Nurse Writers: Let’s Take the Dread Out of Negotiation
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Does the word “negotiate” make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? If so, you’re not alone!
But what if we told you that negotiation isn't necessarily what you think it is, that you already have the skills to do it, and that you can employ simple, non-icky negotiating strategies to make the kind of money you deserve as a nurse writer?
Today, let’s talk about how to take the dread out of negotiation – and how easy it is to do just that.
You can negotiate. In fact, you do it every day.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I can't negotiate. I suck at negotiation.” Or “if making good money as a freelance writer requires me to negotiate, then I'm out.” But before you stop reading this blog post out of fear or disgust, let us assure you that the type of negotiation we’re discussing is nothing like what you might be thinking, namely, working with a car salesman to get the best possible deal on a new ride or hardball negotiating a labor contract. In fact, let us lay a mind-blowing truth on you right now: You already are negotiating every day as a nurse. Think about that for a moment. You often negotiate with your peers or your charge nurse regarding shifts, patient assignments, patient care, and so on.
On a daily basis, you probably say things like, “Hey, can you watch my NG tube for a couple of minutes while I'm on the phone with pharmacy? I'll be glad to watch your patient later to give you a break.”
In case you didn't realize it, that's negotiation. And that's the only level of skill you need to really do this as a freelance writer.
What does negotiation look like in freelance writing?
The first thing you should recognize is that – in freelance writing - a negotiation is not a defined period of time, with a specific starting and ending point. Instead, we want you to consider that negotiation starts the moment you begin a conversation with a prospective client. At that moment, every single detail of the relationship between you and the client is open to negotiation and discussion. So, keep that in mind as you're cultivating relationships with prospects.
Now, let's get down to the specifics. Let's start with money. Because that's what most people think when they think about negotiation.
Money isn’t all you can or should negotiate though, and we’re going get to that in a moment.
As a nurse, you deserve to make more money than a non-clinician health writer. With respect to all my journalist friends who write about health, nurses bring an exceptionally high level of specialized knowledge to the table that clients should (and do) pay a premium to get. But you may not be offered what you're worth as a nurse writer if you don't ask.
Thus, a typical “negotiation” (we’re putting that in quotation marks because this might not sound like a negotiation to you) is to say to an editor: “Can you do any better on the rate?”
That's simple enough, right? Yep, that is negotiation. And negotiation for writers doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.
On the flip side of this, clients will often initiate a negotiation of the fee when you've presented them with a proposal for services. They'll say something like, “$10,000?! We were thinking more like five.” And you're off on a negotiation like a pair of thoroughbreds breaking from the gate.
Now you get to go back to them with a new offer, if you want, if it makes sense for your business. Maybe you choose to meet in the middle: “How about we say $7500?” Now that doesn't sound too hard, does it?
A short list of non-monetary terms you can (and should) negotiate
But as we said, money isn't the only thing you can or should negotiate. If you're super uncomfortable at the mere idea of negotiating your rate, that’s OK. Most of us hated negotiating rates when we first started out. An alternative way you can build your negotiating muscles is by starting on non-monetary aspects of the scope-of-work.
What does that mean? Well, here's a short list of non-financial things you can negotiate with the client:
- Word count
- Number of revisions
- Submission method (am I sending a Word document, or am I expected to learn the client’s content management system?)
- Number of people involved in the editing process
- Number of meetings required, if any
- Publication date of the piece
- Whether or not source interviews are required
- Payment terms
- Rights issues (for example, does the client own the entire copyright, or did I reserve reprint rights for myself?)
- Kill fee
- Indemnification clauses
That’s a very, very short list of things every nurse writer can, and should, consider negotiating with clients. And, by the way, even though none of these things involve money, the truth is ALL these things can increase or decrease your effective hourly rate.
And here's a little secret: editors and clients expect writers to negotiate everything from the fee to the scope of work details. It's simply a routine element of the relationship between writers and clients.
The first time you push back a little on the rate you may feel anxious in an “oh God, what have I done??” sort of way. But then when it works, and you make more money, pretty soon you'll not only feel more confident about negotiating, but like some writers, you might actually start to enjoy it.