24 Jan The Art of Negotiation
Are you a creator that’s having trouble getting your client to understand your interests, financially or creatively? Or are you a small business owner that works in a unique industry where all the rules aren’t set in stone? If either of these is the case, then you will find that there’s one skill that can significantly push you towards success: negotiating.
Value is the Basis for All Transactions
Before you ever even get close to a position of negotiation, you need to have an understanding of what is expected from both parties off the bat. In all transactions, there is a transfer, or shift of value, in the most general sense. This sense of value is most often found as monetary compensation: a dollar amount. However, value comes in many forms aside from money that people don’t even consider like opportunities, products, services, relationships, credentials, experiences, content, or even prestige. The first step in this process is understanding what everyone’s expectations are including:
Scope of work
Usage (Duration, Placement, Industry, etc.)
Come to The Table Prepared
Ideally, these things are mutually understood by both parties from the jump, but this is rarely the case. Some important qualities you will need to be a strong negotiator are confidence, respect, articulation, firm in your decision, and a good listener. In a client relationship, your ultimate goal is to understand what their needs are and find the best way to satisfy them while still ensuring your needs are met in conjunction. To best justify your needs to your client, you will need to leverage every point of value you provide along with your qualifications. This can include your time, gear, knowledge, formal/information education, experience, former clientele, portfolio, social media presence, efficiency, etc. This is your time to flex your skills to earn what you deserve. Keep in mind that people are coming to you for a reason and are aware of what you can do, they may just need a small reminder.
Where to Fold and Where to Double Down
The first rule of negotiating as a creative is: never sacrifice quality. I often hear people saying, “Oh, they’re not paying much, I’ll just do some quick basic adjustments and not do any retouching,” or, “This job is small, so I’ll just wing it.” This is not the correct approach. You are being considered for a job or position because of the level of quality you are known to provide. There is a multitude of places you can compromise on when negotiating your services. When you need to compromise something while negotiating with a client, always go for quantity. When a budget doesn’t fit exactly what you need for a job, see if the client can change the scope of work or number of deliverables to fit what they can afford. They would much rather you do a half-sized job at full effort opposed to the other way around. The main aspects of a project you can negotiate on are:
Usage rights (duration, placement, etc.)
Deliverables (amount of photos, length of the video, amount of shoots)
Time* (*Negotiating on time is a difficult topic for several reasons. Primarily, this assumes you are not charging based on time or hours. Secondarily, changing a timeframe only works in specific situations like event coverage and on smaller production sets.)
Negotiations Always End with Yes or No
I understand how stressful it can be to negotiate with clients, especially when it comes to jobs that you depend on for income, but you should keep in mind that you don’t have to take on every single opportunity that comes your way. Some will be worth it, some won’t. Your ability to turn down an offer during a negotiation is a powerful tool that can benefit you. Having a clear understanding of what makes a job worth it to you can help expedite your negotiation process by getting to the point much quicker. If you know the least you can accept for a project, and if that minimum is not being met, it is a clear sign to turn it down or turn the project over to someone else more suitable. Being firm in this aspect and having confidence in yourself that you can go on another day without “x” project or being able to negotiate situations that align with your goals as well will lead you to a more prosperous situation in the long-run.