The tips below work very well in negotiating pay or the sale of a piece of art, but the concepts can carry over into many, many other realms of negotiating. Without these skills you could be giving away money without realizing it. Knowing how to negotiate is a great way to stop leaving money on the table.
Here are 5 tips to better negotiating:
Know your worth.
Have a number in mind going in. Know what you aren’t willing to accept. Call this your low figure. If you walk away having accepted a job for less than what you were willing to work for it is because you weren’t prepared with your low figure or you did not know how to say no. Taking a job for less than what you think is fair does two things. First, it sets the standard for that client to always peg you in that pay bracket and, from that point forward, to always expect to pay you accordingly. Secondly, it can start you off and keep you in the mindset of resentment, which can affect your work, your attitude, your discipline, and your working relationship with the client.
He who throws out the first number loses.
You want to hear what their number is first. Let them tell you what they were thinking before you tell them what you want. This can be rather tricky with someone who also knows this negotiation strategy, so it does not always work out that you can keep from naming your price first. Keep this in mind and don’t blow a deal by being too coy or confusing. Negotiation is an art.
I do, however, want to lay down a bit of the rationality behind this tip. Let us say that you are willing to do a job for $300. You do not know that they were thinking they’d have to spend $500. If you start off the conversation with $300, you just lost $200. Damn. See how this one could be a valuable tool?
There is one thing you must always be prepared to do when negotiating pay and that is – to actually negotiate. When you name your price, the client could most definitely try to go lower. So the number you initially name should be higher than the number you want in case they try to negotiate you down.
For example, if you know your low figure is $250, don’t tell them you will work for $250. Start at, say, $300. They might come back to you with $200. Then you can counter with $250 and come to an agreement right where you had hoped to end up.
Similarly, they will likely be giving you a number lower than what they are willing to pay. If they say $200, you can always negotiate up from that number. Try something like, “Judging by the scope of the project and the amount of time it will take, my standard rate for this type of job is $300.” At that point you can negotiate to meet them somewhere in the middle and everyone should be happy with the final decision.
Never sound uncertain or apologize.
When you are stating your figure or discussing your value or the scope of the job, never waiver or apologize. Your confidence and certainty about your value and your knowledge of your craft will help to instill confidence in your client that you are the right choice for the job and that you are equal to the pay that you are asking for. If you open up a negotiation with, “I usually charge $400 but I’m willing to do it for $300”, you may as well not have mentioned the $400 at all and you have just given them permission to pay you $300. You will never see that extra hundred dollars because you just gave it away in one sentence.
Advertise your true value.
If, in the end, you agree to do work for less than you stated you normally ask for, let them know. You can buy good relations by them knowing that you are giving them a special discount and you are also setting the standard that you do not always work for that low price. This makes it much easier for you to raise your price later when you work for them again. It will also help to support your pricing stability in the future with any new clients that may be referred to you by this current client.
List your discount on any invoice you give them. This reminds them of your actual worth and of the deal you are giving them. If you told them initially your standard was $400 and you negotiated $300, make the invoice out for $400 with a $100 discount. You can call the discount whatever you want, the key is to have it there.
As an artist, you may have to take a few jobs at lower than what you prefer, but with these tools, that might not be as often. Polish up your negotiating skills and get yourself properly paid.
Stay hungry and stay Well Fed.
– C.R. Cohen.
Chelsea Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.