Negotiation Tips

From photographer Ken Rockwell, an incredibly helpful professional creative. “Design” has been swapped for “photography” where appropriate. The original article is here.


Negotiation isn’t about price. If you’re stuck on negotiating price, you lose.

Everyone wins in a good negotiation. Good negotiation is learning what the other side really wants. Negotiation isn’t about one side wining and the other losing. It’s not a competition. It’s a constructive collaboration.

If you can’t differentiate yourself you’ll only be able to negotiate pricing and payments. If you’re only negotiating pricing, you’ll always lose to someone newer and hungrier.

The best way to learn to negotiate is to read Herb Cohen’s You Can Negotiate Anything. Back when I was a senior manager at a multi-billion dollar company we took many courses on negotiation. Nothing ever taught us anything that wasn’t already covered in this book.

People who buy [design] know how to wrap [designers] around their fingers. The standard line used against photographers for probably over 100 years is “We only budgeted this much for the job today, but if we like your work we have another project coming soon for which we can pay you much more.” If you fall for this one you deserve bottom dollar.

When people try that line on me (they do all the time) I either ignore it and keep on with the discussion, or say “sure” with an intonation that lets them know I’m calling their bluff. Also I’d realize that they intend to get someone at bottom dollar. I’d either walk away, or apologize that I was unclear in explaining that I’m a guy who is paid a premium because those who use my products do so precisely because it sets them apart from their competition. Since standing out is the purchaser’s whole point in buying, I have to get them to see that they can’t afford not to pay top dollar!

You have to differentiate yourself. If you can’t show why your work is better than everyone else’s, you’re only worth bottom dollar. If the only way you can win a job is on price, it’s time to get a real job again.


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