Negotiation Toolbox: 5 Must-Use Tips for Negotiating with Clients

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Negotiation ToolsIn a post last week, I outlined why I am against negotiating your rates with clients. But there are many other terms you may want to negotiate before agreeing to work with a client – payment dates, the project deadline, specific deliverables and milestones, ownership of the work, transfer of files and project data, etc. This is why it’s vital to have a solid understanding of negotiation and be able to make it work for you when it comes time to discuss the individual terms of the relationship.

Here are 5 tips that will help you maximize your negotiations with a client and create a situation where you both leave the table satisfied, ready to get to work and excited about the relationship.

Know Your Walk-Away Point

Before starting any negotiations, take time to make a list of the least desirable, but tolerable terms that you’d be willing to accept. Keep the list in front of you and be ready to let the opportunity go if the terms the client wants hit below your walk-away point.

Ditch the Win-or-Lose Mindset

If you think of the negotiation as a challenge you either win by getting what you want or lose if the client gets what he or she wants, it probably won’t be a successful negotiation, or successful working relationship for that matter. Instead of focusing on what you want and trying to convince the client to give it to you, consider what the client wants, too, and aim to work toward a compromise.

Don’t Take It Personally

In a negotiation, it can be difficult not to let your emotions get the best of you. For example, say the client is asking for a two-week turnaround on a project you would normally need four weeks to complete. You may think, “He is ridiculous! He wouldn’t make this kind of demand on someone else. It’s just because I am young/female/a part-time freelancer/etc.”

Instead, keep in mind that the client probably has certain reasons for making the two-week request. Find out why he needs the work done so quickly, whether the timeline is negotiable, and if he is willing to pay more for the accelerated turnaround.

Take Time to Educate

Many times, the client won’t know that certain projects typically take a certain amount of time, that you have policies for payment and deliverables, and other preferences you have for your work. Instead of laying out your demands and telling the client to take it or leave it, explain why you want those terms, the process for how you will do the work, and how it will help the working relationship and essentially produce a better result for the client.


I can’t say enough how important it is to listen to the other party in a negotiation. You can be as prepared as possible by knowing your walk-away point and being ready to help the client understand your perspective, but the negotiation is dead if you’re not listening to (and actually hearing) what the client is saying. If you’re not willing to listen and modify your terms in order to reach a mutually acceptable end result, you are not willing to negotiate and should probably just call it quits.

If you incorporate these tips into your negotiations, you will present a more professional and experienced image, and it’s very likely you will be able to develop more satisfying relationships and get more from your work. Just keep in mind that every client is not going to be a good client for you, and if the negotiations reach a certain point, it’s OK to walk away and get ready for the next client.

What do you negotiate with clients? How do you ensure your negotiations are successful?

Image credit: Ronit Geller

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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