Biz Features

How to Respond to Lowball Contracts – 7 Ways Freelancers Can Sweeten The Deal

by . February 27th, 2014

Lowball offers are a fact of life for freelancers and contractors. As someone who’s done a fair share of freelance jobs, I can say for a fact that these offers can get downright insulting. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize our true value, nor have the experience to respond to lowball contracts so they’re in our favor.

Deutsch: Sog. Kirchenväteraltar, rechter Flügel außen, Szene unten: Der Hl. Augustinus und der Teufel – nach anderen Quellen: Der Hl. Wolfgang und der Teufel English: So-called Church fathers altar (Kirchenväteraltar), outside of the right wing, lower scene: Saint Augustine and the devil—according to other sources: Saint Wolfgang and the devil

Before you do try to negotiate any of the things below, here’s 3 things you should NEVER forget:

3.) Never continue without an understanding of compensation.

2.) Never sign a contract on the spot without taking professional legal advice

1) Always attempt to negotiate your contracts

Now that we have that out of the way, here are 7 things freelancers should negotiate on lowball contract:

7.) Job Descriptions and Titles

If a pay increase is out of the question, you could always try to change your stated job title into something that sounds better. “Software Engineering Consultant” sounds so much better than “Freelance Coder” for example. While it seems silly on the surface, you will be judged on your job titles in future contracts.

6.) Bonuses


See if you can get any of these:

  • Signing bonuses
  • Periodic bonuses
  • Performance bonuses

5.) Additional Time Off

If the contract requires more of your presence than is practical, see if you can get away with fewer required working fewer hours. This will free you up for other jobs.

4.) Telecommutes


origin_4465205933Clients often require some face time with them or their team. This is completely understandable, and often necessary, whether for security reasons or so you could all better communicate.

In a lot of cases however, personal interaction isn’t needed and can put undue pressure for you to show up somewhere you’re not useful.

If you live over an hour away from your future work site, this could add up to 10-12 hours a week lost commuting. This means up to half of a day every week stuck on the road that could be better spent catching up on sleep or doing other contracts.

If you live far from your future work site, try to negotiate so that you can telecommute at least some of the time.

3.) Intellectual Property


ArtificialFictionBrainAlways see if you could get at least some if not all of the intellectual property rights to your work – especially if you are involved in some aspect of product development. If you *think* you’re even remotely a professional, it’s best to consult with an attorney specializing in IP before negotiating this point.

2.) Scope

Responsibility creep is a constant danger in any contract. Whenever possible, make sure the scope of your responsibilities is defined as clearly as possible. Otherwise, you will end up doing far more than you bargained for.

Also negotiate protocol for:
  • Revisions
  • Deadlines
  • Who you will be reporting to

1.) Exclusivity

1.1 Unless the contract’s worth a bundle, make sure that you are still free to legally work for other clients.

Clients may have security concerns that may cause them to require that you work for them exclusively on a certain project. Try to see if you and your lawyer could negotiate a  non-disclosure agreement instead.

1.2 Exclusivity should also mean that your client be barred from bringing in another contractor to work on the same project.

While it might seem that more brains are better than one, most contractors will tell you “more cooks spoil the broth” is a cliche far more reflective of real life. More contractors mean that more of you will be competing for the client’s time. You want to avoid that as much as possible.

Negotiate a kill fee you could still get something out of the contract if the client decides to switch horses mid-stream.


Learning how to respond to lowball contracts isn’t just a fact of life for entreps and freelancers. It’s something we can all learn from. If a higher pay is out of the question, look these points over and negotiate before signing.

Image Sources

Saint Wolfgang and the devil, Public Domain
ArtificialFictionBrain by Genghiskanhg via commons.wikimedia
unclefuz via photopin cc
Chiot’s Run via photopin cc

Additional Reading

How To Create a Freelancing Contract – WikiHow

Responding to a Lowball Salary Offer – Liz Ryan,  CEO and Founder, Human Workplace 

8 Contract Clauses You Should Never Freelance Without  – Samar Owais. – Hongkiat


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.