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The Mindset of Negotiation

Lesson 9 from: The Method to a Successful (and Fulfilling) Photography Career

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

9. The Mindset of Negotiation

Next Lesson: Field Day

Lesson Info

The Mindset of Negotiation

(light music) This episode gives you a method to negotiate with your clients and peers, with the aim to just simply make you a much better negotiator. By being a better negotiator, you will get the ability to create better opportunities for yourself. And that will lead to a much more fulfilling life in photography. Let me share a detailed view of the techniques that I've learned and or developed throughout the years. So you can be more effective in negotiation. I mean, simply, it's all the stuff that I cannot live without. I'm gonna share with you. Note that in the business of art you want to have somebody represent you, right? This is a bit of a disclaimer but you always want to have somebody representing you or your work, whenever possible. So this is not to negotiate with your clients unless you have to. This is more like for everyday life or for you agent to use. The first rule of any negotiation is to get in knowing what you want out of it, right? If you're not too sure about wh...

at you want, it's gonna be hard to get your win-win set up. Let me say that negotiations are not win-lose, right? There's not a winner or loser. You don't beat somebody over negotiation. They're just, win-wins. That's what you should aim for all the time. Everybody's got a good feeling, a good taste in their mouth after it. That's what you want. And that means that you'll have to be quite empathetic. Try to imagine what the other positions, the other person's position is like, but also you have to be firm with what you want. So it's always this delicate dance, but you cannot dance if you don't know what you want to get. So number two, is always be an active listener. Listening in a negotiation is... I mean, spend most of my time listening not because I'm trying to gather data, to beat the other person, it's more like I'm trying to understand what their goals are. I'm trying to gather background because if you don't know what the other person wants either or maybe they don't know it yet, you will uncover that through conversation. So, I'm always guiding the conversation, as much as I can, through questioning and active listening. It's not just kind of half-listening. I'm usually listening and taking notes. So, be a good listener and ask the right questions. What really sums this up is that negotiation is simply about understanding the other person's position. That's it. Just look at it that way. So then number three, never shoot first. In any dealings, either with, this is more like when you're trying to get a contract done or you're just trying to negotiate a job, if your agent is not doing that, you want to not shoot first. And the clients will always try to do that. They will ask how much is it gonna be? They will keep asking. And although it's your job to provide a quote try to avoid it as much as you can because by shooting first, that's it. You've set up a precedent, and it's not like it's too late, but if you've showed your cards before that, it's gonna lead to probably you not maybe getting what you wanted to get out of this contract. So, the biggest thing to know is that everybody has a budget, right? Some clients gonna be like, "Oh, we don't really have a budget. We're kind of waiting for you to give us that." Everybody has a budget. Even Apple. If the client is really not having it, and they want to have a budget, it's fair. It's their demand. You can give them a ballpark, a range, right? So you can say, "Oh, these kind of projects are between 50,000 to a 100,000," or make it even bigger. Whatever, because it all depends on the deliverables. It'd be like going to a builder and saying, "Hey, I want a house." "Okay, how many bathrooms, how many bedrooms?" And you're like, "Hmm, I'm not too sure. Just a house." How can they quote that? Same thing for you. You have to know what the deliverables are. So then that's when you can ask it again, at another question, be an active listener. And then based on what they say, you can give them a range. And the benefit of setting up a range is that you've created, you've anchored what you're worth, right, between 50,000 and a 100,000 for example. Or 5,000 to 10,000, whatever your range is, whatever the market price is for your work, establish it somewhere between the reality and then a little higher, right? So you could always keep growing what you charge for. Number four, and this one might be controversial but it is that you need to have a minimum spend. This is something that media companies and agencies do, magazines. They have a minimum spend, which means that when a company comes to this magazine or this agency they're like, "Hey, thank you client for reaching out." They talk, blah, blah, blah. They smell each other. And then the publication will be like, "Well, yeah, our minimum spend is 75,000. And that includes blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." What this really does is it always just piecemealing, right? Like just like, "Oh, we actually wanna remove some of this to get our budget lower." A minimum spend is a minimum spend. So if your minimum spend is $5,000, it is what it is. They can't just take things off. So at least you can give them the full package, show them you what you're worth, your full value, instead of giving them a little thing to make them kind of happy. But that's a win-lose, actually. The client won and you've lost. But have they even won? I don't know because you've given them just barely what you can do. So have this minimum spend. I really recommend you that because it will lead you to actually doing the best work you can and making clients happy. Number five, don't quote over the phone. I've done it before. I think we've all done this. Mistake is to quote somebody over the phone quickly, 'cause you're scrambling, You're trying to get through your day, and you don't have time. You're like, "Ah, it might cost this or that." Every time I've done that, I've regretted it. So, now it's been maybe seven years, I haven't quoted somebody over the phone and I'll never do it again. Just because it's likely gonna be a rushed estimate that you're giving just out of thin air. You're pulling that out of nowhere. So, take the time. Even if a client asks you, "Hey, how much it gonna be?" "Like, well, listen, I gotta sit down, look at what we've done in the past for this company which was a similar project. Or let me just gather some notes." Whatever reason you wanna give, go do your research, essentially, tell them that and tell 'em you'll shoot them an email with a proper quote. Number six, it's not about how much you charge but it's about how much people are willing to pay. You may be used to doing $5,000 jobs for mid-scale clients. Okay. But what if a big client comes in? Then you have to put yourself in their shoes. For example, for a Fortune 500 company, $5,000, that's probably what they spend on internet every month for their office. I wouldn't even know what this charge is. So you have to imagine that whenever they do a job, like whenever they commission a shoot, it's gonna be 10 times what you charge usually, because they're just used to dealing with bigger production companies and whatever. So, even though they found you on the internet they don't know who you are yet. You likely appear to be bigger if they reached out to you. So remember that, although you think your job is worth 5, to them, it might be worth 50,000. So you're simply adapting to the client's size. So this is also gonna be controversial because if you go into a grocery store and you buy milk, whether you're Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, or you are anybody else, you're gonna pay $2 for your milk. Well with art, I think it's different. So, because what you make is so tangible and if you quote $5,000 to this massive company, they're just not even gonna do it. They're like, "Oh, we can't really trust this guy. I don't know. It's too cheap. Something's strange." They'll move on. You'll lose the job. So, I really advise you to remember that it's not about how much you charge, it's how much they're willing to pay for. And this leads me to the next point, which is number seven, ask your peers. How you know that you're keeping the industry at a fair rate for everybody is by asking your peers, how much they've charged with this client or this other client. Just be an open book. And I've talked about this in other workshops, just be open because