Most people don't know this, but for several years I was an actor. I was balancing being an entrepreneur, running my online businesses and getting deeper into the entertainment industry.
A career in the movie business wasn't for me, but one thing I did learn was the reason why creative people like actors, writers and musicians have agents and business managers.
The problem, which I have now realized can apply to entrepreneurs, coaches, advisors and other creative business people as well, comes in when you have to negotiate your own deals with someone who you want to have an open and creative relationship with later. This can lead to tension before you have even started working with a client as a creative.
Therefore, you need to stop negotiating your own deals. The simplest solution is to go and get a manager or agent like they do in the entertainment industry, and have them deal with it. But, that's not the only option, here's how to handle it personally while maintaining your ability to have a creative relationships later:
1. Work with People You See Eye to Eye With
If you are adamant about wearing many hats and not bringing someone else in to negotiate, one way around this is to focus on people that you see eye to eye with from the beginning. If you know that your service is well worth the price tag, and your client sees that from the beginning, it will be a much better relationship than if you fight over the price for two weeks and then try to work creatively together.
I have experienced this firsthand many times, and for that reason, I don't like to be the salesman and the creative mind behind delivering a marketing service. That's half of the reason why salespeople are utilized, so they can focus entirely on what they are good at and the creatives can do what they are good at it.
It does take balance though, and sometimes when you are a startup there is no way but to wear both hats. Here's what to do in that case.
2. Realize That Relationships Are so Much More than a Transaction
The most important thing at the end of the day is to work with people who you enjoy working with, rather than treating all business like transactions. In the beginning, it may seem like the thing to do--to focus entirely on transactional business. But the long game is so much more than transactional.
In the long run, I have made a lot more money by not treating business deals like transactions and treating people like actual people that I want to create a relationship with.
It's far easier to continue doing business with people that like you, and you like back, rather than doing business with people that you hate and can't stand the sight of.
3. Let the Work Speak for You
The best way I have found to do my own negotiating is by letting my previous work speak for me. At this stage, I personally have a body of work in all my industries that nobody can really argue with. It makes it a lot easier on both sides because I can show that work and it does the selling.
This goes hand-in-hand with marketing because in order for your work to speak for you, you have to make sure it is publicly available and easy to find. Winning awards, getting press coverage, building your social media following, even verified "celebrity" status on social media are all supplemental to this idea and make you stand out over others.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Say No
If you don't see a good fit, speak up. Sometimes addressing the reason you don't think it will be a good fit will get the other side to agree with you. Other times, they will say something else in a different way that gets you to see that they weren't as bad or hard to work with as you may have originally thought.
However, make sure you don't use "no" as a negotiating point. That just gets the conversation back to transactional and can set things off on a tense note that might get the deal done, but might make working with that client a nightmare.
5. Don't Create a Business That Is 100% Reliant on You
That might be a lot to bite off and chew for many entrepreneurs. Many of us are in the mindset that we want to do everything for our business. But the true test of a long term scalable business is being able to step away from it.
And at the end of the day, do you want a business that you run or a business that runs you that you can't step away from?