Feb 07

Tips on Negotiating a Great Work Contract

Negotiate Negotiating a new employment contract is an important and challenging first step to embarking on your new career. Not only will the way in which you conduct yourself during negotiations determine your bottom line; it can also play a big role in establishing your status at the new company. That said, there’s a very thin line between being tough and being unprofessional, and it can be difficult to know when it’s best to speak your mind and when it’s best to hold your tongue. Check out these top tips on negotiating a great new work contract to strike the perfect balance:

1. Don’t Be Shy - Some people are too shy to talk about money. Others think it's rude or demeaning. In many cases they're right. But, when it comes to doing a deal - and we all have to sometimes - being unwilling to engage in "money-talk" can be a very expensive business. If your counterpart (who is more than likely an experienced negotiator) senses that you are timid, he/she is likely to take advantage of that fact.

2. Don’t Get Emotionally Involved – Sometimes expert negotiators will try to stimulate an emotional response from you in order to get their way. Some can even shout, threaten, and make demands, in order to manipulate you into feeling backed into a corner. In this case, keep calm, patient and friendly, even if the other person starts losing their cool. Make sure you leave any pride or ego at the door.

3. Don’t Get Sucked into the ‘Rules’ Trick – Expert negotiators are also apt to capitalize on the fact that many people are sticklers about following the rules. Don’t let negotiators tell you that you can’t make changes to the contract because it’s their “standard contract”, and changes are not permitted. If there is something you don’t like in the contract, get it removed.

4. Never Be the First to Name a Figure – An expert negotiator will inevitably try to get you to name a number first. Asking you what you expect to earn is a high-pressure question, and it’s easy to respond by blurting out a figure that’s lower than what you really want. If asked, simply respond with the following question: “What’s the budget for this contract?”

5. Ask for More than You Expect to Get – If you are in a position where you have to name your price, ask for more than you expect to get. Few people will walk away from a deal once it's commenced, and you can let the other person feel as if they're winning by lowering your "unrealistic expectations" a bit at a time. Remember, your price can always be negotiated down; but up is impossible.

6. Let Them Believe the Final Decision Isn’t Yours – Once a negotiation starts, most people want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Let their impatience beat them. One great way of doing this is to let them believe the person they're negotiating with isn't actually you, but some other "authority figure". Say something like "Well, I'll have to talk it over with my spouse/partner before I can give you a definite yes". Tell them you'll discuss it and get back with an answer the following day. This is also a great strategy for preventing people from rushing you.

7. Don’t Act Too Interested - Just giving the impression that you're willing to walk away can do wonders for getting a better deal. Always play the reluctant buyer or seller.

8. Be Fair – Never leave the other person feeling as if they’ve been cheated. Many people try to ring every last drop of blood from a negotiation. This is a mistake. If the other person feels they've been cheated, it can come back to bite you. They may not fulfill their part of the deal, or refuse to deal with you in the future. Be willing to give up things that don't really matter to you in order to create a feeling of goodwill. Most negotiations should leave both parties feeling satisfied with the outcome.


  • What about negotiating vacation time etc. for a 2 year contract position? Is it wise to try to negotiate paid vacation time and if yes, what is reasonable?

    Nov 30
  • This is great news!

    Aug 13
  • mop head and ting

    May 19
  • I'm looking at a job with a ten thousand dollar starting range. Say 50-60 a year. They just hired two other supervisors at $55 a year. And I feel as though I should be at $60 because I will be required to work 40 extra days per year? What do you think?

    May 14
  • what are your salary views when a contract changes from full-time to a 1-year contract. I had negotiated the salary prior to knowing that the post was a contract post, it was interviewed as a full-time post.

    Apr 21
  • Is the contracted work paying two to three times the rate that otherwise full time employee would get?

    Jan 29
  • Why do people do these dumbass things

    May 11
  • That is wonderful advice. Thank you.

    Feb 14
  • This is some very good advice. I would also add a couple items about being prepared and knowing your wants and needs:

    Know your other best options, or your "BATNA": best alternative to a negotiated agreement
    Know your aspiration point: what you hope for in a best-case scenario
    Know your reservation point: what is an offer too low that you are willing to walk away from

    Hope these help as well.


    Feb 10
  • @Paul,

    Pass on the work with the Fine Arts Department unless you absolutely need it. You are better off doing the work pro bono and sending them an invoice for your full normal rate (if not higher) showing a credit for doing the work pro bono equal to the full normal rate (so the balance ends up to be zero). This way, the board (which likely includes some heavy hitters who might have projects you really want at acceptable fees) will see the quality of your work and know that you normally charge standard fees. The last thing you want is to be known as someone who will drop their rates as soon as the client asks. Also, consider reading the book "Value Based Fees" by Alan Weiss.

    Feb 09
  • So what happens when the job you are bidding for is at a place where a normal fee schedule isn't what they are used to working with? An example is a job I am bidding right now; I do web design work and my typical hourly is $75, and a typical site (less than 10 pages, minimal flash, etc.) runs around $7500-$9500.
    The place I am bidding with is a Fine Arts Department which is used to running a three show season on less that what I am asking. My rates are typical of my location, for quality work. Should I lower my bid so that they feel more comfortable, or stick to my guns?

    Feb 09
  • Wow this helps. I have a contract conversation coming up next week. I think tip number three will be very effective for me. The opening is in a government institution and they are harsh on having your own company with a big ruleset on what is allowed and what not. Thanks.

    Feb 09
  • Tip #6 contradicts a tip by Morgan & Banks, which is to accept an acceptable deal on the spot rather than delaying it for another day. I'm not saying Morgan & Banks is correct, it just shows that there is no such thing as a bullet-proof tactic. Whether or not you succeed applying any tip depends on the personality of the person you deal with. The fact that you succeeded once does not necessarily mean you will succeed again in different circumstances.

    Feb 09
  • Salawi,

    What he means is make sure you aren't using your "need to win" or feeling like an "important person" ruin your negotiation.

    Feb 08
  • I did not understand this point "Make sure you leave any pride or ego at the door"

    Feb 08
  • Good tips, it's not new but always good to remember and good first look to newbies on freelancer.

    Feb 08