it only helps everybody to share what you've charged and what they've charged. If your friends work for this big company and you're trying to quote them, you have no idea, ask your friend. Don't do any damage by quoting too low. And if you don't have friends in the industry, that should be one of your goals for this year. Get friends in the industry. Number eight, aim for pushback whenever you send a quote. I always try to aim for a pushback when I send a quote, because it means I'm really living this thing to the fullest. I am creating the maximum amount of value for everybody here. So if, whenever I send a quote, and it's accepted instantly, in five minutes, I'm like they didn't even get approval from their boss or whatever. That's not a good sign. I just, I kind of blew it. There's a missed opportunity here. So now, through this research by asking my friends, or just sheer experience now, I'm getting better at always getting this bit of pushback. Like, Ooh, that's a lot of money for us, but let me ask my boss, whatever. And they might come back and say, "Listen, you know, we can't do it, we can do this." Okay. Then we chat. We remove a few deliverables, right? It's win-win, give-give, give-lose, and we get somewhere. But getting this pushback, to me, is a good sign. And it should be for you too. Number nine, and you might not agree with this one but it's have a sin tax. So this is personal, but whenever I work with companies that are in the business of selling things that are quite harmful to the health, whether it's cigarettes or booze, I very likely won't even touch it, just because it's not my belief that we should consume that. I understand there's a market for it, and the budgets are great, but it's not my beliefs. If the project has a lot of freedom and I can have fun with it, make something that's portfolio, that can maybe win me some award, or whatever, I might entertain it, but I will definitely charge a sin tax. There's gonna be an upcharge 25, 50, 100%, depending on the scope of the job. That just because these kind of companies cannot advertise anywhere, right? They're banned from TV in some countries. They're banned from billboards. So, they have to spend somewhere and those budgets get inflated, but they can't even spend them. So the moral of the story here is that, if a brand who reaches out doesn't align with your beliefs, you should consider this sin tax, right? Whatever you beliefs are. For me, it's alcohol and tobacco. Number 10, explain why you cost what you cost. If a client, for example pushes back and asks you to elaborate on your fees, you can happily explain why you're worth without sort of giving them the whole budget. This is how much I'm spending on food and whatever. You don't have to get that deep, but you can explain why you cost what you cost, which is getting I think, the biggest deal is letting them know that you're gonna go deep into this. Like, "Hey, this project might require 50 hours of research." They don't know that. So it's good to tell them I'm gonna spend 50 hours researching this. We're gonna bring this very cool camera. We're gonna get this lens that's very special. Just whatever your usual techniques are, or your process is, you have to explain that to them. 'Cause they don't know how you work most of the time. So if you tell them that at least, they're like, Oh, okay, I understand. If you're gonna spend 50 hours doing this, or there's gonna be 35 hours of editing on four photos, 10 photos, whatever, then they'll be much more willing to pay your fee. 11, create scarcity. Sometimes it can be beneficial, massively beneficial, to just create a bit of scarcity around your work or your availability. If a client is beating around the bush and taking a while to get back to you, you can also take control of the situation, and jump in and say, "You know, the schedule's filling up. I'm only having these days available now. You wanna do it, yes or no? Otherwise, you know, somebody's waiting for this spot." whether that's true or not, that's up to you, but at least you can create just a bit of tension to get the clients towards a decision. Because you're only pushing them to decide, right. If they were gonna hire you, they'll just do it faster. And even if they're not gonna hire you, then you'll get you an answer faster anyway. So, I'd always encourage you to create just a bit of scarcity. 12, don't do discounts. And that is very important, I think, because whenever we start making discounts, for sure, never discount for your clients. Like there's no Black Friday special on your work. There is no sale. So, that's a starter. If a family member or a friend asks you for that, "Hey, what's your family price or friend price. You know, I need some photos for this for my restaurant, or my vineyard," or whatever they have, a hundred percent of the time, I'd rather do it for free. But explain the parameters and the rules like,, "Yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'd rather not charge you because we're family, we're friends. I can come this Saturday morning and just be ready 'cause I can't come twice. I'll knock it out for you, and you'll get the photos, thank you very much." If they later give you case a wine, or whatever they're gonna give you, then that's fine. But with family or friends, you always have a bad taste if you give them a discount because they're gonna feel entitled to your time, 'cause they're paying you, but you're gonna feel entitled to your time 'cause they're paying you less than what you should be paid. So, that's just bad vibes. That's why I just never really do discounts. And a quick note on that also, on a larger budget or with a client, if they're just asking you for straight-up discount because for X or Y reasons, they always have good reasons, you just cannot take money away without taking deliverables away. Never. They take some funds away, you have to take, "Okay, well cool, then we might not be able to bring this cool camera." Or "Okay we'll have to take away this deliverable. Maybe it's only 10 photos instead of 12." Just if they take something away, you have to take something away. 13, know that you may lose the job. So, getting into any of these negotiations, you have to be okay if you want to get the absolute amount of what you're worth you should be 100% okay to not get this job. If you're not, then you don't have the leverage needed and you're probably gonna end up with a bad taste in your mouth. So, whenever I walk into a negotiation with a client, or somebody who I'm hiring to do something, whichever way it is, I have to be fully ready to not proceed with the deal if it just doesn't work out. And no hard feelings, right? It's just how it works out. And with the mental fortitude that you may not get this job you might project it and it might get you more likely to just close the deal anyways. 14, be kind. And this one is perhaps the most important one. Being kind always goes a long way. A smile goes much further than anything else. So, you can do any of the recommendations I've given you but you have to do always be kind when you do them. Never be a jerk. So, any situation no matter how aggressive the counterparty is, keep your cool and just be kind, and try to understand where they're coming from. 'Cause like I said earlier, any negotiation is just understanding the other people's position. 15, study body language and the tone of voice. Well, most of what we express as humans comes from nonverbal cues. Whether it's your body language or how you say things, it is always much more important to notice that. Like I said earlier, be an active listener. You can pick up these kind of things than listening to what the person is saying. The words are just like poor ways to mask what we're trying to say physically or with the tone. So, I would encourage you to study body language through books, or through workshops, or through whatever you want, whenever you do your personal development. Just invest time in that because you might be able to pick up somebody's tone of voice in negotiation. Whenever I do that, whenever somebody is a bit hesitant, you can perceive that if you're closely listening. If you're not, then you'll miss it. But if you're closely listening, you might just stop them one second. "Hey, I notice some hesitation around what you just said. What can we do differently? Is there a problem? Should we just talk about it?" And most often than not, the person's gonna open up and be like, "Yeah, I'm not sure about this. I just wasn't sure if I could bring it up or not." And then you're just making progress just by the simple fact that you've listened and you've paid attention to all the cues or the nonverbal cues.

