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Ask Sherry: All about negotiating as a freelancer and trying to find a 12% return

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

How do I, as a freelancer, negotiate for a percentage of my compensation up front? Is this something you do as a freelancer? Thanks a million.

P.S. Your book is great. I read it in one day!

First, thank you so much for buying the book “Start a Blog Like a Boss – How to Make Money, supporting me, and¬†liking it. ūüôā

Second, I don’t negotiate any percentage of my compensation up front because I don’t charge a fixed fee contract, my contracts are all set as fixed dates, like: 40 hours a week for 3 months at a rate of $$$/hour.

Even if I¬†estimate let’s say 80 hours for a particular contract and it happens to hit 85, I bill the overtime (with pre-approval from the client of course, explaining why it went over).

If anyone is interested here’s my post on how I came up with my rate of what to charge as a freelancer.

I get paid at the end of the month, so there is a little period of about 4 weeks when I am unsure if I will get paid for that month if the client happens to be a little sly, but knock on wood, that has not happened to me yet although I have heard of other freelancers getting burned and losing up to 6 months of pay.

My rule of thumb is if at the end of the month you don’t pay up, I leave and I take you to small claims court. If we are in the middle of a contract and you miss a payment, I don’t come back to work until I get paid.

Third, if you want to negotiate a percentage down before you begin work, and milestone payments through the end, I would advise the following:


This is how you work right? This is how you operate, and you shouldn’t feel guilty or nervous about asking for the money.

They want your expertise? Well they should follow your rules.

You should, when getting a new client who wants to go ahead with your services and/or proposal, say:

Great! I’m so happy you want to go with my services. I require a 20% down payment on the project before I begin work, and at each milestone, another 20% of the total project once you are satisfied. I will have the final project dates & expected invoicing¬†schedule along with the contract¬†to you to review and sign by the end of today. Does that sound good?

(And make sure you have it, obviously. Make a template for yourself of your standard invoicing schedule & just change out the titles, description & dates for each client. Don’t forget to date it, and number each invoicing agreement.)

Deliver it with confidence, and over time, it will just get easier and easier to say.

I used to get nervous asking for over $150 for my rate per hour (still do a little), but over time, I’ve learned to wear a little lipstick, high heels and speak a little louder on the phone to mask any trembling.

Sometimes, the psychological polish (lipstick & heels) matters.

Oh, and reminding myself how much I am worth it by reviewing my CV & singing along to some Queen Bey song, like this one (and dancing to it LOL).


Have it all written down on paper (formally or informally) as a contract, dated and signed (or electronically signed). I would even go as far as to say you should pay a lawyer a small fee to draft a very simple contract for your situation.

I paid a lawyer to draft a contract for my company, in the event I work with a client who doesn’t really do contracts on a regular basis with freelancers, I¬†don’t let anything delay my start date and billing prowess. I haven’t yet had to use the contract, but it is there in my back pocket.

I think they may even have these pre-drafted standard freelancing contract agreement for a small fee online. Buy one.

Alternatively, if you have worked with a good client and signed their agreement, you could use it as a template to draft your own.

Verbal contracts don’t cut the muster if your client decides to bail and run, the courts need something on paper if you have to take them to small claims court.


Don’t begin working ahead of time on empty promises until you get that 20% commitment down. If in the middle of it all, they stop paying, stop working immediately and don’t continue working.

You may have a soft heart and think: Well they’ll pay up soon enough….but more often than not, you can get burned (see note above about fellow colleagues going 6 months without pay & not being able to recoup that loss). They may not intentionally want to stiff you the money, but it happens all the time.

People cut and run on restaurant bills and stiff servers all the time. People shoplift. And these are normal, respectable folk to whom we would not think would ever do such a thing.

Very curious what your real job is!

Haha, nice try. ūüôā

Again, not saying what I do for a living other than I am a business consultant. I advise businesses.

Know what is harder than that?

Wrangling a toddler on a daily basis. I can’t wait to get back to work.

What tools do you use or what books have you read to learn about which funds to invest in for dividends?

LOTS to say here.

So it sort of depends what you mean by ‘investing for dividends’. If you are talking just about dividend returns, it is simple enough to go to any kind of stock analyzing tool and just look for that section that says “dividends” for a company.

