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Negotiating a consultancy contract

There are many routes to source consultancy contracts that match your requirements and that will fit into your portfolio.

You will have made the decision on how you want to work and what your definition of a contract is. You may want a flexible contract that is 2 or 3 days a week for a couple of months. You may want to work hard for 6 months and then take the rest of the year off. The satisfaction in being a consultant is that the choice is yours. You can be as busy as you choose to be as both diary management and workload are in your hands.

We are often asked about how to structure and how to charge for consultancy projects and there is no simple answer. Clients have different needs and different budgets and your approach to each one needs to be flexible. If you want to charge £1000 a day for 20 days and their budget is only £10,000, then either you will need to negotiate a solution or it will come to nothing. Building a bridge between your aspirations and the client's reality is the first rule for any consultant.

Before getting down to discussing fees, you need to make yourself the best person for the role. You will have sent in a powerful CV that has been structured in a way that matches their needs, highlighting all of your relevant skills and achievements. You will have conducted thorough research into who they are and why they need your expertise. This due diligence will ensure that when you are in a meeting with the stakeholders that you will impress them with your insights. Client meetings tend to work a lot better when the focus is on their business and their needs. Asking questions, listening intently and being subtle in how you showcase your skills will work a lot better than an approach that is all about selling yourself.

Your subsequent negotiations will be more likely to succeed when you have established credibility and rapport with the client. They know you are right for them and they know that you will deliver. You may even have been emboldened to ask at the end of the meeting ‘What is your budget for this project?’. A potential day rate may have been indicated in the initial job advertisement or you may be completely in the dark. Whatever it is, remain confident in your own abilities and negotiate hard. Avoid the trap of ‘free work’ as free work generally gets you lots more free work. It is tempting to see a way in by offering to do a couple of days free of charge so they can see the value of your contribution but it rarely works out to your advantage.

Negotiation skills are respected in business and you will be showing your strength of character if you get the tone right and push for what you want.

Anne Watson
8th September 2017

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