No One is a Perfect Negotiator

Most people worry about negotiating because they’re worried they’ll screw something up or not get the best deal they should.

Well, guess what? You’re going to screw up and you’ll occasionally negotiate a less than stellar deal. That’s OK. The point of negotiating isn’t to be perfect, it’s to make the effort to ensure you’re getting what you need out of the contracts you sign.

Focus

If you’re really new to negotiation, don’t try to tackle everything in the deal. Instead, focus on the two or three issues that are most important to you and put your energy into doing your best on those fronts.

Once you’ve honed your negotiating skills and you feel confident you can easily negotiate the right to use work-for-hire pieces in your portfolio, for instance, you can move on to the more intimidating task of negotiating a better rate or the right to royalties.

Celebrate

It’s easy to beat yourself up over what you didn’t do in a negotiation (trust me). Don’t take the easy way. Instead, focus on what you did well in the negotiation and celebrate. Celebrate the terms you were able to get, your improvement asking for the rate you need, heck, even the fact that you did not totally lose your cool on the conference call!

Negotiation isn’t easy and it’s probably not something you do regularly. It might not ever be something that you like doing. But as a professional artist, negotiation is part of your job. If you discourage yourself by only focusing on the stuff you aren’t currently doing well, you’ll make negotiation a difficult part of your job.

Reflect and Capture

Too often people end a negotiation and think, “Thank God that’s over!” They try to immediately wipe the entire process from their memory. Don’t do that. Take half an hour to reflect on the negotiation: what went well, what didn’t, what you might try to do next time, what you want to check on in six months to see if it was worth it. Then, capture those thoughts somewhere.

For example, I keep a business journal I write in every Friday and it’s been enormously helpful for tracking my improvements and building skills. By reviewing the journal regularly, I notice patterns and recurring issues in my work. Noticing those things helps make sure I’m constantly improving, instead of repeatedly trying and being frustrated by unhelpful approaches.

No one is a perfect negotiator, so don’t make perfection your goal. Instead focus on what’s important to you, celebrate your successes and make time to reflect on and capture your experiences.

Katie Lane is an attorney and negotiation coach in Portland, Oregon, helping artists and freelancers protect their rights and get paid fairly for the work they do. You can read her blog at WorkMadeForHire.net and follow her on Twitter: @_katie_lane.

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