My father developed and sold agricultural real estate in northern San Diego and southern Riverside counties. Part of the reason I’m comfortable with the uncertain income of freelance writing is my father was in business for himself and that just seems normal to me.
I worked for my father for a number of years and actually began my writing career there, creating newspaper columns in Dad’s voice, and creating ads and writing sales letters, all of which we tracked so I learned what worked and what didn’t.
Dad also taught me more than a bit about selling and negotiation. I think the biggest lesson was when to be quiet.
He didn’t put it that way. In fact, one of my memories is standing with him outside the office in Fallbrook, CA. He was leaning on the hood of his green Mercedes, gently pounding it saying “You’ve got to know when to shut up!” He emphasized each word both with his voice and his fist.
He was so right. Sometimes quiet is what’s called for when presenting a freelance proposal or negotiating a price for your writing. And that includes email, IM, tweeting and any other form of communication. Here’s an example:
I carefully worked out how long it would take me to complete a piece of writing for a client I’ve worked with and I really like. I double checked my figures and multiplied by my hourly rate for the total fee.
The price was about double what I’d thought it would be before I did my homework. Initially it felt high, but since I know my tendency to want to give away more than I should, I drafted a proposal reflecting that price and put it aside and waited 24 hours.
The next day I double checked all my figures and decided yes, it would indeed take me that long. I re-read my proposal, made a couple of small edits, took a deep breath, asked my inner self it it was okay, and getting a sense it really was just fine, pushed send on the email.
Quickly my client responded with something like “Wow, didn’t think it would be that much. Let me think on it.”
Part of me immediately wanted to respond saying, in a panic, “I’ll do it for less. I’ll do it for less!”
I cautioned myself not to do anything right away.
Twenty minutes or so later I again wanted to offer to do it for less.
Again I waited.
Not long after I had the thought of offering to take payments over a couple of months or so.
This time I heard my father’s voice. “Shut up!” he said in my mind.
I repeated it out loud to myself – “Just shut up, Anne, and see what happens.”
My self-admonishment actually caused me to chuckle a bit and relax.
I went about my day which included an afternoon meeting. When I got back, there was another email from my client. I almost waited until the next day to open it, but I’ve also learned not to wait on such things.
Not only did the client accept the price, but without being asked said half the payment would soon be in the mail.
Shutting up isn’t exactly a sales play, at least not the way I use it and the way I suggest you use it. The goal isn’t to manipulate the client, but two both avoid shooting yourself in the foot and give the client time to work through what you’ve proposed.
Sometimes the client will simply say yes, and sometimes simply say no. Sometimes the client will make a counter proposal. If you’ve been careful in how you set your writing fee, you’ll be able to accept any result knowing your own worth.
How do you approach a fee negotiation?
By the way, we talk about negotiation and setting fees in the 5 Buck Forum. Join now if you haven’t.