Three Things You Can Do to Improve Your Negotiations
A lot of the things I talk about on the blog take some practice; you need to test them out a couple of times before you really feel like you can add them to your box of tricks. That can feel frustrating when you’re dealing with a difficult client or trying to land a new job. So here are four things you can do right now to improve your negotiations.
If any of these things sound intimidating to do alone, ask a friend to be your business buddy. You can encourage one another to follow through with your plans to do each of these things and you can be good resources for one another when you’re not quite sure what to do next. Don’t underestimate the value of having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of.
1. Start a Journal
If you don’t have a business journal, you need to start one. Any notebook or file format will do. What your journal looks like isn’t important. You just need something that is easy to get to and that you’ll use.
Keeping a journal of your jobs is incredibly helpful. It shows you where your strengths are and what needs some brushing up. It can also highlight themes in your business that you may be missing. It turns out that Joe always has a last minute crisis during contract negotiations and the crisis only ever ends up materializing as concessions on your part. Now you know not to give into Joe’s last minute demands.
You don’t have to go all “Dear Diary” on the journal; use a style that feels comfortable for you. A few short sentences before bed? Great! A thoughtful dissertation on your business relationship with Bob the printer and how it’s evolved in the last six months? Super cool!
The important thing is that you make keeping track of the jobs you’re taking and the negotiations you’re having a regular activity. So however that works for you: do it.
2. Figure Out What Your Goals Are For 2012
I do not, repeat: do not, want you sitting down to string together a bunch of new year’s resolutions. I want you to do the hard work of figuring out what you want out of this coming year.
Start by doing a brain dump of everything you want to do in 2012. Don’t hold back; it’s all fair game. Be sure you don’t restrict yourself to just business desires or just “practical” ideas. Everything, all of it, 15 minutes: go!
Look at what you’ve written down. Do you see any themes? Are there things you want tied to particular times of the year, like a week at the lake in July? Figure out what are the totally attainable things, the with-a-lot-of-hard-work attainable things and the Pie in the Sky things.
If you see themes, that’s helpful because it can tell you that there is a really big goal you have that’s being expressed in all sorts of different ways. Big themes are easier to keep your eye on as the year progresses, especially if you know they’re there.
For the things tied to specific times, put them on your calendar right now. Do it. And while you’re at it set up a few reminders so you don’t forget that the thing you want to do is coming down the pike.
Now pick a day of the month that you really like. Second Tuesday? Fourth Friday? Make yourself a recurring monthly appointment to sit down and review the list you just made. During that time figure out three things:
- what you’ve done in the last month to get closer to those goals,
- what things you could do to reach your goals, and
- what are things you’ve done that might have gotten in the way of your goals.
By reviewing what you want on a monthly basis you keep your goals and interests fresh in your mind. That makes it easier to use those interests and goals when you negotiate. It also means that if you’re inadvertently sabotaging your progress, you can catch it early.
You need to know what you want and why you want those things to be a good negotiator. People who know what they want and why are able to come up with more creative solutions to problems. They also react better when negotiations get wonky. So do yourself a favor and figure out what you want from 2012.
3. Talk to Someone Who is Doing What You Want to Do
Because freelancing can feel like such a lonely endeavor, folks often think that they have to start from scratch when it comes to building their career. And while you do have to earn your reputation, you don’t have to figure out how to become successful all on your lonesome.
Lessons we learn by doing are great, but if you can learn to avoid certain bad moves without making them yourself, why wouldn’t you do it? Talking to people who are doing the work that you want to do gives you more ideas about how to approach problems or avoid pitfalls.
Talking to people who do what you want to do also helps you network. Having a strong professional network means you can learn about trends people are seeing in contracts and negotiations, give you a better idea of how business is doing and introduce you to potential clients and collaborators.
So find someone who is doing what you want to do and invite them out for coffee, a Skype call or a G+ Hangout. If the first person on your list says they’re busy, say thank you and ask if you could contact them again in a month or two. Then: contact the next person on your list and see if they have time to chat.
If after doing these things you think you could use some help clarifying your goals, making a plan for achieving them, or improving your ability to negotiate with others, drop me a line. I’ve started my own freelance practice, with a focus on helping people get out of tough jams and perfecting their ninja negotiation skills. I’d love the opportunity to help you.
Featured image by Hub☺ via Flickr.com.