Negotiating the best deal for your next contract
The negotiation (or some might say lack of) that has dominated the news over the past three years has been the terms of the UK leaving the EU. Obviously, us common people have not been party to an actual seat around the table or had access to anything other than a (potentially biased) reporter’s view of the outcomes. But one thing does seem sure: it could have gone better!
In my view, any negotiation that revolves around both parties engaging in some sort of future relationship has to have strong win-win elements at its core. If one side comes out, holding all the best cards, the other will always feel inferior and eventually begin to begrudge the situation.
Your next freelance or contractor agreement
Win-win means that both parties are happy with the outcome – but that does not mean that you have to approach the negotiation in a weak or subordinate manner. It means that you should be prepared, determined and clear-minded as you sit down at the table. Here are some techniques to consider:
- Homework: just the same as if you were bidding at an auction or approaching an expensive purchase like a car or a house, you must know the parameters that you will accept ‘before’ you enter the room. Think about the length of the contract and how that will affect the remuneration, be clear about the conditions such as travel, expenses, flexibility around hours and project expectations. And, with all of the above in mind, be honest with yourself about how much you are worth and what you would settle for earning.Walking into an interview with a sheet full of notes (that you refer to often), in addition to any paperwork that has been requested by the employer, is also a good indicator to them that you are prepared.
- Trade: don’t give: this works both ways – and so it should. The very definition of the word negotiation suggests trading arrangements and conditions rather than dictating terms. So always be ready to say, “yes I am happy with that as long as we can agree this.”
- Listen: very closely associated with being able to trade is the ability to listen. In the same way that you have prepared, so will your potential employer, and they will give clues to what they really want. The only way to understand what matters to them most is to ask open questions then listen carefully to the answers.
- Friendly but firm: the best relationships are the ones where everyone has (at least some of) the same goals. When you are sure that this is the case, and you reflect it in your negotiation style, you will find that the relationship blossoms and the chances of a win-win are increased.
- Plan B: it takes two to tango – and both parties need to have a win-win vision for one to be achieved. If you feel that the other person is being unreasonable, or simply does not have the authority, capacity or opportunity to meet your expectations, you need to be prepared to walk away. The strongest stance in a negotiation has always been the one where it is clear that you are ready to go to plan B.
Happy contract hunting and I sincerely hope it takes less than three years of debate, disagreement and disinformation for you to get ‘your’ next agreement in place.