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Dealing w/ brokers:  specifying rates on first-contact

I'm about to contact a broker about a contract job I'm interested in.  This will be my first expedition of this sort.  I'm +10 years into an FTE right now but looking at other options.  I don't want to jack around with interviews or even phone calls if the gig is ultimately going to pay below what I want, so I'm thinking about just specifying my rate on first-contact and somehow indicating that it is non-negotiable (even though it might be if other factors are in my favor).  Is this a good strategy?  Will it actually keep the bottom-feeders away, or is that even possible?  What have you guys found is the best way to keep the haggling to a minimum?
fair to middlin Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Be good at it.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
I usually discuss rates on the first contact with any recruiter, especially those who contact me first.  It weeds out the pretenders from those who have a real position to discuss.
Clay Dowling Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Be blunt.  You can't hurt a recruiters feelings.  They prey on your insecurity about asking things.

The typical conversation will go something like this:

"What are they offering?"
"It depends on experience."
"What is the salary range?"
some small number you don't want to some big number you'd accept.
I say, "Anything less than $X is unacceptable, but I'd be willing to listen above that."

Some will say that I've stated a number first and therefore I  "lose", but I've never found any difficulty moving that number around after the fact using the same techniques they do to move it down..."It's a long drive" "The market is tight" "I have lots of other opportunities", etc...
Lance Hampton Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
the vast majority of recruiters talk money up front. They don't want to waste their time either. Anyone that doesn't isn't paying anything. Sometimes contract companies that don't pay well state money up front since they don't want to waste their time.

you always talk money first with contracts.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
I agree, asking for what they're offering is a bad idea.  Bill rates aren't like the lottery, I think people think they way because out of the blue devs hope they're going to be offered $150/hr when you normally bill half that or less.

Just state what you want for the work, the shorter the timeframe, the higher the hourly rate.  Don't say the rate is non-negotiable, that's already assumed and saying it makes you sound like a jackass.  If they feel the rate is above what they want to pay, thank them and move on.  If you have a great resume/portfolio and you are the top of your market, you'd be surprised how many companies will come back even after telling you your bill rate was too high.
TravisO Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
>> Some will say that I've stated a number first and therefore I  "lose"

I don't believe in "the poker game".  If you are good at what you do, you'll know where you stand in the market and how much your work is worth.  Stick to this number, people should be above trying to just be greedy and hope the contract (or employer) is going to offer some rate well above your billrate.

People that play the poker game have obviously let them be low balled, and don't have the self respect to move on from low paying full time jobs to ones that pay your worth.  They're also the same kind of people that just want a lot of money without earning it.

I don't ask for more than I'm worth, and I don't sit and hope somebody is just going to offer me a rate more than I'm worth.  If I want more money, I take the time to learn a skill worth something, then I'm worth the money and there's no need to play silly games.
TravisO Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
>> What have you guys found is the best way to keep the haggling to a minimum?

Not possible if you deal with agencies. Or even with most end users. But here are some pointers.

There's definitely a little negotiation dance that takes place in most contracting contacts. One thing to keep in mind is that agencies and end users (the actual hiring clients) are very distinct and separate markets.

An agency is not the ultimate decision maker, so they usually play things very conservatively and only look at exact nominal fit. You have to match the client's expressed profile for the contractor (experience, age, type of development experience, etc) and the rate range. If you fit the qualifications, then the agency looks at how much they can make off of you. Stellar qualifications will not make any difference if you don't fit their revenue model. They won't submit you if you're too expensive. In other words the majority of agencies won't ask the client to "upgrade" the position.

It's quite different with end users themselves. They will SAY the same things as the agencies do ("we want X years of Y and will only pay $Z).

The major difference is that the end user may have been conservative in their definition of the role. So if you approach a hiring client with a much greater set of abilities, AND a price tag to match, they MAY entertain an "upgrade" of the role. They may have been looking, for instance, for a grunt a $35/hr, but if you come in as an architect who can help them solve many other problems in addition to doing the basic implementation at $80/hr, they may feel that it's worth it.

The agency would NEVER allow the two parties to meet under such circumstances.

To get back to your original question, it would be just fine to do what you are asking. However, do your research first (use a database of contract rates such as in order to determine that you are stating a realistic range. It's no use even contacting agencies if you are outside all of their parameters.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
My tactic is to state my rate right up front as early as possible. If they freak out, I'd rather not waste my time.

But once you've given your rate, you don't lower it unilaterally just because they asked. And the fact that this may go long term is no reason to lower your rate.

If you like the job so much that you're willing to drop it by a few bucks to meet the client's rate limit, then do so in exchange for something else. For example, get them to pay up front for the reduced rate, or reduce the rate for the hours you telecommute, or whatever else you can think of that doesn't cost them money but that gets you something you want.

But never ever drop your rate for nothing in exchange. They will lose alot of respect for you if you do that.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
In my experience any broker I've dealt with has wanted to know my expected hour price.

If you do name one, be sure to start very high (outrageous even). You will know if that is out of the question, but start too low and you will be pigeonholed into that price range for the remainder of your partnership.
jz Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
+1 Bored Bystander.

I'd quote a range which starts somewhat lower than you'd be prepared to accept.  Doing so increases the chances that the agency will put you forward and once the client is interested, you're in a much stronger negotiating position.  Of course this only works if you're willing and able to negotiate.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Most recruiters will never let you negotiate rates diectly with the client. They don't need you nor the client knowing their spread.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
> Most recruiters will never let you negotiate rates diectly with the client.

I never suggested that you negotiate directly with the client (though no recruiter can stop you and the  client having a private conversation).  What I'm saying is that if the client wants you enough, you can squeeze the recruiter's margin and/or persuade him to increase the rate being charged to the client.  I've done this myself in the past - in some cases until the pips squeak!
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Thanks everyone.  You've all provided a wealth of insight.  I do need to develop/hone my negotiating skills.  Being in an FTE vacuum for 10 years, I'm not sure yet what my reasonable market value would be.  I'm not a rockstar by any stretch, but I think I could qualify as 'smart and gets things done'.  RealRates was some help, though there isn't much info for my area.  I've had a broker push the $45/hour line (W2) for 'top-notch' talent at me pretty hard, but that's too low to give up my 'bird in the hand.'  Thanks again to all.
fair to middlin Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
$45/hr for programming work in a current language anywhere in the US is a very common rate but is certainly not indicative of "top notch" anything. It's just the commodity paid W2 rate for commodity contracting talent in the particular niche that agencies live in, which is shoveling bodies and nothing but.

Agencies know f*ck all (AKA nothing) about "talent". They're entrenched in the utterly subjective American Idol mentality.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
OP, wait until you've been interviewed by the client before stating minimums.

If the client is impressed with you, they may be prepared to offer more than they indicated to the recruiter. If you're specific too early with the recruiter, you would exclude yourself from those sorts of opportunities.

You can usually get a feel for the job without discussing pay, by asking the recruiter for more details. If the job sounds promising, then withold specific criteria. If it sounds boring, state your requirements to ensure you don't waste time.

Also, when you interview with the employer, ask them what range they're looking at for pay. Some will tell you, even thouggh the recruiter tries to stop either you or the employer discussing it.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Z, excellent advice.

The only problem is that most borks won't submit you or consider you without a rate up front.

Otherwise this is good advice. A bottom line rate basement may limit you.

In general in all negotiation the first one to name a price loses. Borks are aware of this and will demand a price up front.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

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