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Ratings and Reviews

Janelle Dransfield

A helpful combination of mindful and technical! I loved all aspects of the lessons Alex taught in this workshop! They were well thought out, specific, and easy to follow. Each category had numbered lists of steps, followed by more specific descriptions of them. The lesson about the art of negotiation, as well as the one out in the field with his dad were both full of really helpful first hand knowledge. (Also, side note: loved how his dad did NOT care about the production hahaha. Just a man about his business. A perfect example of someone you document and direct when you can!) The only reason I didn't give this five stars was because of the uncut interview episode with another photographer about how to find motivation. It was the longest episode, but there wasn't a lot of content there, and the video was really drawn out considering how much was actually being said. Maybe if the person being interviewed had been given an idea of the questions before hand, or if all the dead space had been edited out in-between, it would have felt like a little bit less of a filler? That being said, I really enjoyed this course overall and got a lot out of it! Well priced, and I would definitely buy again.

Oswaldo Martinez

Phenomenal guide to find YOUR reasons to be better This might be my favorite workshop from Alex. He shares amazing insights and provides frameworks to help you understand the why behind what you do, and plenty of valuable advice into how you can improve or find your own motivations. Loved this one.

Tommaso Novi

Absolutely amazing. You can see the works these community put in this course, is simply amazing and incredible. Inspiring is the right word!

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