As a freelancer, I found myself presented with a rather unattractive job offer this past week and ended up thinking a lot about negotiating and how I wanted to handle the situation. I would like to close the deal and have some additional work – but was I willing to compromise significantly to make it happen? I decided to do some research about successful negotiating and found some pretty useful tips for anyone who might be searching for a job or freelance work:

  1. Be prepared. Once an offer has been made, you should have an answer ready for any scenario. The salary might be lower than expected, but you get to work from home. The drive might be further, but you would be working with one of your dream companies. Know your deal-breakers and what you are willing to compromise.
  2. Plan your next move. When the offer is not ideal, make sure you are clear on what is most important to you. It might be vacation days, overtime, salary, or telecommuting opportunities. There might be a way to get a concession on whatever your sticking point might be. Don’t be afraid to get creative with a counter-offer.
  3. Know what the other side needs. Their agenda is not your agenda, but they do need something from you. When presenting a counteroffer – layout exactly what value you bring to the table and make sure they understand that what they are getting from you is unique.
  4. Be sincere, polite, and business-like.  By being yourself you remind them how much they would like to work with you day in and day out. Even if these negotiations don’t work out for either party, don’t burn any bridges. If they really need you, they might come back to you at a later time – but not if your relationship has been damaged by the negotiation process.
  5. Practice. Try out your presentation on someone else first. It will help clarify your thoughts and the language you will use in the negotiation. The more constructive feedback – the more focused your presentation. The more you practice, the better you will deliver.
  6. Know when to walk away. This is the hardest one, especially in a down market for employment. Remember that the way they treat you before you are hired is a good indicator of their company culture. A deal that negatively affects either party in some way is not a good deal. If it doesn’t offer you something you can be happy with, try again somewhere else.

As for me, I have decided to walk away from my unattractive offer for a few reasons and am preparing for that conversation later today. I have run my arguments by a few trusted friends and am determined to be polite and sincere, but express very clearly that this is no longer a good deal for me. We shall see if there is a counter-offer in the cards!

UPDATE:  My negotiation meeting went very well and I received a better offer a few days later, which I accepted!

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative