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I am a full time independent contractor for a literary agency. I essentially review literary materials and submissions for representation and write up coverage reports for my bosses or sometimes for the writers themselves. I am paid per submission, to do as many per week as I can manage. I started as an intern there doing something very similar, I then signed a non compete to do this work for pay and receive a 1099. Being painfully naive back then, I did not request alterations to the contract I signed, so I doubt I could do this same work for anyone else. I have been paid the same rate for over three years, during which time I am certain I have had more submissions than any of my fellow contractors. I have been treated very, very well, my input has always been praised, and whatever I can and cannot do within my given time has ALWAYS been okay. I know my efforts are valued.

However, I am at an impasse and I need to evolve; I need to make more money. To be fair, I have NO IDEA if anyone else who is doing the same work is being paid more than I am, I just know those who can only intermittently do submissions have a standard of 50 per, and those who are available to keep up with the consistent rate of submission are usually paid 65, like me. I don't know if anyone has negotiated anything higher privately. Is it fair to ask for more money in this case, or should I look for a new position in the same field? I sense that there are simple standard fees for such work, and worry that it might not be my place to ask my bosses to pay me more without actual promotion of position.

Whatever I do next, I could use some advice on how to best approach it with utmost professionalism.

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    Does your contract have an expiration date? – Dan Pichelman Mar 16 '18 at 15:11
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    What's the term (length) of your contract? – dwizum Mar 16 '18 at 15:14
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    I don't see this entirely as a duplicate. These are his clients not his bosses. While some of the issues in that question will apply, the relationship contractor to client is different from employee to manager. – cdkMoose Mar 16 '18 at 16:11
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    I do not see this as a duplicate since it is essentially a question about contractual relationship between an individual and a client (organization). I don't know if the salary, promotion, or raise tags are appropriate either since this @JNM90 is not an actual employee. – dwizum Mar 16 '18 at 19:36
  • I generally ask for a rise every twelve months. They should have a good idea of my worth by then. Any more frequent doesn't seem correct, as my permanent co-workers generally receive annual review/raises – Mawg says reinstate Monica Mar 19 '18 at 10:11
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As a contractor you should first have an idea of your value on the market, was it only a range.

Then you could consder that having worked for so long with them give you quite some leverage to negotiate a rate quite high in this range if not above.

Then about the "when", well it all depends when your contract ends. If you’re working fo a daily rate you probably have like 3,6 or 12 month contract, so you will have to wait for that term to approach. If you’re contracted per submission you could just inform the client that as of date X you’ll be working for an higher rate for each submission.

I would anyway let the client know in advance to leave them the time to negotiate, what they will most probably do, so I would also suggest that you start at a higher rate to eventually get what you indeed wanted...

Do also prepare the negotiation by thinking about why you raise your rate, although I wouldn’t mention these points before that possible negotiation as basically you’re not supposed to explain why you ask for more. You’re indeed not an employee of them but a provider and providers don’t have to explain their prices.

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As a contractor, you need to approach this differently than an employee would. You are being paid a fee for a product not a regular salary.

An employee would need to demonstrate the value they bring to the company, which can include tangible and intangible factors. As a contractor, you need to look at this from the perspective of unit cost to your client. Can you demonstrate that your product unit is of better quality than others at the same cost? That is basically the only leverage you have. If you work faster, they won't pay you more per unit, you'll just process more units. This might meet your needs as long as there is enough unit work available.

Remember that these are not your bosses, so they idea of promotion does not apply. There is no employer looking out for your well being and a client is not concerned with your ability to maker the amount of money you want. They are concerned about that unit cost and where they can get the best cost/quality source for their needs.

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To directly answer the question in your title, as a contractor, you cannot ask for a "raise." Raise implies a salary is being paid by an employer, which is not the case for you.

You can negotiate terms on your contract when it is due for renewal, or negotiate within the bounds of the current contract (ie if it allows the fee to change for specific reasons).

If your current client is not receptive to this, then yes - you should go elsewhere (or just resign yourself to continuing to work under the current terms).

  • Of course the OP can "ask for a raise" you just increase your day rate when you renew the contract – Neuromancer Mar 18 '18 at 10:52
  • Maybe I'm being unrealistically picky, or it's a cultural/location thing, but for me, "raise" implies an increase in salary. As a contractor, if I asked for a higher piece rate, I wouldn't call that a "raise." The reason why I was being so specific is because I would expect a "raise" (increase in salary for a direct employer" to be handled completely differently than a contract negotiation for a piece rate. It would go through a vendor management process versus HR, for instance. – dwizum Mar 19 '18 at 12:37

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