Would you pay $14 for five oranges to avoid bartering?
Spend $18 on bananas to appease screaming children?
Walk 15 minutes in toxic rain to a store and pay double for the same fruit sold right outside your apartment?
I would. I did. And how I hate to admit it.
Hello, my name is Amy and I’m a recovering non-negotiator. I’m proof people pay up to 100% more (and beyond) to instantly escape uncomfortable situations.
For me, “stressful” used to mean negotiation. It was one of my biggest weaknesses as a freelance blogger.
Fortunately, I came across an amazing business teacher when my family moved to Tianjin, China this summer. Over the last three months, I’ve used my newfound negotiation skills to generate thousands of dollars more than I used to through freelance blogging and writing.
Negotiation Lesson 1: Negotiators win
The first thing I learned was this: if you’re not willing to negotiate, you lose.
You’ll either pay more or make less. Period. And once your sparring partner smells your fear of pushing back, they’ll often just keep pushing.
Are you scared to negotiate? You (and I) are not alone.
- 35% of people feel anxious about negotiating their salaries, according to a 2012 LinkedIn survey of 2,000 professionals in 8 countries. Americans were the most anxious, at 39%, while 21% of Germans felt excited about negotiations.
- Just 7% of women negotiate their salary versus 57% of men, according to a study on Carnegie Mellon MBA students.
- Another Carnegie Mellon study found that those who negotiated their starting salary received an average of 7.4% more than non-negotiators.
My teacher, the local fruit seller, is the savviest businessman I’ve met.
When I dealt with him, I used to pay up to five times more for fruit just to avoid bartering.
One day, my neighbour paid five Yuan (about 1 USD) for the same amount of fruit I’d just bought for 70 Yuan (about 14 USD). It made me mad, at the vendor, my neighbour, and mostly at myself.
The next time I bought fruit, I protested via interpretive dance and all four of my Mandarin words (ting came in handy — it means stop).
The reward? The price of my fruit dropped 50%.
Soon after, a new freelance blogging prospect reached out. The marketing director was Canadian, like me, but offered me lowball rates because I lived in China. Without educating him on urban Chinese living, I decided to negotiate.
I emailed him my rate. For three days, my mood swung between euphoria and desperation. Finally, the prospect agreed to my rate, and even added a bonus offer when I didn’t respond immediately. He’s now a client and is remarkably respectful.
Standing your ground earns you more respect and value, first from yourself and then from your clients.
Negotiation Lesson 2: People in a rush pay more
Sometimes, you’d pay anything to get what you need right now.
Like new pants to replace a pair that split three and a half minutes before an ideal client discovery meeting. Or rush processing fees for a passport you need in 24 hours. Or an orange for a tired, hungry, screaming toddler…
When it comes to freelance writing, plenty of professionals tack on a charge for rush work.
- Carol Tice, from Make a Living Writing, has blogged about charging clients double for rush projects.
- All five marketing agencies I’ve worked for have had rush rates, ranging from 30% to 150% extra pay.
- On WriterFind.com, a May 2012 survey of writers and editors on rates included a comment from a writer who routinely charges 20% more for rush work.
My fruit vendor is always outside my apartment at 5:30 p.m. when I’m toting two cranky, fruit-loving little boys. More often than I should, I buy a few oranges to stop the screaming — and I used to pay a premium for them.
An old client recently called in a panic. She had to write 36 post-dated blog posts in two weeks. Her company was launching a media relations campaign and wanted an engaging blog to drive web engagement.
But my client, a property manager, already worked 50 hours a week at her own job. She hated writing and had no idea how to write a blog post, let alone make it interesting. She needed help.
I accepted the gig, with a 50% surcharge, and gave up the better part of my weekend and evenings to meet the deadline. The client thanked me profusely and booked me, well ahead, to write an awards submission in January.
When you become the solution to a major client problem, you become a trusted resource who adds value and provides an in-demand service. You may even be able to raise your rate. A survey by American Express found that 61% of Americans will spend 9% more for better customer service.
