“Negotiate like a child: you want to stay up late, watch TV – AND eat ice cream!” That’s what a business leader once told me: ask for everything that you want, and a bit more, then you might get half. And this is 100% the right way to go. Why?

I used to be terrible at negotiating: I would pitch too low, and then still knock my price down. Some very nice potential customers then told me I was quoting too low and said, “No, let’s say x amount per day. Then, the ultimate client thinks they’re getting a better product. If you pitch too cheap, they think they’re getting rubbish.” An expensive service is a classy service, right? Same with wine, food, kitchens, holidays etc.

On the other hand, when some potential clients have asked me for a price, and I have said something very reasonable, they’ve sometimes disappeared completely, never to be heard from again, without even a, “Oh that sounds a bit high for us.” Probably, they were never remotely realistic, or informed, about what my kind of services cost. That’s fine, onwards and upwards. But frustrating when I may have done quite a bit of work to understand their brief and prepare my response, itemising my ‘deliverables’.

So, what should we do, when setting our price? There are lots of books on The Art of Negotiation – including Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Has anyone read it? Any thoughts? I am sure the relevant techniques and principles are taught in all good business schools and MBA courses. From my own experience, when I have quoted a market rate (which I know from speaking to other freelancers is reasonable) it has usually been accepted.

Having said that, I once spent about 20 minutes dropping everything to have a call with a potential client, to discuss – with great urgency – his requirements, only to discover when I asked about the budget (for work that would take me 1/2 a day to prepare and deliver) – his budget was…. £10! No, I haven’t left a zero off! That’s the kind of beer money you’d give a mate to drive you home after a night out 🙂 Sooo, I quickly and calmly let him know that I wouldn’t be able to do that work for that money, and rang off, considering it had already cost me more than £10 just to talk to him.

I am not being a princess either, I don’t think?

So my point is:

  1. Start relatively high (if they insist you state a price first)
  2. Leave wiggle room to come down depending on their budget
  3. Make it clear your price depends on the variables they need, or don’t need
  4. Show empathy for their budget if they are, say, a charity
  5. Be prepared to do the work for a relatively low price if there are other upsides eg working with someone well-known, someone you admire and can learn from, or if you will develop your skills by doing this job

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Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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