November 17, 2016
One Fantastic Weekend

Who am I, what I do, and why I’m talking to you

  • I am an artist, a graphic designer, and an educator
  • History | agency designer; freelance artist, college professor; design consultant
  • Current | solution principal of experience design practice at a consulting firm in Atlanta with clients such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, IHG, Chep, and RaceTrac.
  • Negotiate | as an artist, as a designer, as a leader on behalf of the business and our clients. This usually involves time, resources, space, and money.

Who are you?

  • Do you run your own business?
  • Are you also on the two-career track?
  • Are your day jobs creative?
  • What things do you have to negotiate?

Today we’re going to focus on the power of negotiations in the creative space. You may say to yourself “I’m an artist, I don’t negotiate.” False! You have to negotiate on a regular basis and today we’re going to get a little better at understanding it.

Motivation of Negotiation

There’s interdependence between negotiation and relationships. These aren’t one and done situations to focus on a task. These are your clients, your buyers, and your colleagues. I see negotiations more about understanding yourself and others, valuing the relationships, and leveraging your network of people and resources as needed.

It’s important to understand the motivation of why you’re negotiating and the core needs of each party. It is our job to ask why again and again until we understand the client, the business, and the audience. When we understand the motivation of each party in the negotiations, we are better equipped.

What are we negotiating for?

  • Time
    • start date
    • deadlines
    • paid time off
    • working from home
    • external responsibilities
  • Services
    • space to work
    • bringing in assistance
    • access to equipment
    • perks
  • Deliverables
    • revisions
    • final documents
    • assets
    • supporting materials
    • presentations
    • working files
  • Money
    • payment time
    • inclusion
    • price range
    • percentage

Know who’s negotiating?

Know yourself

  • Be your professional self at all times. This is the clean, posed version of you.
  • Take pride in your work, yet stay humble. It’s a balance.
  • Know what your existing expertise is
  • Understand your professional value
  • Embrace your unique style. You’re fabulous!
  • What can you live with once it’s all said and done

Know your peers

  • Understand the talent of your team
  • What’s the value your team has to offer?
  • Take consideration of your peers weakness and strengths so you can be a good advocate.

Know your audience

  • Research the client or audience to better understand the history, role, and goals
  • Know the company structure and business model
  • Who has authority, budget authority, and the actual money
  • Listen closely to what they say AND what they don’t say
  • Ask thoughtful questions
  • Challenge them like a good friend

Tactics you’ve likely encountered

  • Time Crunch
  • Flinch
  • Garbage on the Lawn
  • Limited Authority
  • Nibble

Time Crunch

As deadlines approach, clients get more and more serious about making a deal happen. You will find that with a client that has a real need and also values your skill set, they become less and less inclined to negotiate as their deadlines approach. Take your time, but use it to understand the need and qualify yourself while remaining ready to close.


Sometimes unconscious, other times used with intent, the Flinch is just what you imagine. You give a number and the audience acts shocked. Give this physical expression little consideration. It’s one of the more dramatic tactics and can be rather amusing. Don’t feel the need course correct or flinch back. Remain confident in your negotiation needs and move forward.

Garbage on the Lawn

The client knows your team does great work and that is why they keep coming back to you. The client then attempts to devalue your services by throwing out seemingly inconsequential negatives, like “You changed your inventory list before the show” “You got sick right before the deadline” “Your consultant doesn’t wear socks!”

They know they can’t negotiate your real value down, so they attempt to throw garbage on the lawn, hoping that will reduce the price. This is fine as feedback and nothing more. Don’t let it affect your numbers.

Limited Authority

When shit gets real, clients may attempt to shut down negotiation by saying, “I have to ask my boss.”

This can either end the discussion or lead you to a meeting with the person with real budget authority. That is always the person you want to talk with.

As artist, we use Limited Authority as well. “Oh, I’m just . . .”

Initial negotiations are happening all around us, everyday. We see and hear about all sorts of opportunities for our creative businesses and other artist in the community. We’re better together! Gather information and pass it on to collaborate.


There’s a man negotiating the purchase of a suit. He spent hours getting measured, exploring options and picking his fabrics. As the tailor was finally writing up the bill, the customer asks, “Which tie are you giving me?”

A tie was never part of the deal! The Nibble is an attempt to leverage the seller’s willingness to finally close the deal, just to get it done. This happens for us, all the time. Just at the last minute, the client attempt to increase scope. Or, even once we’re on site, the client will try to add in services that were never part of the original discussion.

Always say, “No!” Accepting the Nibble sets precedence, with this client and perhaps others. They all want something for nothing. Of course, we are always interested in increasing scope — as long as the price increases along with it.

Back to you

What questions do you have that I can help with?