Thursday, 1 March 2018

Non-Financial Terms

When it comes to fees, a lot of clients are price-conscious, cost-averse, addicted to bargain hunting or just have their hands tied.  Or they are just simply maximizing their profit by minimizing their spend because hey, they can. And if we keep budging, then they will surely know they can. A lot of us budge too much; sometimes, however, there really is little you can do. However, just because you can't get better rates from your prospects doesn't mean there's literally nothing you could do to make your life at least a little less miserable.*

(* Sorry, spring depression.)

  • By extending the deadline you can reduce overtime. You will have more time for other projects, CPD, sleep, or hey, free time. When did you last have some?
  • By smartly downsizing the project you can make more money per hour while staying within the same total.
  • By eliminating parts that don't require your personal involvement or getting your client to assign support staff, you can achieve a very similar outcome and also position yourself as an expert whose time is valuable and not a resource to dump chores on.
  • By putting pressure on payment deadlines you get paid faster. Notably before they change their mind about paying you or run out of funds.
  • By demanding advance payments or dividing the project into milestones or several smaller separately billed projects you can mitigate non-payment risk and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • You can also reduce non-payment risk by explicitly restricting their rejection rights (especially important under the (not so, from the service provider's perspective) fine old contractual law of England and Wales).
  • By asserting your moral rights and possibly demanding some form of promotion you make sure you at least get some exposure and perhaps catch bigger fish in the future.

All of these things matter.

And now some negotiation points:

  • Securing concessions you don't really need — or withholding concessions you don't mind granting — can help you pace the negotiation for a better final outcome, or at least save face and avoid appearing too soft when you don't have too many options.
  • Apart from overquoting your fees, you can also start from less advantageous non-financial terms and use that as the ground you eventually concede.
  • Notably defeat the urge to pack your standard offering to the brim with goodies and extra stuff. Some people will always want something better than your first proposal; leave some room for that. Make sure clients know and appreciate what they get, to mitigate the desire to ask for more.
  •  Negotiate when you don't have to just to train for when you do have to, notably when you're already almost decided to quit. Test their limits or try something new, just to learn more about negotiating.
And always remember that decision-makers with limited budget authority can still make your life easier in a lot of other ways that they get more leeway with. A lot of managers are mostly left alone to run their departments, sections and teams as they see fit, as long as they exceed their spending limits; use this to your advantage.

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