9 Things to Know Before Your Next Negotiation
Editorial business owners are always negotiating. Whether it’s terms for an upcoming project or an existing contract that’s gone out of scope, having these tough conversations is part of the job.
It’s not just about getting the most money or the most favorable terms, but also about finding a balance between what the client wants and what you want. It’s about finding a solution that works for both of you. After all, negotiation is a two-way street.
Here are 9 things to know before your next negotiation with a client:
1. BE READY TO SAY NO
The fear that many of us have around negotiations is hearing, and saying, “no.” But remember that every negotiation starts with a “no.” Otherwise, why would you be negotiating?
Practice saying “no” in a mirror, or with a friend—whatever it takes for you to get used to saying that tiny, yet powerful, word. Soon it will feel like second nature, and your business (and personal life!) will be better than ever.
2. PLAN TO AIM HIGH
Before the negotiation begins, it’s important to know your bottom line. What’s the lowest number you’ll consider before walking away from the deal?
Then, decide what you’ll ask for in the negotiation, and aim high—as high as you can while still being relatively realistic (don’t ask for $1 million for a proofread). Even if this number feels ridiculous to you at first, know that you’ll negotiate down from there.
Here’s the key to this concept: if you go into a negotiation knowing exactly what you want and you start there, you’re actually showing that you’re not willing to negotiate anything. You’ll look like you’re not willing to compromise, and the client will almost always call you out on it.
3. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you start a negotiation, be sure to do your research. Have a clear understanding of what the client is asking for, as well as what you’re willing to accept. This will help you make the best decisions for both you and the client.
It’s also important to read through any existing contracts or agreements that may be in place, to make sure you’re aware of any pre-established terms. This will help you form a baseline for the negotiation.
4. START ON COMMON GROUND
In their simplest form, negotiations are based on one fact: someone wants to buy something, and someone wants to sell it. As a freelance editor, you want to sell your services, and your client wants to buy them. This is your common ground.
Start every negotiation by simply stating your common goal, in very general terms: “I would love to work with you, so let’s talk about ways we can make that happen.”
Strive for a respectful tone, and use “we” to show that you’re invested in working together to achieve a win-win result.
5. NEVER SHOW YOUR CARDS
Once you’re in the middle of a negotiation, be careful not to show your cards. This gives the other person all the power, and you will lose ground without gaining anything.
Avoid phrases like these at all costs:
- “The least I can do this for is $200.”
- “The most I can pay is $100.”
These types of phrases give away your bargaining power and back you into a corner.
6. BE THE FIRST PERSON TO THROW OUT A (HIGH) NUMBER
Not showing your cards doesn’t mean you should avoid being the first person to throw out a number. In fact, studies have shown that the first number mentioned during a negotiation serves as an anchor, especially if the seller says it.
For example, if a graphic designer is negotiating with a CEO who wants a new logo, the graphic designer should be the first to say that the logo design will cost $10,000. Even if the CEO had planned on offering $4,000, they will usually respond with something closer to the anchor number, like $6,000.
7. DON’T RUSH INTO A “SOLUTION”
As freelancers, we often feel caught between wanting to make our clients happy and still needing to make a living. Many times, we go above and beyond to find a quick “solution” that really isn’t addressing the root problem. One example of this is accepting projects that offer lower pay and/or unreasonable deadlines.
Instead of rushing into closing a deal you know isn’t a good fit, give it time to breathe. Don’t rush into something just to make the other person happy—the beauty of negotiation is that it can, and should, benefit both sides.
8. KNOW YOUR VALUE
A big part of negotiating successfully is understanding your own value and leveraging that knowledge to get what you want. Know what you’re worth and be confident in asking for it. Don’t be afraid to push back on a client’s demands if they don’t line up with your worth.
Negotiation is a delicate balance, and it’s important to remember that you have the power to walk away if the deal isn’t right for you. Knowing your value is key to a successful negotiation.
9. BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY
Let’s face it: walking away from a negotiation is hard. We’re often afraid to disappoint a prospective or current client, or we’re scared they might spread rumors about our business or try to go after us in some way. This is especially true with authority figures, such as an influential person in the community.
But it’s so important to be able to leave the contract on the table if the terms aren’t right for you. Just remember: walking away from the wrong client frees you up to attract your ideal client.
Be confident in your negotiation, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You may be surprised by the results!
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