Get Paid What You’re Worth: 37 Negotiation Tactics for Every Freelance Writer

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Do you freak out when you hear the word negotiation?

Does your gut turn, palms sweat, and heart pound when it comes down to talking price? Do you self-medicate with Tums and a tumbler of Wild Turkey?

Trust me. I understand. I’m not a natural born negotiator. I hate conflict. I hate rejection. But if writing is your business I’ve learned this: you have to know how to negotiate.

Making a living depends on it. But it doesn’t have to be hard.

As a web writer and direct-response copywriter I’ve studied negotiation. I’ve studied persuasion. I’ve read the best books on influence and listened to the best podcasts.

In my twelve years as a writer I’ve also participated in hundreds of negotiations — small and large. I’ve used them successfully, and I’ve used them poorly. So I’m not an armchair business philosopher here just spouting advice.

I’m a solider who’s seen combat. And lived to tell about it.

What you’re about to read are thirty-seven negotiation moves that can help you make more money. These are negotiation moves that I’ve used in my career as a freelance writer.

They are easy to understand. The hard part is having the guts to use them (see negotiation move no. 36).

And get this: you don’t have to be a writer to use these tactics. Everyone — no matter their station in life, career or desires — has to negotiate. And it’s a lot more fun (and profitable) when you know how to do it.

So, let’s get started.

1. Think win-win

Negotiation is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a way to manipulate and fleece people. And it’s definitely not a way to make you filthy rich at the expense of other people.

If that is how you view negotiation, then you will not last long.

Negotiations are about building a relationship, so if either side is not happy at the end, then it wasn’t a negotiation. Negotiate until both sides are happy (see no. 30 for an alternative move).

2. Determine what you want to make

Never enter a negotiation without first establishing a position you will be satisfied with.

However, this should NOT be an absolute number. Instead, it should be a range — $2,400 to $2,800 — with an itemized list of essential (read: non-negotiable) and non-essential (I’ll tell you why that is important in a minute) requirements.

Write these down if it helps you to remember.

3. Build value first

Your first task as a negotiator is to show people what you can do. They need to see the value.

For example, say a potential client asks for the cost to write a 1,000 word sales letter for a landing page. Instead of whipping out the cost, explain to her everything you will do: research, dig through analytics, gather testimonials for proof, write a rough draft, present for evaluation, revise and so on.

Make the image in her head of what you do grow, because there is a really good chance it is tiny.

4. Avoid saying price first

After you’ve built the value, next you’ll want to ask: “How much is that worth to you?” If she tells you … good. You know where she stands. You can work with that.

More than likely, though, she’ll tell you she doesn’t know. Either she won’t honestly know because she didn’t do her homework, or she does know but doesn’t want to name her price first.

She wants to see where you stand. So she’ll tell you to go first. If that happens, use the next negotiation move.

5. Always go high

When you are facing a negotiator who refuses to name a price, shrug, and simply go high.

Really high.

And then wait for her response.

6. Suck in your teeth

Sometime a negotiator will be the first to name a price. And if she is a good negotiator she’ll low ball you.

She wants to draw you out. See your financial position. Don’t give in. Instead, flinch.

“Flinch” is the classical term used. I wrote “Suck in Your Teeth” because most of my negotiations happen over the phone or email where people can’t see you. So they need to hear your shock.

In an email, you can simply tell them their offer sounds pretty low. Or tell them they’ll have to do better than that. Then wait.

7. Keep your mouth shut

Silence will eat most people alive.

The silence makes them uncomfortable so they keep talking. And when people are talking they are bound to say something you can use — like their price range.

8. Ask for a budget

Another way to flush out someone’s financial position is to simply ask them if they have a budget.

Yeah. We have a budget.
Okay. What is it?
We have $1,250 set aside for copywriting.

Your job is to decide what work — if any — you will do for that amount.

9. Price each item

Legend has it that a shady Brooklyn optician would sell eye glasses piece by piece. He’d get the buyer to agree on the frames and the price, and then go to ring up the order. The buyer would then ask about the glass and nose piece.

“Oh,” the optician would say, “those cost extra.”

The trick is to get a client to agree on all items before you disclose the final price. Once they are committed it’s hard to say no (see move no. 33).

I don’t like this gambit. I don’t like it used on me and I don’t like to use it. However, I’ve found this move to be effective when a client starts to nibble — you know, “Hey, do you mind adding X while you’re at it?”

Your response: “Sure, I can do it for Y. Are you okay with that?”

10. Recruit a champion

If you can get someone on your side from the other party during a negotiation, then you’ll have a little leverage, if not a lot.

To be honest, almost all of my work has come from knowing someone on the inside. But how exactly do you go about recruiting that champion? It’s a long-term strategy where you use a combination of tools like blogs, Twitter, conferences, and the phone.

And patience.

You might get a regular follower on your blog. You trade emails, tweets, meet him at a conference. He introduces you to someone else. You do a little work for him. And then he introduces you to someone else.

