You Want to Negotiate? No Thanks


The simple answer?

My peace of mind.

The not-so-simple answer? Read on…

The beauty of doing this ‘online thing’ long enough is that eventually you learn your own value (usually through trial and error of undervaluing yourself).

Nothing beats real life experience for a blog post, right?

FIRST… before I explain why I choose not to negotiate with people, let me just say that this isn’t coming from a place of pissiness or anger. So go ahead and put your ‘Spock’ hat on (yes, as in Spock from Star Trek. You know… the guy who doesn’t read emotion into things) and try and read this from an objective place.

My guess is that this may resonate with many of you on a personal level. Which makes sense, when people try to negotiate with you it IS personal. My tendency in the past was to get really pissed off with a “who the bleep do they think they are?! I would NEVER do that to someone!” (riding high on the martyr train on this one). Then I had the blessing of having a mentor tell me something that made all the sense in the world (even though it bugged me at the time).

She said “Kim, people can ask for whatever they want. It’s up to YOU to give it to them or not.”


So much #truth in that, right?

The reason I got personally offended every time someone asked for more or wanted to pay me half of what the proposal stated was because I wasn’t trusting myself. I was coming from a place of ‘needing’ the money, the work, the validation, you name it. As opposed to the value I was providing (which includes my own value & knowledge).

The other huge obstacle in my way was that I never started this business because I wanted to build websites. Crazy, huh? I simply fell in love with WordPress and one thing led to another. Then of course I was in the time for money trap and had a hard time seeing my way out of the cluster I had created.

I wish I could tell you exactly when this shift occurred, it wasn’t like one specific moment per se. It was a gradual shifting that happened because of the work I was doing on myself in conjunction with the team I had hired to help me grow my business. As soon as your expenses per project go up all of the sudden you get out of the solo show mentality (because we don’t often think of projects in terms of our own time. At least I didn’t) and want to make sure your costs are covered AND you’re profitable.

Novel idea, huh?

I’m sure there are other industries (outside of buying a car) offline where negotiating is a standard practice (and who knows, maybe it’s a standard practice for some people online as well. Maybe this is just my issue?), but for the life of me I can’t think of any where people try to nickel and dime you or work outside of the agreed contract the way they do with web design.

And you know what?

This is interesting because I’m having a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment right now.

I have other services I offer (podcasting services or coaching as an example) and I have never ONCE had someone try to negotiate, nit-pick or try to change the terms once the project has commenced (and for what it’s worth, I rarely have people do this anymore with websites anymore, I just happened to have a couple of instances in one week so there’s this little ‘niggly’ thing I want to get off my chest).

It reminds me of a post Chris Lema wrote about his experience with a car dealership and the dentist (if you don’t want to read it, in summary he points out that if you have a bad experience at one dentists you don’t go to a new dentist, tell them you had a bad experience/wasted money with the other dentist and expect the new dentist to discount their work for you).

Sounds pretty crazy when you look at it from a different perspective, right?

Here’s the thing.

When you trust yourself and say “No thanks” to people who want to negotiate with you, one of two things will happen:

1) They’ll agree to the original proposal/price/contract

2) They’ll go away

Either way, you win.

If you’re looking to get more experience, then go find the people you want to help (there are a TON of non-profits that could use your help. Whether it’s websites, marketing, training, you name it).

Don’t work with the people who come to YOU to hire you and then want to negotiate the hell out of your price (because they’ve decided that the thing they know nothing about and came to you for, isn’t worth what they’ve “decided” it’s worth).

What I’ve found is that this tends to happen when people don’t understand something.

Which is O.K.

But it doesn’t mean I have to work with them.

And neither do you.

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  1. Thank you for the place to stand. At a rather hungry point, I responded to an RFP. They came back that I was a little too costly. As mentioned, I was hungry, but tried to save some face and mentioned negotiating. The response was “I don’t see the necessity to negotiate; I have helped many VAs with lower rates build their business and not needed to negotiate.” That wasn’t even a polite brush-off!

    With your encouragement, I’m moving into a place where what they see is what they get and there is no messy, confusing twist room. I’ve always hated haggling which would ruin me in many world markets trying to buy a rug or something.

    1. Hi Judy,
      You’re SO welcome!
      What just came to mind when I read your comment was the how the person told you “you were too costly”, as opposed to saying “that’s out of our budget”.
      Huge difference in the way the second sentence makes you feel compared to the first, huh?
      Trust yourself Judy- you’ve got this!
      And every time you say no to the wrong person you’re one step closer to a yes with the right person (who WILL pay you what you’re worth and be less of a headache!).
      Thanks again,

  2. Nice post Kim. I’m feeling all smug as I never negotiate (to be honest it’s getting a bit tricky in everyday life now I’m living in India, but still I’m resolute!).

