From zero to hero - negotiating wins

THESE DAYS there's an onslaught of "clients" wanting us to toil for nowt. But now some union members are finding we've entered a new phase. The first offer for a given piece of work may be zero, but clients nowadays are just trying it on in hopes that freelances who've grown used to exploitation won't even challenge such non-offers.

Here's practical encouragement, not statistical science, just enlivening examples of negotiation...

  • the 1000-word magazine article - initial offer nothing, final agreed fee £300.
  • the novice freelance bridging from studenthood into pro journalism has done a regular online column for zilch over several months, then says: "I can't carry on like this 'cos I need to eat, more or less like you do." Then they say to him "How about 150 quid?"
  • the BBC radio pundit spots for which one NUJ member gets offered nada by Radio 6 Music and says no, so they say: "Oh, all right, £50?" - and another on Radio 4 where the starting point was goose egg and the outcome 80 smackers.

...and three examples from the world of conferences and seminars, where potentially a journalist's expertise may yield a good chunk of change, though most of us probably undervalue ourselves and don't know to ask for it:

  • a two-day conference, our member's asked to chair, she says "How much?", they say "We don't pay,", she says "Then no," they say "Oh... 500 Euros per day?"
  • a London arts seminar at a venue so prestigious the organisers feel able to offer our member absolutely rien (bar £60 travel exes) to work as a panel member for an hour and a half. He says "Nothing for nothing". £300 sterling persuaded him.
  • Finally (with a couple of anonymising changes of detail) from the woman in question: "I was approached to moderate a session at a digi-media conference... they wanted me to interview a German company boss, then run a Q&A session.

"So I said, 'What are you paying?' and they said 'There's no budget for moderators.' I said, 'You're paying for the venue and the catering, I assume you're being paid... and you're charging participants... why do you think it's OK not to pay for a really key professional person for their preparation and their work on the day?

"My day rate for this kind of thing is £1000." She didn't expect a reply, but "two days later got an email apologising and saying please would I do it - for £1000."

This is all anecdotal but still shows it's worth dusting off those negotiatory skills. Remember: DON'T ASK DON'T GET and then ALWAYS ASK FOR MORE.

Last modified: 15 Feb 2016 - © 2016 contributors
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