How To Negotiate

I think about helping my kids develop life skills pretty much constantly and I’m excited to share that I’m planning a dedicated series this summer to help your kids with life skills! My current plan is that every week I’ll share editorial and video on how to help your kids develop life skills in a variety of domains. And also, since Asha Dornfest and I are super obsessed with life skills, I’m also going to be integrating this life skills work into our @edityourlifeshow Instagram account. Each week I’ll share 3 lightning fast (as in, you can teach a kid to do them in 5 minutes or less) but high impact life skills to teach your kids this week. Get your kids moving! You’ll be giving them the gift of helping them become a functional human being while also lightening your load!

So for this week’s topic: I actually started jotting notes on the topic of how to negotiate (a bigger picture, essential life skill!) last summer, when Laurel was making her first forays into babysitting + baking for hire. I have to say it was a fascinating experience and it occurred to me that these tips aren’t just great for kids who are starting to look into paid work, but for freelancers as well. Knowing what to charge is a pretty consistent question in my industry since the industry emerged out of nowhere!

Here are my top tips for how to negotiate, whether it’s for your own projects or to help your kids develop this crucial life skill.

1. Do some quick research

I always like to start with attempting to get some baseline numbers. When Laurel started babysitting, we did some quick Google research on the current minimum wage in Massachusetts + what teen babysitters of different ages earn. If I’m working on a project and really have no idea what to charge and it’s not searchable I’ll check in with some of my trusted colleagues for their gut reads on ballpark rates.

2. Do a gut check on possible rates

Ultimately what matters most is what feels right to you. Think about what rate feels too low or just right. Perhaps even write the numbers down so they are right in front of you when you go to the negotiating table. When I worked on this exercise with Laurel, we started low and worked our way up. For example, when she did a couple of stints as a mother’s helper she was only charging $6/hour but when we talked it out, that rate felt too low for a classic babysitting scenario where the parent would not be there and she would be solely responsible for the kids.

3. Factor in qualifications + experience

In any job, the more qualifications and experience you have, the higher your rate, but sometimes this is hard to remember to factor in when you’re advocating for yourself. For example, when Laurel was making babysitting plans for this summer, I suggested she factor in a rate increase given that she now had a lot more experience + Red Cross certification.

4. Practice saying the words

If you’re nervous about negotiation, practice what you will say...literally, out loud! If you’re doing this for yourself, stand in front of a mirror and practice what you would say. Laurel and I did some role playing before she interviewed for her first job, including the expected scenario where the client tries to lowball her on rate. She found it a bit goofy but also super helpful and it reduced the stress of trying to find the words in the actual moment.

5. Don’t take it personally when the other person tries to negotiate

Negotiation goes both ways! While I have been in a number of situations where I just state my rate and the client says OK, I also have had plenty of experience dealing with counteroffers. If the rate is way too low I don’t take it personally; I just chalk it up to cluelessness! For your kids, this is where role play and figuring out your low/high/just right rates will be really helpful. They need to understand that negotiation is a two-way street.

6. Insert a pause

Negotiation over e-mail is easier; you have time to think and prepare your responses. However, if you’re in a live negotiation scenario, remember that it's perfectly fine to say, "Let me think about it and get back to you."

7. Decline if necessary

I mentioned low counteroffers above. When someone negotiates back, I offer education on what is involved and why my rate is what it is. If they clearly aren’t getting it (or do get it but are just being ridiculous) and continue to low ball, I just decline the offer. Remember to value what you are worth! This tip ties in with the tip above re: doing a gut check on rates. When Laurel and I were talking about rates, part of this exercise involved deciding on what the “walk away” rate was if her offer was countered.

I also share these tips in video format if it’s easier for you to watch/listen!

Tips for how to negotiate, whether it’s for yourself or to teach your kids!

Tips for how to negotiate, whether it’s for yourself or to teach your kids!