April 26, 2004 Program Summary
by Rosario Gomez and the English 518 Class of the Cal Poly Technical Communication Program

Marketing and Negotiating Contract Services”

Speaker Bruce G. MillsThis valuable session zeroed in on one of the hardest skills we ever need to learn as professionals — how to make prospective clients or employers understand what we have to offer, and how to negotiate a mutually satisfying outcome. Although negotiating is naturally an adversarial process, it need not be an unpleasant one.

Returning presenter, independent contractor, and marketing consultant Bruce Mills (right) provided a series of pointers for use by anyone in technical communication, graphic design, creative content development, instruction, Web design, and software development.

Common negotiating concerns

Before introducing the evening's guest speaker, Adele Sommers led the meeting by asking the audience to introduce themselves individually and raise questions. This was a good way for everyone to get to know one another and to initiate communication within the group. All participants came up with great questions; however, negotiating compensation rates was the most popular topic:

  • How and when to negotiate salary or freelance compensation rates and packages; how not to aim too high or too low; how to determine a “best price” vs. a “fair price,” even right out of school; how to size up what “they” can afford to pay
  • How to propose, weigh out, and negotiate creative tradeoffs among pay, responsibilities, benefits, and other perks; when the merit of doing work for added experience might justify lower pay
  • Where to begin in the negotiation process; how to master techniques such as finding a middle ground, “win-win,” and staying open-minded in the face of objections and resistance
  • How to articulate what you can offer as a value-added advantage over your competition; convincing others of your skills and getting them to take your experience seriously (including volunteer work or internships)
  • How to accurately define the scope of a project in the marketing/negotiating phase and set a value for individual work components
  • How to negotiate related cost or schedule details such as travel, research, training, lab time, and time on or off the project; when to take the cost risk of traveling to discuss a project with unknown parameters
  • How to handle situations that require re-negotiating schedules or costs resulting from changes in requirements; how best to agree on meaningful communication lines and responsibilities

Audience listening intently

What exactly is negotiating?

Negotiating is like driving through a four-way intersection. You must see where your adversaries are going. Negotiating is also like a two-way street; you cannot assume the other side wants what you want. When the other parties get what they want (or feel that they have), you will get what you want. Negotiating includes the following steps:

Process: You must understand and give your adversary what he or she wants to get what you want.

  • Get information and a commitment from your adversary.
  • Adversaries will not tell you their needs unless they are comfortable.
  • Seek middle ground for a win-win situation.
  • You all need to feel like you're getting a deal; otherwise, the process is failing.


  • Research the job requested and your adversary.
    • What was done in the past (scope of work), and with whom?
    • Can you do the work, and what it will take you to do it?
    • What do you think it should cost (preliminary estimate)?
  • Goal Setting: What are your goals for the negotiation?
  • Position for strength.

Questions from the audienceTechniques:

  • Build a relationship with the adversary before negotiating.
  • Get a commitment from the adversary. Use the phrase, “If I can give you _____, will you give me _______?”
  • Sell your advantage.
  • Manage gaming tactics.
  • Seek a higher authority.
  • Do not compromise your goals.

Your needs:

  • Make a list of your wants and their wants. Compare the lists to see if the project is worth it.
  • What do you want that will make you feel satisfied?
  • If you give up one of your wants, you have to get something.
  • Know when you will walk away.

Gaming tips:

  • Invoke a higher authority if things change and you were not informed.
  • Gathering information will help you know how to have your adversary “blink” first.


  • If you cannot get a commitment, negotiations are over.
  • Build a relationship in order to lead to a commitment.
    • Is the person you are speaking to authorized to give you the commitment?
    • To get a commitment:
      • Do not give away anything (such as ideas) until you get a commitment.
      • Use this phrase: “If I meet these requirements, will you give me the project?”

Keys for a successful negotiation:

  • Stick to the process outlined above.
  • Plan.
  • Employ proven techniques.
  • Know beforehand what you are willing to do to get what you want.
  • It is important to differentiate your product from someone else's, because often, that's the determining factor.

More tips:

  • Be prepared for surprises.
  • How do you negotiate compensation? Research average salary data in advance. It depends on your demographics, experience, and field. [Note: See Web Resources below.]
  • It is good to run into objections during a negotiation because you can get more information on what your adversary wants.

You can apply many of these techniques regardless of whether you freelance or work for an employer. Most marketing and negotiation skills are universal!

To access resources and handouts: (Need Acrobat Reader?

1) Click to open or download Bruce's complete presentation (98K PDF file).

2) Click to open or download Bruce's handout: Tips and Techniques for Successful Negotiating (24K PDF file)

3) Click to open or download Bruce's handout: Improving Your Marketing & Negotiating Skills (32K PDF file) from the follow-on (May 19th) telephone seminar

4) Video and audio recordings:

5) Web resources:

  • See Salary.com for excellent free and fee-based information on salaries and compensation packages in any field and region, derived from a huge database of demographic data.

6) Bruce's recommended reading list, and more:

Photography by Mary Meyer and Michael Raphael.

Marketing and Negotiating Contract Services
Date: Monday evening, April 26, 2004

Bruce G. Mills, graphic and media designer, marketing consultant, and Web designer with many years of marketing, executive leadership, and project management experience in the graphic arts and related industries. Bruce also has a BA in Fine Arts and an MBA, and is the principal of Lone Pine Studio.


“Marketing and Negotiating Contract Services” examined a disciplined process in which you must continually make a variety of decisions — some carefully planned and some spontaneous — to achieve a win-win result involving a new client, contract, or project. To do this well in each situation, you must understand the psychology and process of negotiating, plan for it, set goals, position for strength, and follow through with a solid strategic and tactical sequence.

Sound like a tall order? Perhaps. But at this critical, skill-sharpening session, our guide showed us enlightened pathways through the marketing and negotiating maze as we explored these important angles:

  • Time-proven negotiating guidelines
  • Negotiating is a two-way street
  • Negotiating strategy = marketing; negotiating tactics = selling
  • Planning for the process (such as by researching your potential competition, determining fair-market rates, preparing comprehensive estimates, and defining your value-added position)
  • Setting goals
  • Developing a viable strategy
  • Positioning for strength: Personal power, value, and control
  • Developing a comfortable interactive atmosphere before starting
  • Employing active listening; building client trust and respect
  • Recognizing and managing gaming techniques


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