I use Yahoo Finance to review dividend-producing stocks.

E.g. if you look at the stock IBM (ticker symbol IBM), you will see: Dividend & Yield = 5.60 (3.33%) which means $5.60 per share, or a yield of 3.3% as a return on the current share price.

I have reviewed multiple books and have asked my own financial advisor and have been told that these stocks are primarily nonexistent.

Fire your advisor immediately. You need to find a new one or start learning on your own.

How can he/she say that these stocks are ‘primarily non-existent’? UGH. There are TONS OF STOCKS OUT THERE that pay out dividends… unless I am misreading your question, in which case I apologize.

This makes me want to write a book on dividend investing even more. That’ll happen sometime in the next year I promise.

I am a citizen of the USA, so I am not sure if this would make a difference.

Nope. You’re in one of the best countries (if not, THE BEST) that has the most solid companies¬†that pay out dividends.

In Canada it’s a bit trickier.

I am also trying to learn how to tell if a stock index has a 12% return rate. I am a huge fan of your work!

Thank you kindly. ūüôā I do appreciate it. I find it hard to write about anything money-related when the well of posts on what could be interesting is running dry, so to speak.

As for trying to tell if a stock index has a 12% return rate, it depends on a few more things; such as…

Are you talking¬†a real return or a nominal return (“general” return)??

A nominal rate of return is just what the index fund produces (e.g. 12%).. or its ‘regular’ return, but a real rate of return is a nominal rate of return that takes into account inflation (right now it’s quite low at around 1.2% on average over the year), ¬†and other factors.

So in my example:

Nominal return = 12%

Real rate of Return = 12% – 1.2% = 10.8% (real rate of return)

Now, if you want to know how a stock index has returned, you also need to know what range you are looking at. Over a year? Month? 10 years?

If it is an index fund like VTI (Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)), that’s simple, just go to Yahoo Finance and click on¬†Performance.

You will get a ton of stats depending on what you consider a return and what period you are looking at:

Year-to-Date Return (Mkt) = 10.63%

1-Year Total Return (Mkt) = 8.28%

3-Years Total Return (Mkt) = 8.68%

Now, if you are looking for a rate of return on a dividend paying stock let’s say, you can go back to IBM, look under Statistics then Stock Price History, then¬†52 week change which tells you the¬†change in stock over a year.

To get it for a longer period, that’s trickier.

You need to start looking back at historical share prices (they have a chart there too where you can enter start and end dates) and start calculating it yourself, or go to IBM’s site and dig around the Investors section where they’ll most likely brag how much they’ve returned on the stock since X and Y dates.

Lastly, if you are looking for dividend-paying stocks that return 12%, THOSE stocks¬†do not exist and if they do, there is some seriously¬†major risk involved (you’re pretty much gambling). So if you were asking your advisor that, yeah, they’re right. ūüôā

The good news is that if you look at VTI (your basic S&P 500 index fund), you can see that to date, it returned 10.63%. Nice huh?

How do you find contract work?

Headhunters find me mostly on LinkedIn. I also get some work through my other former colleagues who send me notes like: Hey did you see this?.

Do you think it would be feasible to work on a contract while also working a full time desk job?

No and yes.

If your job is telecommuting only, like you can work at your desk as a freelance programmer, designer, writer, and don’t need to even meet your client to hash out what they need, then go for it.

If your job requires you to be on-site (like mine does), attired in the right gear and face-to-face with the client, then no. That IS your full-time desk job, it’s just temporary.

I have met some colleagues who have claimed to have worked 2 contracts at once, but I am doubtful they made it work. It sounds too stressful.

Every contract takes my entire brain to work, I can’t imagine having to flip back and forth between work of two clients the whole day, even if one was a full-time telecommuting one. I’d get the work all mixed up and make some serious mistakes that would cost a lot of effin’ money.

I love the recent jewelry you have made. You should sell some!

Haha don’t get me started. I am thinking about it. I’ve already got a ton of things I want to do, and not enough time to do it all…. Jewellery-making is one, and I just recently got started into making silk scarves.


Thanks for the boost of confidence though. I thought about it. I may do it……

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here, and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


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