Lesson 9: Effective Negotiation

What You’ll Learn: A business negotiation requires a slightly different skill set than a personal one. In this lesson, we will look at how to effectively negotiate a contract or agreement so that both sides come out ahead.

Effective Negotiation (continued)

When Things Go Awry

Jobs come and go. But your personal values and professional integrity need to remain intact. There will be times when your values don’t match your client’s, even when, on the surface, you seem to hit it off famously.

Just because things have gone off the rails doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, the client or the work you agreed to. People are not perfect. They often say they are one thing when their actions show they value something else. For example, you and your client may value honesty and transparency and see them as the basis of trust. But your client’s boss may not have the same values and is pressuring your client to act contrary to their own personal values, the ones you shared.

This is your client’s problem, not yours. You have no control over the fact that they are suddenly micromanaging you or asking for more work for the same price. This is a red flag, and you need to recognize it as such. You may like your new client a lot but not the way they are conducting themselves. You don’t have to sacrifice your personal and professional values to make a relationship work. Like a marriage gone bad, sometimes it is better to walk away before the relationship becomes toxic. Use it as a learning opportunity you can grow from.

Initially, you will find this extremely hard to do. Opportunity is in greater supply than paid gigs, and you may believe you’re walking away from a chance to build your portfolio and make some good money. Just know that this may come at a cost, including insomnia, hair loss and the need to pop anxiety pills like they are Tic Tacs.

Anxiety is the antithesis of creativity. It will choke the best creative in the world because ordinary decision-making that drives the creative process becomes cloudy with the fear of failure or judgment. As such, we make decisions that run counter to our gut, which urges us to do what we feel is right rather than act on our unfounded fears. Fear-based creativity is not what any client wants. Even if you are desperate, you need to resist the temptation to take a job that your gut is screaming at you not to take. The toll it will take on you isn’t worth any price.

That’s not to say that you will be able to walk away from every job that doesn’t jazz you. The reality of owning a business as a creative is you now have obligations. You have costs to cover and a creative need to feed, along with a growling stomach. There are times when you will take that job you don’t like, and you’ll need to take extra care of yourself to make sure you don’t wither physically, mentally and emotionally. Ultimately, what you deliver reflects you. Show up, do the job, do your best, cash the check and don’t look back.

Believe In Your Worth

It is tough putting your creativity out there all the time. Rejection sucks. Criticism hurts. Even so, it’s tough to turn off that feeling that burns inside of you, the need to express who you are in this world.

Writing this, I have come to realize that I churned out 33,534 words at work last week; 6,079,106 since July 2016. I am either blessed or cursed with this narrator in my head who dictates the words I type. That may sound weird to some, but so does writing symphonies when you can’t hear, something some guy named Beethoven did pretty well. Someone inside had the music; all he had to do was put it to paper.

We all have stories like this. We find ourselves waking up in the middle of the night because we had a dream or an inspiration that we just had to write down or put to canvas. We have to get the idea out of us no matter what else we’re doing or where we are at the moment.

As you perfect the art of negotiation, always approach the process knowing your worth in this world. There is no winner or loser in a successful negotiation. If done right, it’s a win-win exchange where both sides get what they need, and at times, want.

If you are asking for more than what the market typically charges or what a competitor has pitched, be ready to support the request with your background, experience, vision, commitment to exceeding client expectations, or whatever you need to use to reinforce the unique value you bring to the project.

When I ran my creative company, I finally hit on the one thing that demonstrated my value and lifted me above the others. Whenever I was asked what I brought to the project, I would reply, “I lose sleep, so you don’t have to.” There it was in a nutshell. I was there to lift a weight off the client. If they hired me they didn’t have to worry about the problem anymore. It was now my problem, and it would be done right, on time and on budget.

Don’t ever undersell what you are worth. It’s easy to do, but the inherent danger in this connected world of ours is that once you set a bargain price, referrals will expect that same price. You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner that will be tough to get out of.