This guy and his enormous hair took part in a session put together by The Writer’s Co-op (listen to their podcast!) and Study Hall (join their community!) to discuss negotiation—one of the most terrifying things there is in the world of freelancing.
I know the concept carries a lot of anxiety and baggage for people, but my experience—as a freelance writer, an editor, publisher and business owner—I find the mystique around negotiating a little odd. Yes, there are conversations about what work is worth, tweaks happen, sometimes things don’t work out. It’s just how businesses work. And it’s a lot more ordinary than people think.
(Or, to put it another way: contract negotiation isn’t a battle or even a game to me, it’s the moment that sets the table for the real work that you want to happen—the work that you do get enjoyment and satisfaction from. And if you begin a project by going to war with each other, I suspect the collaboration is going to be less successful. I realize not everybody feels this way.)
The other participants (Jenni Gritters, Wudan Yan, Kyle Chayka, Evan Kleekamp and Sarah Gilman) were more lucid and practical than me, I think, but I was glad to be part of it.
The takeaways I thought were most important:
—The best way to get things you want is to ask for them.
—There are many things other than your rate that can be negotiated.
—Decide what things are important to you and be prepared to walk away if you can’t get them.
—Talk to each other! Preferably on the phone!
On reflection I am, I suppose, a very lenient editor who has been lucky to not work (or not build) places that use contracts as weapons. I see my job as trying to get the best material in front of readers while channeling as much money as possible to writers; I don’t mind “stupid” questions; I bear few grudges. If that changes, it’s probably time to stop.