Bingo: work out the wazoo.

11. Float a trial balloon

You’ve seen this tactic in action …

News about a particular political action is “leaked.” The goal is to get the public’s reaction to the idea. NY Governor Cuomo did this recently with gas drilling.

Some speculate that Google’s Glass Project, which amounted to a video concept, was a trial balloon. They’re basically looking to see if there is mass appeal.

Have an idea you’re not sure how a potential client will react? Float a trial balloon. Just say, “Hey, what do you think about X?” Then wait for their reaction.

12. Slice it up

Early in my career I used to approach companies and offer to re-write their web content. Not many people bit, but when they did, they always asked about price. Happy to have someone interested, I’d build value and then drop the bomb on them.

Most of the time they flinched … and never called or emailed back.

I learned instead to slice the project down into easy-to-swallow chunks. This enticed them to hire me. As I delivered on my smaller promises and built trust, I simply asked for more.

And it came.

13. Go half way

Remember when I said from the start that a successful negotiation was a win-win situation? Well, this is a strategy that can help you overcome that relationship-spoiling gridlock.

The idea is to demonstrate that you’re willing to concede the balance of a difference.

For example, if your gig requires travel, offer to split the difference of those expenses, keeping the deal alive.

If it is worth it, go half way.

14. Pad the deal

The more working parts to a negotiation means the more options you have when it comes to conceding.

Bulk up on conditions. However, the trick is knowing what’s essential and what’s not.

For example, “I can’t do this job without direct access to your data. Oh, you don’t allow that? Well, while it’s not my normal policy, I guess I can be hand fed that info.”

Keep this in mind: you are only conceding on non-essentials. Don’t budge on the essentials (see move no. 2).

15. Resist short time frames

Imagine you get a mover and shaker on the phone. She wants to talk to you about a writing project. You are stoked! You say hi, she says hi, and then jumps right into the negotiation.

You can tell this will be a short phone call. A very short one.

Never negotiate under that kind of pressure. False deadlines will trip you up. Instead, politely interrupt, point out that you can tell she’s busy and ask if there is a better time to talk when she has more time. Or just ask for more time.

16. Find space to think

Say she says, “No, there isn’t a better time.” She’s polite, but firm. She’s a great negotiator.

You shrug, go on with the call. You make an offer, she counters immediately and you are not sure what you should do next. Is that a good offer? Are you missing something?


All you need is more time to think. Tell her you need to use the bathroom. Your dog is on fire. Or pretend like the call is breaking up.

Whatever you do, get space to think before you agree to anything.

17. Change the negotiator

Another way to deal with a difficult negotiator (which can also mean superior negotiator) is to reset the rules by speaking to someone else.

This works great if you are dealing with a start up or small company where there are two founders. If one is proving impossible, ask to speak to the other.

18. Shift their benchmarks

Ever had a potential client trot out their perfect solution — and it wasn’t you? In fact, it’s your competitor.

But who or what they trot out doesn’t matter. You’ve been given valuable information. They’ve just shown you their standard to which they judge all others.

Your job is to change that standard. “You know that guy knows nothing about online marketing, don’t you? Zero experience. I’ve got twelve.”

19. Check the facts

This tactic works lock-step with the one above (no. 18). If you can trot out a fact or evidence that questions their claims or backs up yours, then you are on your way to turning the tables in your favor.

Listen: I’m not suggesting you approach this like a jerk. Don’t laugh or taunt. You’ll shut them down. How you trot out these specific facts is just as important as what you trot out.

Oh, I can totally understand why you would believe that. But did you know that if you look into their data, X doesn’t actually do what they say? There was a huge scandal in TechCrunch …

Objective facts will change the game in your favor. Do your homework.

20. Control the agenda

There is more than one way to skin a cat. And there is more than one way to spoil a good negotiation.

Anarchy is one of them.

Anarchy is what you get when nobody is in control of the meeting. Recently I was involved on a project with a team of really smart people. Unfortunately, we accomplished little because there was no agenda.

The next time we met, however, I volunteered to take the meeting notes. And demanded we determine what we wanted to accomplish in the next ninety minutes. Once that was determined, I held them to those goals.

It was an efficient and effective meeting because I established rules that we were all expected to follow.

21. Trot out credentials

Hands down, if you have two candidates with equal experience, skills and education, but one has a degree from Harvard and the other one from a small college in Montana, the person from Harvard is going to get the job.

This may not seem fair, but it’s life.

Live with it, and get those endorsements.

22. Push them against deadlines

Deadlines are great tools for getting people off of their duffs. It works in copywriting, and it also works in selling yourself in a negotiation.

Pretend you just finished a project and you’ve got about three weeks before you start your next one. Email some past clients and say, “Hey Name, now might be a good time to write that sales page we talked about. I’m free for the next three weeks. After that I won’t be able to get to it for four months.”

You’re bound to get a bite or two.

23. Build tension with delays

This is just a variation of “Ask for Time.” Most people in negotiations want out of the situation as soon as possible. They’re busy or hate the conflict.

