Can you remember the last time you had to negotiate with a supplier? It probably was quite an easy and straightforward experience, although you may have been unlucky and have had to deal with someone who was only mostly interested in their own benefits or even worse, someone with no pride in their profession and no consideration for others. More often than not though, you’ll find that you’re  dealing with a fairly reasonable person who is open to hearing what you have to say, and more importantly is interested in the potential of creating something together for mutual gain.

So today I wanted to dive deeper into this and share some tips I’ve learned from my years as a freelance photographer in hopes that this improves the state of the industry for people on each side of the table and lends itself to more collaborative projects taking off!

Figure Out What They’re After

Successful negotiation rests upon knowing what each side is after. In order to know this, you need to do your homework and get to know the other party: their background, needs and motivations. What do they want? How much do they want it? Do they need you more than you need them?

Are they only after getting paid? Will this project open up to possibilities of working on other projects? Are you asking for them to lower their standard rates, or deliver above and beyond what is reasonable without a change in rate? When negotiating with a commercial photographer, it’s important to weigh up the value of what you’re offering and the value of what you are receiving in return.

Photographers also know that customers expect 10x value for their money in order to feel inclined to buy, so keep in mind that while a personalised, technique-driven, heavily invested service like photography might not come cheap, you can usually expect quite a lot of bang for your buck.

A common mistake that I see is the tendency to assume that the other party thinks the way you do — that their internal logic is exactly the same as yours or that they have the same wants, fears and motivations as you do. This is almost never the case. If you understand where they are coming from, you can explain things in terms that are meaningful to them and you will be better prepared to adapt and negotiate.

Show Them You Understand

Try to build a relationship with the photographer and invest a little time in building rapport. Genuine connection is essential in negotiation, and your attitude and energy going in will set the tone and affect the outcome. If you use the saying “It’s just business,” it’s best to dispense with it. All forms of business are personal and people who use this phrase often are likely to mistreat the people they work with.

Keep in mind that money is just a currency, a mere representation for human needs and not much else. Don’t assume that money is everything for everyone. It is not. This is even more noticeable for the Millennial generation, most of whom value their time, experiences and overall quality of life over and above financial incentives.

And remember to listen! When you listen to people they are more inclined to work with you towards your goals, sometimes even at their own expense. It shows empathy and a willingness to collaborate. Here’s a little advice from Harvard negotiator Katie Shonk: “Once you start discussing substance, resist the common urge to think about what you’re going to say next while your counterpart is talking. Instead, listen carefully to her arguments, then paraphrase what you believe she said to check your understanding. Acknowledge any difficult feelings, like frustration, behind the message. Not only are you likely to acquire valuable information, but the other party may mimic your exemplary listening skills.”

Sell On What’s In It For Them

It’s easiest to sell someone on something when you show them they’re getting more out of a deal than what they originally bargained for. Offer up all the no-cost benefits you can. These are the things that matter to the other side that you can easily give – the things that have virtually no downside for you, but have lots of upsides for the other party. If your brand has a robust social following that you manage, offer to tag your photographer in the social media campaigns you run. This will have no real cost on your end, but will be attractive to a partner who may not have access to a large social audience. This opens up benefit avenues for him or her without costing you anything extra, and shows that you’re not only looking out for your own interests.

Information creates trust. Open up and share as much information as you can to give your photographer the full scope of your thinking. This will only allow them to further align their perspectives with yours. Details also lend credibility as they demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, you’ve thought things through, and you’re approaching negotiation from a thoughtful, reasoned perspective.

What do you think of the guide? If you found it useful, you might want to download a practical list I’ve put together of the 7 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Planning Commercial Photoshoots. Download your free copy now by clicking this link.

Is there anything you’d want to say to photographers you work with? Have you got any ideas on how to improve this guide? Share your experiences with me by leaving a comment below.