- Always try to negotiate. I loathe negotiating. Judging by the lack of negotiation from most of my freelancers, I've concluded that most of them loathe negotiating too. But I think it's important for writers to at least try to negotiate from the beginning, because I take those writers a little more seriously, especially if they...
- Deliver the goods on your first assignment. Write an amazing article with great sources and examples, and I'm more likely to offer you a better contract the next time around. If I don't, I may be trying to maintain the status quo, but you should try to nudge me again. And I emphasize nudging.
- Don't make your demands a "my way or the highway" situation. That is, don't make it that kind of situation unless you're willing to take the highway. There have been situations, especially when I'm working with a new freelancer, in which I'm not able or willing to go over my initial offer. There have been very good pitches that I let walk, because I couldn't (or wouldn't) go higher. Believe me, I always wish I could offer more, but I have to fill my pages with great content (not squander it all on a handful of articles). That said...
- Pitch me with an idea that is unique and truly helpful for my audience. If you pitch me on an interview or list of query tips, I'm less likely to get excited than if you pitch me on an article that tells writers how to make a living off Twitter in 30 days (and actually have the track record to back up that claim). For instance, the freelancer who puts together our "How Much Should I Charge?" piece in the Writer's Market book is far and away my top paid freelancer, because she has to survey professionals in several different fields of writing. It's a unique piece that is truly helpful for my audience. As such, she has greater negotiating power. Still...
- Choose your battles. I advise negotiating each time you get a new assignment. Maybe I'll give a little, maybe I won't. But please pick your battles about what you want to negotiate. Don't pick apart every single clause in your contract. That gets annoying on my end, and I'm just too busy to enjoy being annoyed. Related to that...
- Don't be a pest. I'm more willing to negotiate with writers who complete their assignments on time and don't contact me every couple days with a revision of an already turned in piece or who try to re-negotiate the fee on an article after we've already assigned the piece. I like it when writers ask questions and want to make sure they understand an assignment, but I don't like to have to constantly haggle over things after we've come to an agreement. That's a good way to not receive any more assignments in the future.
- Think of creative ways to negotiate. Offer to write a sidebar for an extra fee--or a series of blog posts. If the editor is unable to offer more money, ask for more complimentary copies. Or some other related comp that the editor may be able to send your way. Editors like to make writers happy (especially if they do a great job), so help them help you get more out of your relationship.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Here are some great resources for more negotiation strategies and tactics:
- Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People, by G. Richard Shell
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton
- Getting Past No, by William Ury
- Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World, by Stuart Diamond