Whatever the reason, use that momentum.

There is an exquisite example of the effective use of delays in the book You Can Negotiate Anything. The author, Herb Cohen, is working against a presumed deadline—his flight leaves at noon on Monday. The other party knew this and delayed until the eleventh hour. Cohen is exasperated at this point and basically gives away the farm.

The lesson: get a new flight home.

24. Present a bleak picture

This is a variation of the Pain-Agitate-Solve formula. Identify with their pain point, and then tell them how awful it’s going to be if they don’t do anything about it.

You know, I can totally understand your desire to preserve your cash in this economy. But freezing your marketing budget will only dry up your pipeline, and that’s not what you want to do when your current customers start bailing because they can’t afford your service.

At that point connect the dots for him: you are the solution to his problems.

25. Pull out your empty pockets

Your favorite uncle hears you’re a copywriter. He’s got a business. He recycles road kill fur into fun little hats for children. He doesn’t understand why, but he’s not making any money. He hears you are a copywriter and offers to hire you.

What do you do?

You refuse him. But you do it politely. “Uh, yeah, you know I just can’t help you. That’s out of my field. I don’t have the knowledge.”

See, it’s not about desire. It’s about ability. You just don’t have it.

26. Use “we” and never “I”

This is technical and minor, but it works.

When discussing projects with clients I always use the word “we” and not “I.” My goal is to demonstrate to them that I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not a hired gun. I’m a partner.

This changes the scene from a win-lose to a win-win. My buy-in proves that my success equals their success, which communicates that I’m going to work hard for them.

27. Appeal to fame or greed

If you open the right hand drawer of my desk one of the first things you’ll see is a box of old business cards.

Open the box, pull out a card and you’ll see on the front the standard fare: name, address and so on. Flip the card over and you’ll see this tag line: “I can make you rich, powerful or famous.” I then list ways in which I can do that.

My wife hates that business card. Thinks it’s tacky. But it works. Look at Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich. He’s built an empire in teaching people how to solve their financial problems. And so can you.

28. Flatter the other party

Okay. This is a cheap trick. But it works. And to be honest, people know it works — and they don’t care. They like their egos stroked.

Point out how beautiful the website is.

Compliment her on her name or her nose (okay, maybe not her nose).

Just say something nice. It will go a long way.

29. Say “I’m not happy”

This is a basic building block to negotiations. You should say this throughout the process until you reach a point you can accept, and both sides are happy.

But you can also use this after the negotiations are over and you’re plowing through the work.

You know, this is taking me a lot longer to do because of X, Y and Z, which were added later. I’m not making any money now. We need to revisit our terms.

Notice I didn’t actually come right out and say “I’m not happy.” I just stated the facts. Not a single whiff of emotion.

30. Don’t commit to promises of paradise

Sneaky people like to trade on promises of paradise.

You know, we can’t pay you now. But if this works out, we’ll have a whole lot more work for you. Like a lifetime’s worth. And plenty of champagne and lobster for an army.

Run away. Run far, far away (see move no. 37).

31. Pit mom against dad

Parents will recognize this ploy instantly. Child complains that dad is being mean. Mom tells dad to stop being mean (this can go either way — mom being mean and so on).

Any power the parents had together is effectively diminished. This works in the business world, too.

If you are dealing with two or more people on the side of negotiation, introduce information that might get them quibbling with each other. Could be statistics or a study that demonstrates one of them is wrong. You gain position when the other side is divided.

32. Talk to decision makers

Before you begin negotiating ask, “Will you be the person making the decision on this?”

If they say no, then ask who will be making the decision. Then ask if you can talk to that person.

If that’s not possible, then you may just have to deal with it. But that’s okay. You’ve got 36 other moves you can use.

33. Get the other side to commit

Commitment is a strong negotiation tactic. It’s one of the six principles of influence Cialdini taught us in his book.

Here’s how it works: start with a small commitment. Just make it a simple yes or no.

“Do you want this by Friday?”

“Do you want me to write a companion Facebook post?”

“Do you want this in Word?”

All of these smaller commitments will lead to an easier larger commitment when it comes to closing the deal.

Why does this work? People who start something do not like to appear inconsistent. They want to finish what they started.

It takes effort and humility to break off a commitment. What will the other side think of you? The trick is to not care (see the second-to-last tactic).

34. Work it like a call girl

Not really.

The point is to avoid getting stiffed on the back end by asking for payment up front. Just make it part of your non-negotiables (see no. 2)

If asking for all of the moula up front is too strong, request half.

35. Be confident

One of the best ways to lose a negotiation is to be insecure. You’ll either get taken advantage of or you’ll agree to terms you don’t like because you are too scared to state your terms.

Plus, your objections or statements may not instill confidence if the other party senses you are insecure. They’ll wonder if you can even pull off the job.

Raise your chin and your voice. Look people in the eye. State clearly and concisely want you want. And don’t flinch (unless it’s appropriate).

