0609 3 Lessons I LearnedAre you a confident negotiator? When you need to buy a new car, do you relish the opportunity to spar with the salesperson? If you said “no,” welcome to the club.

When I received an inquiry recently about providing a significant quantity of web content and several other marketing deliverables, I knew I had a chance to nail down a large deal. Like, a $27,000 deal. This project would represent the largest deal I’d inked in my freelance career…if I could negotiate it.

Lessons Learned From Negotiation

I don’t deny I possess mad skilz when it comes to negotiating the price of a $5 coffee mug at the flea market: “Will you take two bucks?” But haranguing the incense dealer to throw in an extra stick of patchouli isn’t really in the same league as crafting a deal with a potential client. If you want to earn big bucks as a freelancer, hone your negotiating skills. Here are a few things I learned during this most recent negotiation.

  1. Negotiation requires stamina

When I mention I’ve landed a great gig, other writers often will ask me, “How did you get it?” What they mean is did the client come to you, or did you go out and find them? When I respond with something like, “The lead came in through my web contact form,” the other writer nods and replies, “Ahh.” They sound as if they think I didn’t put any work into landing the gig, like it just fell into my lap.

Oh, far from it.

The negotiation process can take a long time, and it requires your active involvement. When that lucrative potential contract lands in your inbox, take a deep breath and settle in for the long haul.

  1. Negotiation is not “selling”

In this particular negotiation, I was invited to a phone conversation to discuss the prospective client’s needs. I did a lot of listening and very little talking.

Many freelancers make the mistake of believing the phone call is an opportunity to sell themselves and their services. It’s not. This is not the time to narcissistically blather on about yourself and all the great writing you can provide.

If you only take away one thing from this blog post, let it be this: You do not offer a service; you solve a problem.

Your clients couldn’t care less about your writing talent and all the great services you offer. They have a problem, and they want it solved–sooner rather than later, preferably. When you discuss the project with the client, remember the phone0609 No matter if you are working... call is a time to discover what problems the client needs solved so you then can offer your solutions in the proposal.

I knew I had nailed the phone convo when the prospect said in a follow-up email, “It was so great to talk with someone who obviously understands exactly what our problem is with our web content.”

No matter if you are working with an editor or a marketing client, your job is to solve their problems. Writers who do that win negotiations.

  1. ‘No’ means ‘help me say yes’

A couple days after the phone conversation, I sent a proposal and received a relatively swift email from the prospect: “I really like what you’ve outlined here, but it’s a little too high-end for us. I can’t do it.”

Many freelancers would accept this rejection at face value. I mean, you did your best, right? But the prospect said no, so…what can you say?

Well, plenty.

In this case, I addressed the main objection: money. I wrote back with suggestions for making the proposal more budget-friendly. I offered to take certain items off the table in exchange for reducing the price. I also worked out a way the client could pay a smaller retainer with more frequent incremental payments.

Whenever a prospective client says “no,” take it as an opportunity to discover what their objections are and then overcome them—help them say “yes.”

So, Did the Client Sign or Not?

After much email correspondence and several revised proposals, the client finally signed on the dotted line about 90 days after that first contact. What a sweet feeling!

Tell me your biggest fears about negotiating. What do you hate about it the most? Post in the comments thread.

Wishing you well,