    Now, I just have to sort out all that doing stuff for free and undercharging nonsense! We’re all a bit mad at times aren’t we?

    1. Thanks David,
      haha… love that you’re feeling smug! Good on ya!
      We are a bit mad… especially because there are plenty of times I’m feeling generous and want to do something for free but that also sets a precedent. Never dull, huh?
      Very cool that you’re living in India! A place I definitely want to visit!

  3. Amen! When someone understands your value proposition they are willing to pay what you are worth. When they don’t, it’s painful! (I’m not in your same field and probably not your target demographic, but I really resonated with this post!)

    I agree that we can’t stop people from asking for whatever they want (free or low cost services) but it still is frustrating to be keep being asked. I’m still learning to deal with these requests EXACTLY for the reasons you list…”because I wasn’t trusting myself. I was coming from a place of β€˜needing’ the money, the work, the validation, you name it.”

    Thanks for your work.

    1. Thanks so much Lisa!
      What’s funny is that after I wrote this post I had to take a step back and ask myself what was going on within myself that I brought these experiences into my life? (not to get too esoteric… πŸ™‚ ).

      The same mentor that taught me that people can ask for whatever they want has also taught me that you can simply say ‘No’ without being defensive. Clearly this is something I’m still working on.
      Have a great day!

    1. My pleasure Melissa!
      I had a mentor tell me once “No is a complete sentence”.
      Have a great day!

  4. Really has the earmark of very old Wayne Dyer work; “I am the sunshine of my life”. In other words, you properly recognize the value of your work through the cost you charge for it. How can that be negotiated?
    Good article, Kim.

    1. Hi Deb,
      Thanks! I haven’t heard that Wayne Dyer quote… I love it (maybe from Erroneous Zones? Of course now I have to go find it). And absolutely… when we know the value of our work it can’t be negotiated. πŸ™‚

  5. For years I had the same problem. I was fixing computers and people didn’t really understand what I was doing. I noticed one thing, when I was allowing my clients to get too close thinking they are my friends. They allow themselves to negotiate the price more. When I distance myself from them and spoke right to the point, this happened a lot less.

    1. SOOO true Moshe!
      I noticed the same thing when I got too friendly with clients. Doing that also created the issue of them behaving as if I were available 24/7 for them, which then of course created massive resentment within me.
      Keeping things business-like and on point makes all the difference in the world.
      Thanks again,

  6. Kim, this was a great post. Amazing how easy it is to fall into the negotiation trap and end up feeling like your getting stepped on for trying to give it your all and not getting paid what your worth for the time.

    Thanks for the insights.

    1. Thanks Stephen!
      It really is crazy how quickly we can start negotiating our value. I think a lot of that comes with time but I would have saved myself a lot of headaches had I learned this earlier on. πŸ™‚
      Hope you’re doing great!

  7. Wow this is a great post. I think every time I want to say “F You” to that horrible client I am going to have to come here first and read this post. I was recently hired by contract on a State initiative for a 6 month commitment. The description was to pick up all of the overflow work as they are super busy and need some extra help. I had worked previously for the guy who hired me and we have a great relationship and mutual respect, not to mention he loves my work and there were never any money issues. Once he hired me, he turned me over to his design boss-lady and I knew we were in trouble when she said, “It doesn’t need to be nice.” I don’t know how to do something that is not nice or to the best of my ability. This assignment was an inward-facing project that took a lot of design and production time and we are very lean, quick, and good. They loved the work but she said I took too long and she could have done it in less hours. Which straight up wasn’t true. She made me feel like I cheated her when in fact, we only asked for slightly more than the estimated price feeling we would make it up with more work. We know what we are doing. I cut my price to appease her as she promised more work. That was 2 months ago. She did not value what we brought to the table. I think she was threatened by the quality of our work and pissed off that we made a few more dollars per hour than she was making. She clearly didn’t have experience in working with outside professionals. Sigh!

    1. Hi Robin,
      Sorry you’ve had such a frustrating experience.
      I’ve been there (and why I don’t do websites anymore. The only way I’ll do it is if I really want to work with the individual). From a human behavior perspective, it’s kind of fascinating. I don’t understand why people behave this way with websites (they hire the expert, then don’t trust the expert, then think they know enough to question the expert). I had someone drag a project out recently and then asked me to show them how to manage the site (not included in the proposal). Would you hire someone to tile your house and expect them to teach you how to tile at no additional charge? Never dull.
      You really have to have the stomach for services.

      I live by ‘It costs what it costs’.
      Glad it helped Robin!
      have a great week,

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