Empowering the Freelance Economy

Financially undervalued with your dream client? Start acting more like a cat than a dog says careers expert

A cat-like attitude can pay off when it comes to projecting your worth and validating a pay rise/ Photo source: Alexas_Fotos @ Pexels
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A Randstad survey found an overwhelming 67% of people feel either confident or very confident at the prospect of moving to a new employer; in fact, an astonishing 48% of respondents have reportedly switched roles in 2021. But what happens if you are a loyal freelancer, in your dream role with a dream client, but are financially undervalued? Here are some tips to approach a rate rise with a feline attitude to client devotion and negotiation.

Some umbrella contractors and freelancers are considering dropping certain clients because they believe that there is plenty of opportunity and access to new roles and higher rates right now. Employees in a recent Randstad survey were of the same mindset. But is this necessarily true for everyone? Doesn’t it depend on the industry you work in, your level of experience and your current day or project rate? Your seniority can also play a part as FI previously reported.

When asked about the most influential factors at play in keeping people within their current roles, Randstad’s survey found that while salary still tops the charts, the collective demand for those areas impacting overall job satisfaction outweighs fiscal concerns:

  • Salary (22%) 
  • Work-life balance (13%)
  • Job Security (13%) 
  • Flexible working (12%) 
  • Work atmosphere (12%) 
  • Career progression (11%) 
  • Benefits (7%) 

Despite all these cumulative benefits, pay is crucial and as such a very emotional aspect of our lives. So much in fact it can create daily tension about our self-worth at the office and even at home.

Jonathan Black, director of the University of Oxford’s careers service (and the brains behind the FT’s popular ‘Dear Jonathan’ advice column), said in a recent FT Money Clinic podcast we should consider the word “no” as a friend rather than foe when it comes to negotiation. He also suggests taking a cat-like approach the next time a client or employer presumes you will just jump at the next assignment without any consideration to your time, experience or pre-existing workload.

Jonathan Black, University of Oxford Careers Service

He cleverly uses the analogy of a dog that will keep fetching sticks, no matter the size, without a thought and without reward. Sometimes being too available like a loyal pet dog can allow clients to take you for granted. Therefore, they are caught off guard when you ask for a pay rise or ask for support. Therefore, the next time you are asked to take on another project or it is presumed that you will do tasks others do not volunteer to do, consider taking a tip from the pet cat. Mention that you have to look at your schedule. For good measure, ask for a few more details so that you can illustrate how much time and valuable input you’ll have to contribute to make the project a success.

Another tip revealed in the podcast is to never say you “deserve” a pay rise. Employers and clients will want you to back that up. The word “deserve” can also conjure up emotions, which you want to keep out of negotiations.

It will be useful to make yourself a list of your accomplishments, project details or other contributions and vitally the longevity of your service before you set up a meeting to discuss a pay rise or any other benefits. If you haven’t received a raise in two years, then you need to ask yourself why. You could be in what has become known as a Mary Beth Brown situation. Brown was the long-standing assistant (12 years) to Elon Musk who was reportedly let go from her position when she asked for a raise.

Is it time to talk money with your client?

Money is an awkward subject even if it is the main driver for us working every day. But don’t fall into the trap of telling your client that you are being approached by other clients, headhunters or recruiters. There is no need to mention this. It can backfire on you and if you are good at what you do, clients should assume this anyway. By just asking for this meeting, you will be on their radar.

However, if you do spot similar permanent roles with a higher pro-rata figure, then you at least have a pay rise range to work with. Provide this sensible range in your discussions only at the very end and. Suggest that you would be happy with the lower end of that range if X, Y and Z could be part of the mix. This could mean paid training or certifications, new client responsibilities to diversify your skillset or more flexible working to have a more balanced home life.

If at the end of that meeting, you still get a “no”, don’t leave without asking a few more questions:

  • What factors might make you say yes to a raise in this range?
  • What skills could help the company grow its revenues or client base? Could the company pay for me to become certified in this area?
  • Are others with less responsibilities or accomplishmentson on the same pay? Have they had pay rises since they started?

If you have no optimistic responses and talk feels cheap, then you know more now than before you walked in the room. Take this as a sign that you might need to consider taking on small jobs with new clients (that does not go against any contracts you have signed) so that you can build a relationship with them.

If new clients start to commission you for more work, then that could warrant leaving the client that is undervaluing you financially. Alternatively, you could negotiate to work for them for less time so you can pursue more better-paying projects. Just make sure you don’t go back to your dog-fetching ways. Take a cue from our feline friends: your time is valued so don’t keep it a secret.

Useful resources about asking for a pay rise:

Check out the Dear Jonathan column: https://www.ft.com/dear-jonathan

FT’s recent article: Want to get a pay rise? Here’s how!

Why Elon Musk Fired His Long-Term Assistant Who Asked for A Raise

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