In the beginning, situations like this are sometimes okay. You have to do the hard, grueling, unpaid work to get the contacts and experience that will set you up for success. One thing to remember is that this initial phase is a building block for the rest of your career, not a habit to be repeated well into your new working life.
Once you've established strong skill sets, unmatchable talent, and die-hard grit, it's time to reevaluate your worth. When this time comes for you to stand up for yourself, I hope that you don't back down, even if it means losing an opportunity that would have otherwise wasted your time.
I'll have to leave it up to you to know how much you're worth -- it's a tricky question that teeters between being too humble and too overly confident. Once you find out what your Goldilocks-medium is, let's discuss how to successful negotiate any deal.
No one can guarantee a perfect outcome when it comes to negotiation. Each side has their limit, but the only way you can survive is to change the way you think about it. Remove all thought that they're trying to screw you over, demoralize you, or any other negative emotion. Although the above may be true, that shouldn't be the focus.
The focus should be making sure your time and energy are properly valued. So what's the mindset you need to obtain to be a better negotiator?
Know your limit and be okay with the outcome.
Oftentimes, we get a deal, fight back the deal (a little too hard, albeit), and then get shut down. Hard. Then we're crushed that our dream gig is out the window and now we're out of any money. The thing is, before you send back any rebuttal offer, be okay with any possible result.
You may get a resounding yes. You may also get a hard, cold no. At some point in your life, be okay with this and be proud that you know exactly what you're worth. Remember, if you ever agree to a deal that you feel undervalued in, you're going to resent it the entire time. From this point on, make it a point to only say yes to deals that add value to your life.
I was recently approached by a company who wanted to purchase my name registration. They had the same name in a different country and wanted to expand their work into the U.S. Don't worry, this wasn't one of those scams. We worked back and forth on a deal but going into it, I told myself this: I didn't want to let go of a name I had worked so hard to find. It took years to get me there and although I wanted to help this company out, I knew that it needed to be a substantial amount of money to subsidize the cost of time, energy, and branding that had already gone into to it.
At the end of the day, we couldn't meet in the middle. Sure, I may have missed out on a little bit of funding, but I stood my ground because the name was more than just a registration. It was the heart and soul of my company.
The next time you enter a negotiation, no matter how big or small, I hope you put yourself first. I hope you remind yourself of the hard work it took to get you here and that you establish your boundaries. If you don't stand up for yourself, no one else will.