractors want to achieve a good work/life balance. However, they must also pay their bills, invest in their ventures, and remain healthy.

Study the Client

Freelancing platforms have become great resources for independent contractors, especially novices. The platforms facilitate payment processing, contract negotiations, and studying the client.

The platforms allow freelancers to find standard information about clients, such as whether or not they pay on time and in full.

Reviews help independent contractors determine if they will match well with clients based on past experiences.

Sometimes it’s necessary to work with parameters established by coveted clients. However, freelancers can negotiate contract elements they want to change, such as payment frequency.

Improve Negotiating Skills

One of the most important skills that individuals must learn is one that many fear – negotiating.

Researchers believe that fear comes from the possibility of rejection. Others don’t know how to translate their value into tangible terms.

Rejection is part of entrepreneurship, but resilient professionals let it roll off their backs and move on to the next opportunity quickly.

Moreover, resilient individuals learn from rejection and use it to improve their positions if the same opportunity arises. 

Therefore, improve their skills and learn more about other freelancers’ strategies when establishing contracts. 

Gain Experience

Gaining experience helps independent contractors obtain a better bargaining position. 

Take what you learned about the market and self-assessment to refine your position. Experience goes a long way to adding value for clients, especially for freelancers who specialize in niches.

For example, the graphic design field is expansive, but only a few can deliver unique deliverables that wow audiences and double as excellent marketing tools.

Build a Portfolio

As independent contractors gain experience, they use the experience to build portfolios. 

Portfolio types differ from one independent contractor to another. For example, writers, graphic designers, and software engineers can put their past deliverables online.

It’s different for rideshare drivers and delivery professionals – they will rely on customer ratings provided in their respective service apps.

Nonetheless, focus on amassing proof showing why you deserve the contract terms you requested. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No or Walk Away

Sometimes, it’s not possible to find happy contract terms between themselves and their clients. 

Therefore, independent contractors should avoid being afraid to say no or walk away. 

Clients can often budge on their terms and offer better pay or a less strict timeline. 

Then, independent contractors might find that clients will respect them and their services more.


Successful independent contractors know their values and can negotiate contracts according to their worth and abilities. Therefore, follow the tips above and leverage experience, portfolios, and knowledge into meaningful ones.


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