36. Stop caring about the outcome

Remember the last time you were a nervous wreck? Maybe it was before a first date or first interview. More than likely you really wanted this date or interview to work out.

You really cared about it.

Now think about the last time you sauntered into an interview, ate all the peanuts from a jar on the table and stared at the ceiling. The outcome didn’t matter to you. So you were relaxed and confident.

That sort of indifference will not only help you to think clearly, but it will also allow you to pull off one of the best negotiation moves ever.

See the last move …

37. Walk away

In the end, after all options have been exhausted and you’re still not happy, exit the negotiation.

Get up, and walk away.

Of course, this means you have to have options. If you’re desperate, then walking away will not help. If you’re emotionally tied to the outcome, then the other party has a hook in your nose. You can’t walk away.

I cannot tell you how powerful it is to be able to shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, I guess this isn’t going to work out. Talk to you later.” It’s a good place to be in.

In conclusion …

Let me make a suggestion to you: print this out. I know it’s long, and will eat a lot of paper, but it will pay you back anytime you find yourself on the other end of a negotiation.

And trust me. That can happen at just about any time.

You could find yourself working through a blog post, look down and see a client’s name show up on the screen. You pick up and start talking. And you realize he’s just made you some kind of offer. That’s happened to me more times than I can count.

And let me repeat: while this advice is directed towards writers, anyone can benefit. Entrepreneurs. Accountants. Mothers. School principals. You name it, we all have to negotiate.

Now it’s your turn. Share your favorite negotiating move in the comments …

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Reader Comments (110)

  1. says

    though I’m not the freelance writer but I hire freelancers I get to know many negotiating points from this post 😉
    But agree, if you are a freelancer caring for quality content then you should decide your price and which should be high if you think you are providing the value.

    Demian, can you also share a post where we can learn more on how to negotiate as a employer? :)

    • says

      Hey Vijay, good question. You can actually use these on both sides of the table. I’ve not used them to hire anyone, so can’t give examples, but they work if you are an employer. Just remember: everyone has needs. That can help you negotiate no matter what side of the table you are own.

  2. says

    This is great advice on negotiation. I bookmarked the post.

    My favorite negotiation tip is to visualize a favorable outcome for both parties. Ask for a positive outcome that’s a win-win situation. Having confidence helps too. Be bold and put your best “negotiation foot forward.”

    Tip: Think about a writing opportunity before you even think about negotiating. Make sure you actually want the writing opportunity. Don’t accept a project out of fear. Writing opportunities are plentiful; get rid of scarcity thinking.

    • says

      Amandah, that is a beautiful tip. I think it ties into the last one: willing to walk away. If you know what you want, you can say “NO.” If you don’t like what’s being offered to you. And you are right: writing opportunities are plentiful. Thanks.

    • says

      I agree, confidence is key to any negotiation whether you’re at any side of the conversation. When you are confident of what you can give you can negotiate better.

  3. Kate Papas says

    I wish I had all that information when I started my carrier, not to say my life! But, as said in a Greek proverb: “It is never too late” And, in my book, as long as we live, we have the possibility of bettering our lives.

  4. says

    Great advice on a subject that’s difficult and…kinda scary for a lot of freelancers, especially relatively new one!

    I’ve bookmarked this and will be sharing it.

    One question: What’s your opinion on listing rates on your web site? (I’m a service-based freelancer (writing and editing) and sometimes clients want to pay hourly, and sometimes they want a project-based fee) Thoughts?

    Thanks for a great, useful post.

    • says

      There’s a couple of schools of thought here. You could publish your per hour rate or rate sheet in order to discourage inquiries. For instance, Tim Ferriss says he won’t personally coach anyone for less than $50,000. That excludes A LOT of people. I don’t like to publish a per hour rate because most people don’t understand what it takes to do a particular project. The other problem with publishing prices is that you are trying to compete on price. Someone who just wants the lowest possible price is not my ideal client. I’d rather work for somebody who wants the best quality. In other words, the conversation should start off with the project, not the price. Withholding the price is also a great call to action: “Email me to find how I can customize your project.”

      • says

        Good morning, Mr Farnworth.

        Fresh with success from advice given in the main body of your article, I’m now working my way through the comments to learn more. I so like this little gem – ‘the conversation should start with the project – not the price’.
        My colleague and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on the issue of price. I think he undervalues what he brings to the table and consequently doesn’t take it into account when setting the price. If we start with the project I’m guessing it would involve an analysis of all the skills, knowledge and experience he brings to the project, thereby leading to a price that more accurately reflects what he’s giving the client. His view that we have to consider the peculiarities of our local market place is valid, but I feel that if we don’t spell out what their project needs in terms of his skills etc. we’ll never be able to properly educate them about the value they are getting for the price given. I may be wrong, but I think trying to educate and bring them up to our price level is better than going down to theirs.
        My fear is that if we get known for low pricing, it may be difficult to secure more appropriate payment in the longer term. Loss leaders and discounts may be good for getting us started and making our presence known, but what I want to avoid is being seen and known as cheap.
        But I have to admit – I don’t actually know what I’m talking about here. I’m not from a business background and so am basing my ‘wisdom’ on what I can garner from from people like yourself.