Negotiation Lesson 3: The time-starved pay more
Many professionals, and most entrepreneurs, need more time. They can’t keep up, especially with blogging. Recent research shows that even corporate enterprises struggle.
- Though companies that prioritize blogging as a marketing tactic are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive return on investment, according to HubSpot’s 2014 State of Inbound report, even updating a corporate blog is tough.
- In October, 2013, 69 percent of business to business content marketers struggled with time.
- In 2014, 157 Fortune 500 companies (31%) had a 3% decrease in blogging, according to research from the University of Massachusetts, with 34% having a public blog in 2013 and 31% having a public blog in 2014.
As a freelance blogger, writer, and mother of two small boys under five in a new country (with no grandparents!), I am often time-starved. The fruit seller knows it. Sometimes, I’ll pay more to visit him to save myself a trip to the grocery store.
Possible negotiation win
Recently, I met a CEO who owns several companies. He writes a lot of his material himself and pulls three all-nighters a week. No matter how brilliant he feels at 2 a.m., he’s disappointed by his work in the morning. He can’t keep up this pace and grow. After we met, he viewed my LinkedIn profile and InMailed me for a meeting.
A decision maker’s time is valuable. The more they outsource writing projects like blogging, the more time they have for their business.
Negotiation Lesson 4: Clients who hate writing love outsourcing
Ever sat at your computer staring at a white screen, typing in a word and erasing it over and over again?
So have your prospective blogging clients, even though their job may require them to have strong written communication skills. Not everyone was built to blog.
- In 2014, one of the biggest content marketing obstacles was finding qualified people to hire, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Written communication skills, such as social media marketing, PR and online marketing were in the top 25 career skills in demand on LinkedIn in 2013.
I used to outsource my bartering. I hate it; my husband loves it. He was born and raised in Guatemala and loves to dicker with the fruit vendor. I used to commission my husband to pick up fruit, and he did, then charged a “service fee” by keeping my change…
When one of my friends heard that I was a freelance blogger, she asked if I could write other materials, like proposals. As the director of a healthcare clinic, she spent a third of her time writing and hated it.
While she wanted me to write a proposal, I negotiated a gig to write templates for all of her communications and was paid handsomely, monetarily and by referral.
Plenty of people hate writing and have the budget to outsource. Many of them are even incredulous that someone would want to blog and write for a living.
Negotiation Lesson 5: Clients will pay to clear a bottleneck
Ever brought your blogging career, day job, or family to a halt because you didn’t or couldn’t deal with something?
That’s called a bottleneck. In business it can cause stress, loss of clients and loss of millions.
In a hurry to make a meeting, I didn’t have time to go shopping but I couldn’t face the fruit vendor. At the grocery store, only one cashier was working so I lined up a customary Canadian 1.5 metres of personal space away from the person in front of me.
Immediately, three men and a feisty granny butted in line. Annoyed, I stepped closer and a family squeezed ahead of me.
Becoming enraged, I left my wares and rushed outside to catch a taxi. I arrived at my meeting in a sweaty huff, four minutes tardy… and though I patched it up, I did lose a little face with a newish client.
In my part of China there are very few freelance bloggers with native English skills, but there are lots of manufacturing companies and engineers. Recently, I met a manufacturing CEO who needed a brochure to close a multimillion dollar deal.
His company had been delaying the deal for nine months, in part because no one had the time to clearly lay out and document their investment plan. They hired me via email and paid my full fee up-front. The CEO was relieved to have someone clear his bottleneck.
Clients who make large sales need bloggers and writers to document and close deals. Your fee is peanuts compared to what delay is costing them.
Negotiation doesn’t need to be a fight to the finish. It’s an opportunity to find a win-win solution for you as the blogger and for your clients.
The more you practice, the better you become. That’s why I’m so thankful for my negotiation teacher, the fruit seller.
How about you? Does negotiating your freelance blogging rates thrill or terrify you? Leave a comment and tell us about it.