I spent last week negotiating a new ghostwriting project with a man I’ve never laid eyes on and he’s never seen me. Yet, here we are, bound together for the next couple of months as I turn his ideas, goals, and dreams into a book he can market to build his reputation and speaking business.
Nothing unusual for me. Most of my clients are people I’ve never met, but that hasn’t stopped either side from choosing to work together. Yet, I know working from a distance is a major concern for a lot of would-be clients and the writers they would choose to write for them. I wrote about that in a recent post.
Today’s post is about how to make would-be clients comfortable so the miles apart don’t drive them crazy. You can negotiate a deal that inspires confidence and trust.
My recent experience of negotiating this particular contract was a bit more difficult than typical negotiations. Project discussions usually last for a couple of days, not usually for a week, as these did. But here are the lessons I took from this negotiation that may help you inspire confidence in clients from afar:
1. Put a voice to the name. You might not be able (or want) to run out and meet with a prospective client, but you can surely pick up the phone and call. Let the person know you are happy to speak by phone or email. In the case of a long-distance prospect who seems a little nervous or skittish, a 20-minute phone conversation can go a long way. You can put the person at ease so he or she knows you know your stuff.
2. Be likable. Remember, people do business with people they like. Nobody is going to hand over thousands (probably not even hundreds) of dollars to you if they don’t like you. This doesn’t mean you have to pander or be insincere. It just means speak in a pleasant tone, don’t be afraid to make (an appropriate) joke, and put the client at ease. You’ve heard it before, smile when you’re answering the phone. The other person can hear it in your voice. In the case of my negotiation last week, I put a smile in my voice every single time I spoke with the man, even on the days when I spoke with him two or three times in one afternoon.
3. Be reassuring. This man asked me several times if I would be the one writing his book. “You have a name,” he said, by way of explaining why it was important to him that I would personally write his book. He had Googled me. I was able to assure him that I would be the writer on his project and that my 10 years of business experience and 15 years of professional writing experience would be at his disposal.
3. Be willing to give. In a negotiation, each side wants to get something, and each side must be willing to give something. Decide what’s most important to you about this negotiation and don’t budge from that, but be willing to budge on the things that aren’t as important or that you don’t mind.
4. But be firm where you need to be. Even as I was willing to give on a certain point and let the client have that one, I remained firm on what was most important to me: My rate. I refused to go below a certain point. He asked several times if I could, but each time I said no. Nicely, of course, but no all the same.
5. Don’t be afraid to walk. People can smell desperation on you, and it stinks. So don’t be desperate. You’ll find some negotiations where one party will try to keep pushing to see just how far they can make you bend. And again, giving, to a point, is OK. But don’t let the client keep pushing you because you’ll give away too much and make the result not worthwhile for you and you’ll lose respect. And your client must respect you if you want to have a good relationship. Otherwise, if the respect goes, then the whole tone of the relationship will be off. In the case of this negotiation, the guy asked for several considerations, which were not a problem and I was able to give. But I drew the line and told him no to certain things and let him know that if he did not accept my conditions, then I would have to decline the project. Remember, you want the project, but only under certain conditions. If the client crosses the line to what you determine to be non-negotiable or intolerable, don’t be afraid to pass on the project.
While this negotiation took a bit longer than what I’m used to, both sides came out with an agreement we could live with here.
What kind of approach do you take to negotiating contracts in your writing business?