        Kind regards,

  5. says

    Number 9 is one of most important ones in my opinion. Some people will hear the word “freelance” and will think you are willing to make concessions on every little bit of your pricing policy. You won’t be treated like a professional unless you communicate that you expect to be.

  6. says

    Very excellent points on negotiating. There’s one thing I don’t think you explicitly mentioned although it was behind many of your points. And I think it’s the crucial factor in reaching a mutually beneficial arrangement which is what we’re all after. That’s this:

    Prepare yourself and mindset to see yourself as a perfect equal to the other party involved in any negotiation. Not as superior and certainly not as inferior. This one tip can change everything and make all the tactics work. This helps take the emotion out of the process for both sides. You will want a fair outcome and the other party will sense it. If not? You probably don’t want to do business with them after all. And you’ll know it.

      • says

        Oh yes! as I said, several of your points accomplished the net result of win-win. I just wanted to say what worked for me by starting off with the mindset of being the perfect equal. Just something that helps me. Certainly had no intention of saying you left anything out.

        I shall now shuffle off to Buffalo.. 😉

        Thanks for your post!

  7. says

    Used to take minutes in labour negotiations so I’ve seen some of these techniques at work. Here is another that applies to freelancers, try for the upsell. Think of contract negotiation as the start of a long term relationship in which you the freelancer can give better service and charge more money.

  8. says

    Awesome piece, Demian! I’m definitely printing this out, as suggested:) Something I learned from Linda Formichelli: Letting prospective clients know that you’re in demand often helps, too. I’ve had to turn down projects because I didn’t have the time, but it turns out the clients want my services that much more and are willing to pay more to get them. Word of warning: NEVER lie and pretend to be busy…it will come back to bite you!

  9. says

    I’d offer a different perspective here: professionals shouldn’t negotiate fees.

    Willingness to negotiate fees communicates a lack of conviction in the value you deliver. And that lack of conviction can stem from not really knowing what value you actually deliver to the client. And that stems from insufficient preparation, pre-qualification, and needs/value assessment before presenting.

    Contrary to your point number 3 of build value first, however – value is not defined by how much work it’s going to take you to complete the work. The only real value is the value the client derives from your working with them, no matter how much (or how little) you sweat over it.

    It additionally communicates that you need the business rather than (perhaps, “more than”) the prospect needs your service – a terrible position to be in – which could lead to various problems in the client-provider relationship even if you are hired, such as lack of timely cooperation because to the client, it’s not all about value to them, but also a matter of having done you somewhat of a favor.

    Further, though the client may initially feel satisfied for having done better on the deal than you originally quoted, you set the precedent/need for future discounting as well as leave the client wondering if they could have gotten you to go lower or if others get a better deals from you.

    Now, there are prospective clients for whom you’d find it ideal to work with (perhaps because you know they are well connected and may become an ideal referral source) who may not be able to afford what you’re proposing to do. Maybe a reduction in fee is called for, but in my opinion, not without a reduction in value delivered; without doing that, there will only be a reduction in value perceived.

    But I say only take on such opportunities IF you can reduce what you’ll deliver and still deliver a great result for the client and the justified fee reduction (plus any reason you have for being willing to do so with this particular client) is truly worth it to you. Otherwise, move on to the next prospect.

    (I’ve often found that when the prospect sees how serious I am about the value they’ll derive from my original proposal that they somehow “find the money” to go with the original plan and pay the original fee as quoted.)

    Remember: The required investment you propose for a project is a fee paid by the client in exchange for value – but an unjustified discount is a fee paid by you, back to the client, as a “poor position, poor preparation, and lack of conviction” tax.

    • says

      You are correct: never negotiate fees. That would be a non-negotiable in my book. I’m assuming you are talking about per hour . Fee for a project is negotiable since the scope can change.

      • says

        Actually I was indeed referring to project fees – I suppose it’s a semantic difference but I don’t view changes in scope as negotiations; you’re essentially pricing a different project than you originally proposed. I don’t charge based on an hourly rate and discourage others from doing so as well. And that you shouldn’t simply say “that’s going to take me X hours more to do and therefore will add Y to the required investment for the project,” though that’s what many do.

        Rather, one should take time to identify the dollar value to the client of the change in scope and adjust the project investment according to that.

          • says

            Sorry I hadn’t seen this reply until now.

            I’m saying fees should be based on value derived by the client from the work you do. If by writing copy for them your work could reasonably be expected to result in a $40,000 increase in sales, you base your fee as a bargain against that rather than how many hours it took you to write it.

            Now, if the client asks you to do more, what affect would that change in scope have in terms of the resulting increase? How much more money could you make them? Or how much time would you save them, converted to the dollar value of *their* set hourly worth?

