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Agency outsource work can be extremely lucrative. I know an agency that built their entire business on agency outsource work, mostly to the mega agencies. Large agencies frequently outsource to freelancers for overflow work and to fulfill a specific expertise they may not have with their in-house team.

If you’re interested in landing work with agencies, here is how to do it in a “non-salesy” way.

1. Ask to get on their freelancer list…

Use this email script template to ask about getting on their freelancer list. If they don’t have a freelancer list, they will feel like they should have one. If they do have a freelancer list, you are making an easy, “non-salesy” way to get in the door. Then you can drip follow ups to them and hope to be on their radar for when their internal workload gets to high.

< Insert Friendly Introduction>

“I know a lot agencies outsource overload work to freelancers. I would love to be on your freelancer list. I can help with <Insert Core Services>. Here is a link to some of my works <Insert Link to Portfolio>

What would be good next steps of me to be added to your freelancer list for consideration when needs arise? Could we have a video call? Or I would be happy to stop by your office? I know your time is valuable and no doubt you are super busy…so we can keep it brief just to put names with faces.”

<Insert Friendly Close>

2. How to negotiate your rates with an agency…

Once you get in the door, you’ll need to be ready to answer the question, “How much do you charge?” The golden way to negotiate with an agency is to “Negotiate the Margin” not the rate. This approach aligns your goal of charging fair rates with the agency’s goal of making profit from your services.

Agency: “How much do you charge?”

You: “We can work however is best for you, but usually I do fixed bid or some type of hourly structure (could be hourly, bucket of hours or retainer hours depending on your preference).

As for my rates, I try to align my rates with your profitability. I know if you aren’t making money on my time, then this relationship doesn’t work for you. I want you to have AT LEAST 30-50% profit on my work.

So with a fixed bid engagement, let’s say you are charging $1000 to your client for something, then my price to you needs to be $500-700. This way you get AT LEAST that 30-50% margin.

With hourly engagements, if you’re charging your client $100 per hour, then I can keep my rate at $50-70 per hour to you.

And if you need more profit margin for it to make sense on your side, I usually can make that work when the projects are bigger budgets. This opens up the pricing conversation a bit and I’m ok with you telling me how much you have in the budget for a project and seeing if I can make that work on my side. I want to make my rates make sense for your business so we can work together longterm. Of course I want to charge as high a rate as possible to you, that’s just business… but I don’t want to make my rates so high that it doesn’t make sense for your agency to work with. I’m sure we can find the sweet spot with open dialogue.”

No freelancer ever pitched me this way during my agency ownership run, but I always wish they had. Get on their freelancer list. Negotiate the margin.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.