How to Negotiate like a “Freelancer” (Part 1)

EPGD Law Entertainment Law

According to the recent statistics from the Small Business Administration, small businesses occupy 50% of the United States workforce, amounting to 28 million companies. Of these 28 million, 52% (14.6 million) are businesses that operate from home; and 79% (22 million) are businesses that do not employ workers – “non-employer enterprises.”  Approximately 75% of all businesses in the United States are from these “non-employer companies,” which are responsible for a total of $989.6 billion in gross annual income.

The following principles listed are the product of experiences and studies of academics such as Chester Karrass, Harvey Mackay, Roger Fisher and others. A guide to human principles to consider, to navigate that complex “matrix” of emotions, interests and pressures that surround agreements between free wills.

(1) Put Yourself in Their Position

Negotiations arise in the face of a conflict of opposite interests; because if there was no conflict, there would be no need to make concessions. But just because there are converging interests does not mean that there must be conflict between those who represent them. The best thing you can have when negotiating is an attitude of disposition. Show that you want to help meet the goals of others, and that they are just as important as yours. If we do not sympathize, we usually anticipate that they will accept our terms without further consideration, without considering theirs. So, when they don’t accept it, we antagonize them by “playing hard ball” or “being uncompromising.” We turn a conflict of positions into a conflict persons. However, we must be aware that the other party also has legitimate interests to protect and prosecute. Let’s appeal to these. Let’s see an example:

During the renewal of a lease for a commercial property, the lessor proposes to increase the amount of the monthly fee. The tenant, a small printing business, considers that the rent is already high enough, and that the increase is not justified. The landlord claims that the rent has not been reviewed in two years and that insurance, electricity and maintenance premiums have been raised. The tenant responds that other expenses for him have also risen, and that if the rent is increased, he will not be able to meet them. The landlord proposes that raising the rent will increase the value and quality of the neighborhood. The tenant responds that the neighborhood is in medium condition and that is why the rent should not be raised.

Who is right? The truth is that both are, and both are equally justified in pursuing their interests until their final consequences. Knowing the interests of the other party and sympathizing with them will lead us to conclude that, more times than not, they are not far-fetched. Talk about them, attend to those needs and you will gain the trust of those who want to influence – in short, treat people as you want to be treated.

(2) Appeal to Objectivity

Similar to those concepts of empathy are those of negotiating reasonably. We all like to trust that we agree under objective criteria and not whims. Let’s look at another example where an entrepreneur is interested in entering the world of artist management, and manages DJ Walberton to tour several stages in Florida. Being new to the business, he is dismayed when Walberton offers only 15% of commission earnings. He wishes to propose a counter offer, until Walberton informs him that such figure is the market value for those services. He immediately dismisses the counter offer and accepts the terms satisfactorily.

What is this about? The figure is not an arbitrary speculation of Walberton, but responds to an objective standard – market prices. Therefore, by appealing to reason, and demanding it, we give the other party an incentive to do the same. We show that we want to compromise under criteria that exceed our will. We commit to finding a solution based on principle and merit, instead of will and strength. Market prices are only one of the infinite criteria that can be used. Others include: precedent, use and custom, costs and more. The important thing is that the criterion is independent of the will of the parties, in order to lead to objectivity.

(3) Know the Difference Between Offers and Interests

Offers are what they are actually proposing or not proposing to you. The interest is the why. Logically, the initial position of each party is always the most convenient alternative for that party (so be careful to accept initial offers). Thus, when negotiations begin – the parties present their positions and measure how distant they are from each. When these are in conflict, one of two things happen: either one of them is accepted or a new one is made. For the latter, we must forget the offers and discuss interests – which is the motivation of the parties to ratify an agreement. For example, a marketing company wants to lease one of its empty offices and at the same time develop a Social Networking department. He wants to “kill two birds with one stone,” so he asks for the services of a digital studio. He offers to rent the offices for a monthly fee and in turn, manage accounts. The studio wants new accounts, but already has offices.

In this example, we see the two positions found. Let’s split the veil of the offer to discover the true interests. The company wants to put a non-productive space to work and develop a department. In other words, look for more income and new services – that is the interest. Like everything in life, that initial offer is open to negotiation. This is when we get creative when looking for solutions. One possibility may be the following by the studio’s part: “We understand that they want to get income into their spaces. However, we don’t need to operate from other offices. Even so, we still want to help you. That is why we propose an alternative. Instead of charging us a monthly rent for the space, we will establish a commission agreement for the accounts you provide us. Thus, you benefit from our services, obtaining a percentage of the profits, and at the same time you are free to procure to other tenants the offices you have available. Then, instead of charging only a monthly fee, you would charge the fee, plus our commissions.”

This is a classic example of looking beyond the position, and discovering the interest that motivates it, in order to address it directly, promoting transparency and dialogue.

If you would like to learn more about negotiations, click on our second iteration of this blog:

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Silvino Diaz

Silvino E. Diaz’s practice ranges from Civil and Commercial Litigation to Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law. Silvino has earned a reputation as one of Puerto Rico’s foremost advocates for independent musicians and artists. As a result of his sustained commitment to creative industries, he was named Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Atlantic University College (Guaynabo, PR) – the Caribbean’s leading digital arts institution – where he spearheaded the “Introduction to IP” course for both the graduate and undergraduate programs, and was appointed by the Office of the President to develop an Intellectual Property graduate curriculum, where he served until moving to Miami in 2017. He is the founder of the service known as Starving Artists, where he offers innovative business and legal counsel for artists and creatives.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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