How to demand your worth, without feeling like a total bitch

I was at dinner with a fellow freelancer friend last night and we were exchanging (work) war stories of what it's like to pitch to clients, negotiate a price, and stand confidently behind what you charge.

It's no secret that “rates” can be very subjective in just about any industry. Specifically if you're freelancing or operating your own service-based business, when you go into the pitch and then send the proposal, the rate can quite honestly be pulled out of thin air.

Of course, you will have done some (read: a shit ton of) research…

  • Approximately how many hours will you spend on the project?
  • What is your time worth to you?
  • What costs will you incur working on the project?
  • What do you see the “standard” is out in the industry?
  • What unique value proposition do you offer?

…and so on, and so forth.

Racking our brain with all the ways you can rationalize how much to charge, and feel good about it.

Even so, my friend and I both agreed that more times than not, when we're negotiating over the phone and it comes time to “tell them our number” we might blurt it out and then immediately want to say “but it's open to negotiation!!!”

Bahhhh noooooo.

Why in the world do we feel so inclined to say this? As if we feel bad for standing our ground and saying our rate, and then immediately double-back and try to undermine all the excessive work we put into rationalizing our rate in the first place.

Ladies, if you feel me here… Puh-lease raise your hand!

We usually don't end up saying that second part about being open to negotiation, but it's no lie that we feel tempted to say it.

Why do we feel so bad to charge what we're worth? What is this world? And this may be a gross assumption, but I'm willing to bet most men do not feel this twinge of guilt when they are negotiating their rate.

I'm sure this comes with time and experience, but for us ladies new to a career, new to our own freelance business, or new to the startup entrepreneurial world…

We need to learn, ASAP, how to stand our ground, charge for what we're worth, and not feel like a bitch when we demand the rate we want.

To continue the story of me and my gal pal's dinner conversation… she shared that a business contact of hers (the one in charge of hiring out freelance work) made a similar comment on the subject.

The business contact, also a woman, said that every time she negotiated over an email and told the female freelancers what their budget was (say $200) the women immediately accepted the rate. Meanwhile, if the business contact was negotiating with a male freelancer, the men always followed-up to negotiate a higher rate, even if it was just a slight increase, they always made an attempt to negotiate.

But we all know this is true in freelancing, entrepreneurship, AND those full-time job interviews. Women fail to negotiate, and it's our biggest mistake. Failing to negotiate is one of the things we regularly do that keeps us financially behind the rest, and I won't stand for it any longer.

So, I present to you my 5 negotiating tips to stick to your worth, without feeling like a total biotch.

1. Don't Buy the B.S. (a guy wouldn't)

Women are really good rule followers.

I'm lucky that I looked up to my dad so much… a man who parks wherever he damn well pleases and doesn't stop at stop signs that haven't been in place for more than 30 years (he's lived in the same town all his life and isn't so susceptible to rules or change, I suppose).

Although I'll break the road rules here and there, I too have proved myself a great rule follower when it came to jobs and business.

For the most part, us women are very talented at taking things at face-value, acting like a lady, and quietly doing what we're told (as if we're still living in the 60's).

Meanwhile, the men who hear, “we have no room for negotiating” or “I went to bat for you and got the best salary we offer, no need to negotiate.” will all likely call B.S. and negotiate anyway.

So my dears, it's time to cut the B.S. and realize that there is always room to negotiate (companies literally budget with that expectation in mind!). When someone acts like you're running straight for a wall, it's time to ….

2. Properly Convey Your Value

We know you've done hours upon hours of research.

Which is great! Don't get me wrong.

It is my believe that we need this research to root ourselves in confidence and assure ourselves that we're making a solid and leak-proof case for ourselves.

It's also important, however, to properly convey the value you provide over the run-of-the-mill “industry standards.” Because any other Joe Schmo can come to a negotiating with the exact same case.

It's time to make your unique confident light shine.

This can all start with something as simple as what you call yourself.

Perspective is reality.

Are you an expert? No? – Well let me ask you, do you know more about your subject out of all the humans in the grocery store? Yeah? – Well then, you're an expert.

What's more? Specificity is your sword.

That's a really weird thing to say, but it's true. The more specific you can get about the type of value you provide, the more rare a gem you are.

If you're going for a job: What specific and unique qualities do you bring to the job beyond the “standard requirements” that every other candidate will present themselves with?

If you're a freelancer/business owner: What specific niche do you focus on or serve? How can you make your client feel special because you cater to their specific demographic?

Does that make sense? You can easily convey your value by calling yourself an expert in the specific industry for the specific niche that you serve.

Broad to Specific. Make that transition and properly convey your value. Oh, and be confident about it. (more on that in #4.)

3. Learn What They Want

This is actually very easy.

Before you go into negotiation talk – start asking questions.

“How can I improve the work that you will have me do?”

“If you could have a part of your job completely done for you, if budget wasn't a concern, what would you love to have done?”

“Where are you trying to get or what are you trying to achieve in the next 1-3 years?”

Ask questions about where they want to be, what they want to achieve, and how you can make their life 100% easier.

Figure out where they want to be and then brainstorm how you can make that happen.

When you go into your negotiation, bring a proposal for adding those extra items to the job description. Show them how you will achieve it, what your process will look like over the next 3-months, 6-months, and 1-year. Make it such an irresistible plan, that they can't imagine hiring someone else (who hasn't asked these questions or presented the plan), and they would be willing to pay what your asking because it's going to improve their life.

Bada-bing-bada-boom. All it takes is a little sweat equity on the front-end. But if you can do your research, be creative, and present an undeniable plan, you'll have it in the bag.

4. Make It Physical

Yes, this one feels a bit woo-woo, but if you can get that confidence deep into your body before going into a negotiating conversation, you will be able to do the above with ease.

I've used a couple of methods to get my confidence up before having difficult conversations of all nature. Here are two of my favorite methods.

Power Posing: Amy Cuddy is a Social Phsycologist who gave a TedTalk about the impacts of Power Posing. If you change your posture for 2 minutes and take a high power pose, your feelings about yourself will change. You will become more confident, more willing to take chances, and it's proven in Amy's study that our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes. You really can Fake It Till You Become It.

“When you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to be powerful.”

Vision Meditation: Taking some time to envision yourself becoming the confident negotiating rockstar can really help. Meditating on what it's like to wake up a few months down the road when you have become the high-earning woman you want to be and really putting yourself in that position is powerful. Athletes do this, famous and wildly successful entrepreneurs do this, and other high-performers do this. Give it a try. I love Cassandra Bodzak's Rockstar Guided Meditation. It will make you feel like a rockstar.

5. Bite That Tongue!

Finally, the part where I find myself really rocking at the negotiating part of my business… biting my tongue before that temptation to say “…but I'm open for negotiation.” becomes a reality.

If you get to the point where it's time to say your rate, and you can't get them to budge on sharing their range or budget, then it's time to put it out there then Bite. That. Tongue!

“He who speaks first, loses.”

And you know this is true. It will get quiet, it may get awkward, but just endure and wait for them to react.

There are other instances when you are totally allowed to bite your tongue. When the potential employer asks what your previous salary was, when they give you a range and expect you to accept, and so on. You have every right to respond with, “I'm not comfortable discussing that right now.” or asking for time to review and get back to them (the job will not suddenly disappear in one day or even one week), just be open to communicating because that is what they expect.

Now it's your turn, do you ever feel like a bitch when negotiating and standing your ground for the value you provide? Do you have any additional tips for women on negotiating? I'd love to hear more! Leave them in the comments below.