Today I’m super excited to share the call I recently had with Ted Leonhardt about why it’s so hard for creatives to charge what they’re worth. Ted is an advertising and marketing consultant from Seattle. He’s no stranger to the photography industry though. Ted spoke at WPPI last year and recently taught “Worth It: Negotiating Strategies for Creatives” on Creative Live.
(Here are the highlights, but you can listen to the full conversation below or listen to the episode on the Momentum podcast).
Empathy: Our Strength and Our Weakness
One of my favorite things about Ted is how honest he is. He freely admits that at the age of 73, he is a successful creative who still struggles and feels anxiety when he has to negotiate.
Why is it so hard for creatives to talk about money, negotiate and charge what we are worth?
According to Ted, creatives tend to be more motivated by the work than the money for the work. We’re also more empathetic than the rest of the population. Our empathy is what makes us good photographers. It’s how we’re able to create images that people connect with. Empathy is at the core of what we do. People pay us for our ability to connect with others through our work but, if we’re not careful, our empathy can hurt us financially.
How do we overcome this challenge?
First, we need to recognize that it’s an issue so that we can take steps to prepare and keep it from impacting us negatively.
Ted recommends sitting down and making a list of all of your credentials before entering any kind of negotiation or discussion about price. The reason for doing this isn’t so that you can rattle off all of your qualifications. What you’re doing is pre-loading your frontal lobe with confidence. Anxiety reduces access to rational thought and effectively, shuts down your frontal lobe, and reduces your access to rational thought.
How do you know how much to charge?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining price but we’re going to focus on just one. It might seem simplistic but you cannot charge more money than what you can ask for without feeling fearful.
When you’re confident, people will recognize you as a professional and an expert. If you give a price and it sounds like a question or if there’s hesitation in your voice, people will notice it and are more likely to try to negotiate a lower price.
Have a Conversation
People like to work with people that they like. How do you get people who don’t know you to like you?
Ted recommends that you think of negotiation as research. It’s your chance to gather information about the job and the client. Ask questions, learn about them — their past experience, aspirations, and why they want to do the job now. Find out what’s important to them.
Having a real conversation will make the other person feel good and generate a feeling of mutuality. Working together in this way — combining your visions — will result in a plan that’s better than what either of you would have come up with on your own.
These types of conversations are best in person, but if you have to, you can have a video or phone call.
Never negotiatevia email. With email, you can’t hear inflections or tell how someone is feeling.
Once you’ve gathered all of the information you need, then — with confidence — tell the person what they’ll get, how long it’ll take, and what the cost will be.
Follow that information up with “How does that sound?” and then shut up. It’s as simple as that.