Ted Leonhardt: Ten Interviewing and Negotiation Tips for Creatives

by Ted Leonhardt

ted leonhardt Design management consultant Ted Leonhardt, formerly global head of Anthem, has penned a series of columns dealing with business issues facing emerging designers. In this edition, Ted helps up-and-coming creatives approach the interview and negotiation situation with confidence and ... success!

Ted writes :

You're a creative professional, a photographer, designer, web coder, event producer, etc., and you've spent your career developing your creative skills. But, if you're like me, and thousands of other creatives, you are a terrible negotiator.

We creatives love doing the work, and we know its value. But when it comes to asking for money we often roll over, give in or just plain don't ask for what it's worth.

So, I've created these ten-simple-tips to help you ask for, and get the compensation you deserve.

Remember...you....are...worth it.

Tip 1, Plan Ahead

Make a plan. The simple act of making a plan will increase your confidence... and with confidence comes control.

Negotiation, after all, produces anxiety... and anxiety is caused by unknowns.

Planning helps you understand the situation and organize your thoughts prior to the meeting.

Start by making-a-list of what you know and what you don't know.

Include knowns like:
an important item the job description
an important item the company history

The unknown list is typically longer... and should include:
an important item the salary range
an important item your interviewer's background
an important item what's happening in the group you'll be a part of

The more unknowns you can move to "known" side of the ledger the better you will feel.

Tip 2, Know the Range

Every position has some kind of a predetermined salary range. You need-to-know what it is... before you sit down at the bargaining table.

Search, "Starting salaries for designers, writers, developers," whatever your field. Talent agencies, trade media and professional associations all produce salary surveys.

Tap-in to your community.

Professors, friends in the business, family are all good sources of insights on what people are paid. Find out the range.

Tip 3, Ask for slightly more than the top of the range.

Once you know what is considered a reasonable range, you have the opportunity to influence the outcome in your favor by simply requesting an amount that is slightly higher.

Research has shown, and I've experienced this, that by starting high you'll end high. So... if the range is twenty to thirty thousand dollars... ask for thirty-two.

And then there's your bottom line...

Just as important as asking for slightly more is knowing... before the meeting, what's the least you'd except and still be happy.

Having the "below-this-I-walk" number in mind will save you from taking a low offer in one of those weak moments, that-we-all-have.

Tip 4, Sleep on it

Here's a phrase to remember: "You have, all the time in the world."

So they've arrived at an amount that you are happy with. Maybe you're even, thrilled with the offer. In fact you can feel-the-need to just say "thank you so much I'm in!" But, you know that taking your time is the smart thing to do. So you say... "l'd like to think about it overnight if that's all right with you."

They'll want you to sign on the spot, but will agree that sleeping on it is the right thing to do.

It's a very bad sign if they don't.

Tip 5, Respect

They must have respect for you... and you for them, before there's any real discussion. Respect is huge. And, it goes both ways.

Just prior to an interview, I always make a list of my accomplishments... particularly those that are most relevant to this assignment.

This is key, because it puts my accomplishments fresh in my mind so I don't forget in an anxious moment. Which is always possible.

Describing your accomplishments in a confident manner renews their respect for you. It's equally important for you to show respect for them. For example you might say...
      "you've built a remarkable organization."
      "I believe the work your company is doing in motion graphics is game changing."
      "I want to be a part of it... and I believe I can help."

Tip 6, Study

This is a tricky one, because knowing what to look for is key to not doing a bunch of unproductive research.

The most important things to study all relate to why they want to fill this position at this time...

Look for recent changes in the organization.
Ask important questions Is there a new CEO?
Ask important questions New products or services?
Ask important questions Growth?
You want to know what's going on now and why.

How will the position you're interviewing for help them achieve their goals?

Be informed! Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

Tip 7, Ask more, talk less

Excessive talking is a sign of nervousness. Be mindful of yourself and your nervous tendencies. We all have these tendencies.

I've found that asking questions is the best way to keep those anxious feelings at bay. By focusing on my interviewer with a series of prepared questions I'm in control of my feelings and the interview

Asking indicates your interest... and will give them a good feeling about you because of your genuine interest, in them. And, yes, it's okay to bring notes.

On my site, under the video tab, you'll find a list of classic questions.

Tip 8, Do nothing for free

Never... give... them... anything, for free.

When asked, if asked, just politely decline.

If they ask you to learn a new CAD program... ask them to pay for the training.

If they ask you to move to their city... ask them to pay for the move.

If they promise to give you future work or valuable exposure in exchange for low or no pay now... just say no thank you.

But be polite... say, "Thank you for the offer. But, as a professional I've established a policy of never doing free work."

Tip 9, Never reveal past salaries or fees

When asked and they will ask, say...

"My past compensation is a private matter between my employers and me."

If you do tell, know that they will use it against you. Here's a chilling story...
A client of mine was offered a position at forty-thousand and, thrilled, she excepted on the spot. Then they asked her what she had been paid in her past position and she said, "thirty-thousand." They immediately lowered their offer to thirty-five.

Shaken to the core, she almost cried. In the end, she did not accept their offer and she left the interview as quickly as she could.

Tip 10, Get as much as you can

The only reason to negotiate is to get as much as you can. It is in their best interest for you to feel well paid. You won't be able to do your best for them if you don't - feel - valued.

Ted_Leonhardt_2015 So bargain hard but with respect for them...because, they will always remember how you made them feel. Ask for and get what you need to succeed for them and for you.

Remember...you... are... Worth It



GO Others from Ted Leonhardt

Ted Leonhardt has provided management consulting and negotiation training exclusively to creative businesses since 2005. His mission is to help them get full value for their work. He cofounded The Leonhardt Group, a brand design firm in 1985 and sold it in 1999. In 2001 and 2002 Ted was Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide, London. In 2003 through early 2005 Ted was president of Anthem Worldwide, a brand packaging design group.
      We Thank Ted for sharing his knowledge, and for contributing to the benefit of all DTG readers! Catch up with Ted at his web site : www.tedleonhardt.com ; while you're there, enjoy Ted's Blog

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