            Perhaps instead of just a $40,000 increase in sales alone, the change in scope would allow them to save $3,000 they would have paid to an outsourced call center.

            Now, instead of charging as a bargain against the $40K gain, you could charge as a bargain against a $43K gain.

  10. says

    This post was quite helpful, but especially #12 for us. As a new content company, we’ve had many inquiries about our prices (even though they’re on our website, people still ask for a breakdown). We often simply just break it down for them, but forget to add value by explaining the entire process and show how much goes into our work. Really helpful tip there!

    I would also like to get your perspective on having prices available on the website. That leaves little room for negotiation, unless the hiring party is looking for a discount for several projects. Is this a pro or con in your opinion?

  11. Janie Basile says

    Great advice– too bad its power was diluted by:
    1. A typo “I’m a solider who’s seen combat.”
    2. Font size/bolding issues on email version of this post on #s 9 and 12.

  12. says

    Absolutely wonderful post! So many ideas and tactics for negotiating, which has, as identified, a fear factor akin to public speaking! Thank you for a truly comprehensive coverage of the skill of negotiating.

  13. says

    Great tips, clearly battle hardened know-how from someone who’s been in the trenches. And thanks for actually giving us what you promised (37 – on the nose). Appreciated.


    • says

      I kind of liked that, too. Thanks for taking the time to comment. (I read your About page at your blog and saw all that you were involved in and can’t figure out when you’d have the time to comment, let alone sleep. :))

      • says

        Ha! I do stay pretty busy, but I’m looking to up my copywriting game, so I’ve been reading a lot on Copyblogger lately. I checked out your other blogs and subscribed there as well. Looking forward to reading more of your content. :)

  14. says

    Great article find of the week. I like the “slice it up” approach to feed my clients small edible amounts they can digest. I am not a natural negotiator, but find that doing this leaves little room to bargain or have to come back and re-negotiate. This will be passes around to a few other freelancers I know who get taken advantage of all the time!

  15. says

    These are really inspiring points on negotiating and I really like them! They are really true and especially being confident and using we instead of I sounds a big problem to many negotiators! I happen to be one of the victim and I think it is high time to change! I’m very much interested with this, keep up the great write up!

  16. says

    Great stuff! You really hit the nail on the head! I just enjoyed your writing! Being confident sounds my best; in order to be a good and genius negotiator, you can’t do without gaining confidence and being yourself! Otherwise, you will freak out and find yourself blank-headed! It is quite good to trust every decision and points you make to other parties. Thanks a lot for sharing, Look forward to your next piece!

  17. says

    Hello Damien!

    Excellent compiled list and certainly I love reading the post and getting new few things learned as especially I get the great concept getting from here of don’t say I instead say we and always curious what is the scene behind it and now I got some thing to go with it.

    Thanks for sharing great valuable list of good tips :-)

  18. says

    Great write up! I just love the information above. The tips are really inspiring and brilliant especially to most negotiators, they find it difficult when it comes to dealing with a superior negotiator; honestly, I fall under this category and could end up raising a conflict of which sounds unintelligent. It is great that I have known that a better solution is to change the negotiator! Very smart tip. Another interesting area I found helpful here to to be confident and keeping your mouth shut; I think this are actually workable and could make you hit up the points. I love your site contents so much. At least now I’m at the safer place. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  19. says

    So glad I found this article today! I’ve been rounding up freelance pricing strategy articles for the last two days because I have a meeting with a potential client at the end of the week — one I’d really like to get. The organization is a very large one, which would be a new thing for me, as I usually work with very small biz or even solopreneurs. Because they are also a non-profit with many layers of management, I’m wondering how much space there will be to negotiate. I’ve worked in non-profits as an employee and some things — like budgeting for services — was pretty much written in stone. I won’t assume there’s no space to negotiate though. Although I do know they use a kind of “bidding” system where they talk to several freelancers before making a decision about who to hire.

    You mention Ramit Sethi — I’m actually going to try his “Briefcase Technique” in my client meeting, but also your tips #2, #3 and #7. All of your tips here are incredibly useful, will print this out and re-read before all client meetings going forward!

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience on this topic.

  20. Jorge Rivera says

    Some pretty good tips here.

    But I would never practice #18 and #19. It is tacky to bad mouth other writers. Only the insecure need to do that. Plus, I believe in the principle of sowing and reaping. Some might call it karma. Either way, I don’t have time to talk about others.


  21. says

    Hello Demian,

    I just started out as a freelance copywriter and your tips are a true goldmine to me. I’m actually really considering printing them out as you suggested. :-)
    My beginners tip would be: give the client the impression you allready have plenty of excellent ideas for the project, and she will miss out on them if she doesn’t pick you.

