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How freelancers/consultants negotiate

negotiateMost consultants hate negotiations because they lack self-confidence. Not everyone can become a master negotiator overnight, and although it might be difficult to believe, both consultants and freelancers can negotiate a deal as long as they’re willing to learn.

People who work on their own don’t know much about negotiations, and therefore they end up with offers that don’t necessarily match with their expertise. Why settle for less when you can step up your game and ask for what you deserve? Here’s how consultants should negotiate to make the most of an offer.

Follow the ground rules

Every negotiation is different and directly linked to its participants. It’s easy to express your opinions as long as you do it the right way. Never agree to an offer without having evaluated the situation first. If you’re used to accepting whatever people ask you to do, you run the risk of missing other opportunities that could be more valuable. It doesn’t matter whether you’re negotiating as you still need to avoid giving yes-no answers. Instead, you should turn to answers such as “Sounds interesting, but I would rather talk about…”

Remember that you’re not working for your negotiators, so you’re not obliged to agree with their claims. Rather than say ‘yes’ to their offer, it’s best to analyze the situation first. Don’t forget that you have leverage; you’re the consultant/freelancer, so they need you not the other way round.

 Don’t let them intimidate you

Most negotiators are used to talking fast and raising their voice whenever they want to make themselves understood. In other words, they negotiate by force and they bully their opponents into submission. As a consultant, how do you cope with such an attitude? The best strategy would be to play offense/defense. Make your point and don’t back down from the deal. Why should you be the one to agree first?

Play offense to divert attention and if you’re afraid to compromise or you cannot justify your stance, drilling holes in your counterpart’s position by questioning their assumptions can be a good strategy. However, don’t forget to analyze the dynamics of the conversation so that you can adjust your behavior according to it. As soon as you’re ready to make concessions, start by making an insignificant one first and wait to see whether your counterpart decides to respond in a similar manner.

Avoid common mistakes

Most consultants make the mistake of focusing on short-term gains instead of turning their attention to long-term payoffs. Even though short-term perspectives seem to be more appealing when you’re trying to close a deal, you shouldn’t fall into that trap. Skilled negotiators might trick you into accepting a deal that only sounds goods at the surface. Hidden terms and conditions, unethical measures, and devious strategies are used all the time, so it’s best to avoid those mistakes and focus solely on the offer. Don’t be shy to ask questions if the negotiation terms are not clear enough.

Don’t take things personal

As a freelance worker or independent consultant, you can’t blame a client for not liking your work. It’s impossible to please everyone, so if a negotiation fails, it may not be because of you. Try not to lose your self-confidence just because you got rejected. Rather than whine, why don’t you analyze your failures to try and improve your future negotiations?


Today’s fail can be tomorrow’s win

Nobody likes to lose, that’s for sure. In all honesty, even the best negotiators can’t win all the time so you’re not the only one in a bad situation. Failing a negotiation might lead to a win in the future. Don’t forget to keep things professional even if your counterpart turned down your offer. Mutual respect can bring you a lot of benefits, not to mention that you’re showing your partners that you’re not a sore loser.

Negotiating a deal as a consultant is not like negotiating from the perspective of a business person, CEO, or director. It’s important to be determined, confident in your skills, and honest. While it’s true that you can’t please everyone, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach an agreement.

Prior to agreeing to anything, make sure that you understand your counterpart’s intensions. Analyze their offer, ask questions if you’re in doubt, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Consultants and freelancers are independent workers. They make their own decision, and there’s no one to tell them what to do.

Yet, if an offer doesn’t comply with your demands, don’t hesitate to ask for a renegotiation.

Photo credit: ehpien via photopin cc


About Greg Dillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at http://gdinspires.com. He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched Strat-Talking.com - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic as well as acquiring CreativeAgencyFreelancing.com for designers. Feel free to email him at: greg@gdinspires.com or follow on Twitter @CAFreelancing.

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