the power of many

Man, ask just about anyone how 2009’s been treating them and you’ll get a smattering of groans, grunts and a whole lotta “What the heck is up with the economy?”

And if the job market looks frightening now, the freelance market is gonna start making it look like a 76-trombone parade (sorry, this shouldn’t be news).

Unfortunately, when things get rough our natural tendency is to get scared.  Scared people are not the best decision makers.  We know this.  So we try to combat it and pump ourselves up.  We decide we’re going to put our collective foot down and not give away any more power in our next deal.

Essentially, we scare ourselves into using hard bargaining techniques, like being aggressive, demanding, stubborn and not listening.  Sadly, this only makes the deals harder and clouds our decision making abilities.

Also, we come off like jerks.

But it’s hard not to!  Because the folks on the other side of the table are doing the same thing.  They’re freaked out too and resorting to bad habits.   And they’re not just worried about the deal they’re doing with you; they’re worried about all the deals that they’re doing.  Heaven forbid you are unlucky enough to show up after the last guy cleaned their clock; you’ll end up paying for it.

So what’s a solitary freelancer to do?


You should go drinking with your friends.

No, seriously.  You should.  It is soooo going to help your negotiations.

Because while you’re out enjoying a pint/cocktail/coffee/fizzy water, you’re all going to talk about the jobs you’re working (or not working, as the case may be).  You’re going to talk about the good, the bad & the ugly.  You are going to name names.  You are going to create your very own

Negotiation Workgroup

See, here’s the thing, most of the companies you’re working jobs for have a staff of more than 3 people.  What the heck do you think they do when they run into a problem at work?  They talk about it.  They test ideas out on one another, problem solve together, trade information about how vendors are acting and then use that to their advantage when they work with you.

There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, if they didn’t learn from their collective experiences, the business would be worse for it.

When your business is Me, Myself and I, you have to seek out collective experiences.  Why?  A couple reasons:

1.  Reputation — As balance sheets dip into the red, how we behave and what we deliver becomes ever more valuable.  Unfortunately, some businesses that deal with freelancers think no one will ever notice if they behave badly once or twice, short paying an invoice, say, or rejecting work that was previously accepted.  9 times out of 10, no one will, unless you talk about your experiences. Reward good business partners by talking them up; help other professionals avoid the nasty ones.

2. Money — At work I use my past experiences with vendors to determine how to approach money matters; you should be doing the same thing with clients.  Did a client you work with offer you a bonus if you finished early?  Tell your buddy that is being talked up for their next job.  Did your colleague manage to negotiate a higher rate with a traditionally tight fisted client?  Ask her how she did it.

If you need reasons other than reputation or money, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Some suggested tips for starting your Negotiation Workgroup

  • Agree on confidentiality from the get go.  How can people use the information they gather at sessions?  When can they refer to other group members by name in business dealings?
  • Make them regular occurrences.  You’ll all get more out of it if you’re doing it regularly and you’ll learn faster.
  • Get over how silly and scary it feels to talk about business for an hour every other week right now.  If you want to be a professional, you need to be doing this.  If you’re not talking about business with your peers, why do you consider it business?  Because you do it a lot?  Not good enough.
  • Practice negotiating with one another.  Seriously.  You should be role playing this stuff out.  Do it once or twice with friends and the real thing won’t be so intimidating.  Plus, you’ll be better prepared when clients come at you with particular demands; you’ll be able to come back with something better than, “Um, OK, I guess?”
  • Just do it.  There are  101 reasons to wait but none of them will make you any money, find you good clients or help improve current jobs.

Categories: Negotiation Strategy

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