  22. says

    Good morning, Mr Farnworth.
    What a timely post (for me) and so well formulated – thank you.
    For a little while now I have been writing for a number of on and off-line parties and all on a free (no sign of the lance!) basis. A gentleman recently told me that writing for free is fun until you get paid – which I take as a mild reproof for avoiding the thorny issue of fees. Armed with a new determination – the lance – having read your guidances (and the comments of others), I will now tackle this matter… probably in my own round about way, but I will get there!
    Kind regards,

    • says

      Free?! No, no, no! The free means “freedom”–not no price! Just kidding. There aren’t certain pressures when you volunteer writing work–the relationship does change when you charge a fee. But that’s called business. :) Good luck and let me know how it goes, okay?

      • says

        Thank you, Mr Farnworth.
        And now for the feedback. Emboldened I went into battle… came out not with a blog post or two, but I’m to build the target’s website too! I didn’t see him turn any shade of grey when we discussed dosh – I did as you said and talked him through the value of me doing it – v – him doing it himself.
        Now I’ve got to go read a book on web design…..
        Kind regards,

          • says

            Thank you.
            Now the reality… I have to deliver. Why does it suddenly feel like the fun might be waning?
            I’m not sure I want to write about his pills and potions….

          • says

            Just had to tell you, Mr Farnworth…

            Today has truly been – to use your word – awesome. With success #1 under my belt I went full bore and managed to ‘land’ some of the biggest players in our area as clients. 6 in one day!
            And better still, they have indicated that once this first round of work is completed, we’ll have ‘discussions’ about what else they want us to do – Yippee!

            This is the first time I have done anything in relation to pricing, fees and what have you. My partner does have sales experience and since we launched our joint business a month ago, he has done all what I called ‘the nasty’ stuff. I didn’t tell him I was going after the BIG boys on our block, so he was mightily impressed when I was able to hand over the orders today.

            Never mind him, I was impressed! Watch out world, here I come…..

            OK, finished showing off for tonight. Got to get the carpenters in tomorrow to have the doorways widened…. 😉

            Kind regards,

            ps still not sure if the low cut neckline had anything to do with it….

          • says

            Latest update, Sonia and Demian.
            Tried the briefcase tactic today – excellent result. And definitely no cleavage this time – it’s too flippin’ cold and wet over here at the moment!

            I’m definitely getting #35 – they WILL come to me soon, not the other way round!

            Kind regards,
            L x

  23. says

    My experience with #8 (budget) is like that of #4. 9 1/2 times out of ten, the client says they don’t know what their budget is. As you mentioned in #4, I think it is that they do know but don’t want to name their price. I say this because inevitably when I quote a price (and start high) the response is “that’s too high, we don’t want to pay that much.” Duh! Guess they really did have a budget in mind.
    Thanks for the juicy tips. Here’s to your writing success. ~Debra

  24. says

    Janey-come-lately here but I gotta just add my two cents anyway. Fabulous post and even better comments. Thanks for sharing all these great tips. I’ve got a potentially HUGE client interview next week and this was SO timely.

  25. says

    Am I the only person who thought many of these were pretty damn unethical? I guess I’m lucky in that I make a very good income (which has doubled in the past year, actually) without having to resort to 18, 22, 24, 27, 31, or 28 unless I’m being 100% honest.

        • says

          The point about win-win sounds nice, but can often result in compromise and lower pay.

          Trying to divide two people at a company is obnoxious. I don’t want to work for any company that would fall for such a juvenile and manipulative tactic–and I wouldn’t do business with anybody who used it.

          If I’m not qualified to do a project or meet a client’s needs (the ones they requested, not the ones I’m trying to convince them they truly need because it would benefit me), I would absolutely refer it out even to a competitor, because I’m not an asshole. In fact I only do business with other people who do the same. When my chiropractor thinks a massage therapist would be more appropriate than him, or when my acupuncturist thinks a chiropractor could treat something better, they let me know instead of continuing to charge me money and trying to sell me more on their thing that won’t work as well. This builds trust and makes me more likely to refer people to them. Being a slimeball may work in the short term, but it’s bad business… and even if it wasn’t I, for one, would like to be able to sleep at night. This isn’t all subjective. If someone wants a service provider who is experienced in a specific thing, I think the solution would be to refer them to that service provider rather than to bad-mouth them, which is unprofessional. And I’m not interested in the type of clients it’d be an effective solution for. I prefer to work with people who value integrity, and thus possess it, than people who want a slimy silver-tongued sales deal.

          As someone who values honesty, I’m not going to compliment people if I don’t mean it just to get sales.

          I’m not going to people to change their standards just to get sales. Me wanting money doesn’t mean I know better than they do what is best for their business.

          I’m not going to make pretend deadlines to get sales…and, in fact, people have lost business from me because of deadlines…so I hope that they’re legit deadlines and not ones they pulled out of their ass to get rich quick.

          I don’t promise people fame or riches because I’m not a douchebag.
          I’m not going to tell people how awful their life will be without my services. If they really need them, they can come after me, and I’m not going to play what sounds like a business version of being a pickup artist. I prefer to work with clients who are confident and would not respond to manipulation. Also, I don’t think I’d sleep well at night knowing I owed my good fortune to preying on people’s negative emotions. Nothing is worth that.

