I suspect you don’t enjoy negotiating all that much. Does it make you feel threatened? “I won’t get what I’m worth.” Or doubtful of your ability to ask for what you need? Or does it simply make you feel weird? After all, we shouldn’t have to fight for what we deserve.
Many old paradigms are being washed away, and the difficult, combative negotiation is certainly one of those things.
When I worked for dot com start ups on Wall St. in the 90’s, the environment was always tense.
Not only was the future of the business always questionable but so was the future of our jobs. I’ve lived through buy-outs, mergers and straight up failures. None of them felt good. The investors moved the companies around like chess pieces. Few people truly won.
Once I started running my own business, I decided I wanted nothing to do with that competing, driving energy. I wanted to do what I loved and get paid for my work fairly. I wanted everyone to win, and I didn’t want it to be hard.
With time, (I needed time to BELIVE it was possible), I realized that doing that was actually fairly simple, even for those of us where project scopes often determine the cost – as in, there is no hard-set price on some of the work we do, as features determine the size, time spent and final cost.
Here are some simple rules I follow that may help you charge fairly, get what’s you deserve and deliver a wonderful product:
1. Have a baseline price below which you are unwilling to go
My courses and one on one session are not up for discussion at all. I’ve spent a lot of time working out what they should cost based on my output and the expected results, so these are not what I’m talking about.
When it comes to designing and building sites, though, my prices can vary a lot.The scope and site size can be huge, elaborate, needy of my time. So I have a baseline cost which ensures that the client gets a great site with some core necessities built in.
For the baseline price, I’ve allocated a set number of design iterations, custom templates I’ve built and systems I use that would ensure fairness to us both. Going lower than that will NOT ensure the product they want, and I tell them that straight up: to get me, here’s the minimum.
If they want more than the baseline site covers, the price goes up.
2. Be patient with people
Sometimes people have NO idea what something should cost.
I have had people get into elaborate detail about the amazing functioning of the dream site they have only to completely panic when I attached a price-tag on it.
What normally happens then is they need time to “sit with it”. Sometimes they’ll go shop for a cheaper option, and 99% of the time they go with THE CHEAPEST option, often doing it themselves, getting something up and coming back to me several months later to do it properly. Either way, don’t worry.
You need to remain confident that your work can speak for itself. And if it’s good, it will. You should also believe in them, to chose the option they can mentally handle at the time.
Even if they don’t work with you, they’ll remember you as someone who cares about them as well.
3. Have options
In the above example, the uber amazing site was about 100% than they were willing to spend. Again, they didn’t know what things like that cost in general. So it was ok for me to explain.
Most of the time, though, people can handle the baseline option with the idea that once their business gets momentum they’ll be able to build more into it. And you’ll be right there to support them through it. I work with people I genuinely like, with projects I like, so having a repeat customer you enjoy and can giggle with is a huge gift.
I’ve even become great friends with past clients and colleagues. So give them options. They’ll love you for it, and you have no idea how many other customers they will send your way as a result of you ACTUAL respect and love for their work.
4. Don’t disrespect your process
Sometimes we fall in love with a project and want SO MUCH to work on it but KNOW that working on it would mean that we would have to dishonor some part of our process to cut the price down. You have several options:
1. Don’t do it.
If their project will suffer for it and you foresee yourself growing resentful, killing two beautiful birds with one inauthenticity is not worth it. Send them to someone cheaper who can do the job well.
2. Determine if they will have funds for you in 3 months – 6 months.
If the anticipation is yes, consider it, and if it sits well with you, draft it into the contract.
3. Consider doing it on trade if they have something you want.
In this case, make sure the trade is fair and worth it. I’ve done trades that were not fair – I was ignorant of how long something would take me and eventually grew resentful. That hurt the project and our relationship.
4.Consider doing it at as your annual pro-bono project.
I’ve done this for several years in a row, and have had a project I’ve allocated some time to every month. In that particular case, I ended up moving into an advising role, and that suited me just fine. Why? I see the massive potential of this project and want to be involved when the funding comes in.
There is enough for us all. So in all these scenarios, surrender to your own truth on the matter first. Your intuition knows very early on if a client or a project will be a nightmare or a gift. I’ve found that I’m generally always right on this matter and have kicked myself (as well as returned deposits) upon realizing unfortunate inevitabilities. Please listen to yourself.
And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
What are some negotiation tips you’ve used in the past that have worked well for you?