          People hire me and pay me well because I do amazing work, not because I somehow con them into it.

  26. says

    I love this post Demian and regretted not leaving a comment first time round so had to come back to say thanks. Some great tips.

    I want to add some good news for timid negotiators and people who feel bad about asking to be paid what they’re worth.

    I have recently started selling advertising on my travel blog and have been negotiating a lot, always by email. I fixed a high rate which I stick to and while cheap skates don’t pay it many people who do want to work with a quality writer pay the rate. Some don’t negotiate at all but others do and certain email conversations have run to 20 emails. One advertiser even emailed me to say okay, you win before paying the full rate.

    Now I have gone from feeling bad about asking for high rates to loving it and also enjoying the negotiation process. It feels good. Very good.

    So to all you fearful negotiators stick with it and stick up for yourself. You really are worth it and those people who see the value in what you offer will pay what you ask. Even if they do try to lower the rate to begin with.

  27. says

    Great advice, thanks for putting this up. I feel better equipped now to deal with clients! It can be so awkward sometimes.

  28. jery says

    #4 is absolutely wrong. Study after study shows that the negotiated price tends to hover closer to the initial offer. You always want to to make the initial offer.

  29. says

    I ALWAYS have a problem when it comes to pricing my work, the one thing I hate is when potential clients contact me and ask me for my prices. I would much rather someone name me a price and then I can come back with another offer if I think their offer is not good enough.

    • says

      I totally understand. This is why you got to build value first. List out EVERYTHING you are going to do for the client. Then you’ll see you are worth your price. If not more.

  30. says

    Demian –

    First, awesome and immeasurably helpful list.

    Second (if you’re still following these comments), could you go into a bit more detail, or point me to somewhere that does, about #3? Demonstrating tangible value is hard. Ideally one can say “this writing I’ve done in the past resulted in this dollar amount of a profit increase for the client”, but it’s hard to get to that point especially if you primarily write things other than sales copy. Let’s say a writer primarily writes press releases, or maybe white papers–other than testimonials and the subjective assessment of “quality”, how do you prove to the prospect that you are worth what you’re asking?

    Cheers, and thanks again for the list .

    • says

      James, this could include itemizing your tasks for a project. Say you are hired to write an ebook. well you can build value by itemizing everything you will do to write that ebook–because there is so much more than just writing. Research, interviews, questionarres, fact-checking, proofing, writing, editing, etc. Break down the project so the client sees it’s more than just writing an ebook.

      Hope that helps.

  31. says

    Spot on! My favorite? ’30. Don’t commit to promises of paradise’ <- I go through this EVERY day! So tired of brands and PR firms with their 'pie in sky' at sometime in the 'never going to happen' future. Keep reminding them that just like they can't pay their landlord, mortgage, car note, gas company, phone company etc with what they are pitching, neither can YOU! Stand firm my friend, stand firm, doing so truly helps you separate the wheat from the chaff!

  32. Ana says

    In a novel I read, a character who ran a business during the Depression said that if the Taj Mahal was being sold and the highest bidder could only afford $10, then the Taj Mahal was worth $10. I’m paraphrasing here but the place and figure were correct.

    I’m reading a lot lately about clients expecting quality work from writers for ridiculously low rates. In other words, low-paid writers are legion and there’s really only two reasons: Too many writers are competing for too few jobs so clients get away with paying lower rates, and in this economy fewer clients can afford high rates.

    I love hearing writers talking about being paid what they’re “worth.” The bottom line is that our WORTH, in the market, is what it’s always been: what the market can bear. That’s economics. Our worth is only partially a function of how good we are. The other part is what someone is willing to pay when we’re one of thousands they have to choose from.

    By all means let’s negotiate for what we can get, and this post gives lots of ideas for doing so. For ethical reasons I too would not use all of them, but most are fair game in deal-making.

  33. says

    Hugs Damian and happy new year to you. Am glad I came across this post esp as it is start of a new year and my thoughts are centered on best ways to grow business. Lots of practical tips here and the one that stood out for me was the on saying “we”… has a very inclusive feel and makes the whole project/idea sound like a partnership from beginning. Thx for sharing.

  34. Schwartz says

    I came upon this as I am soon to enter a negotiation regarding my salary and I needed some outside input or a refresher. My favorite tactic that I know I can use confidently is the ability to walk away. I have other options, and I know my value to the company so once I make my case and all options have been reviewed I know I have that in my back pocket, and I know that in my industry managers are notorious for calling you up after you walk out when they realize how foolish they were not to compromise. That’s when they realize that my way is what’s best for everyone.

  35. says

    Demian, This is one of the best articles I have seen written on this topic. Most writers don’t divulge this type of info in fear of competition (like theres a limited supply of writing jobs or something). Thanks for all the effort you put into this list.

    This is one of those pages I am bookmarking and placing on my browser ‘toolbar’.

    Freakin awesome, Elane

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