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The Writer’s Guide to Winning E-Negotiations (The Art of Persuasion)

Negotiation online

There’s only one message that runs through the veins of this blog and that is, “How to help Writers Get Paid What They’re Worth”.

Various tactics have been shared that help us as freelance writers boost quality and confidence but the truth is that the “How to” of getting paid your worth is never complete without learning one of the most important ingredients in business success.

This ingredient is what has made businesses grow from zero to hero within a period of time…

It’s this same ingredient that allows internet entrepreneurs live the kind of lifestyle they choose…

And this same ingredient has the power to help you earn up to $200 per article or more depending on how you use it…

So what’s this special ingredient?

It’s Negotiation, and in this guide, you’ll get to know the science behind negotiation plus actionable tips on how to apply it to your freelance writing career.

So let’s get cooking, shall we?

What is Negotiation?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to negotiate means, “to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise.”

As the freelance writer who is actually going to do the writing, it is your duty to ensure that all negotiations are in your favor. In other words, the compromise you reach with that prospective client must be favorable to you.

But in a situation where you don’t get to sit with the client face-to-face, how then do you negotiate your rates?

This brings us to the two types of negotiation;

1. Face-to-Face Negotiation: This type of negotiation involves verbal and non-verbal communication. In this case, you actually sit down with the opposite party and reach a compromise, while at the same time sending non-verbal messages via body language to the other party involved.

Except you get your clients through offline means as a freelance writer, in this context, you have no need for this kind of communication. However it is essential because being a good communicator would actually help in making the second type of negotiation work for you.

2. E-Negotiation: Now this is where we get the party started. Electronic Negotiation simply refers to negotiation done between two parties separated by a long distance but via electronic channels such as the mobile phone or over the internet.

However, for the purpose of this guide, we’ll be focusing on negotiation done via the internet. As you already know, there are two main ways through which we communicate on the internet and these are: email and chat media like Skype.

In this form of negotiation, a higher level of persuasion is needed because unlike in face-to-face-negotiations where the second party can actually see you, here they don’t even know what you look like. Being that people are easily moved by what they see, you’ll need to do a lot more work to convince them that you’re the right man for the job.

The infographic below shows you the difference between the two types of negotiation and what is involved in each.

Types of negotiation

The Structure of Negotiation

Clients are different and for this reason, you need to know how to recognize each type of client and how to deal with each one. It is for this purpose that negotiation has different structures. These structures are simply different approaches that will help you understand what makes every kind of client tick.

According to a research paper by Tanya Alfredson of John Hopkins University and Azeta Cungu, there are five approaches to negotiation. These approaches can be used independently or as a combination depending on the kind of client you encounter.

1. Structural Approach

This approach focuses on the role of power and operates with the notion that ‘the strong do what they can and the weak do what they must’. In other words, the party with the stronger will wins, irrespective of whether it is favorable to the freelance writer or not. There is little to no room for compromise.

In content creation this can work for or against you as the freelance writer, depending on whether you have the stronger will or not. How do you know you’ve encountered a client with a strong will? When a client doesn’t care at all about what other services you have to offer but just wants to pay you a particular amount for a specific service, then you’ve got a power hungry client. This kind of client loves control and so wants to ensure that you have no say your contract.

How do you know if you have a strong will during a negotiation? When you’re not willing to compromise because of your goal of charging clients a particular amount, then your will power is pretty strong. However, this has its demerits such as you may be perceived by prospective clients as being harsh or rigid in your decision making because your main goal is to ensure that clients pay you nothing less than $100 per article. But on the contrary, this demerit is a blessing in disguise.

2. Strategic Approach

In this approach, the concept of the ‘game theory’ in Economics is applied and it therefore focuses on the option that will maximize payoffs or gains. This majorly involves calculation and rational thinking.

If the client is one that likes this approach it is important for the freelance writer to also be calculative and maneuver the discussion until it leads to an outcome that benefits him. Unlike the structural approach where the person with the strongest will wins, this approach can allow you as the writer with the weak will to win, as long as you have a resource that’s hard to find. In this approach, all you need is a form of leverage that gives you an edge over other freelance writers that the client may have encountered.

Using Bamidele Onibalusi as an example, his leverage is that he’s an expert at guest blogging. However, even if he has the weakest of wills in this world, the client will be ready to bend to his demands because having a guest blogging strategy for his/her blog would maximize gains. And also note that when you have leverage- a unique skill that’s not that easy to find, you’ll be able to command your rates, at least to an extent.

3. Behavioral Approach

This approach is based on the personalities of the individuals involved. Unlike the strategic approach which deals more with physical outcomes, this approach deals with the intangible, i.e. emotions and perspective. According to the French diplomat and writer François de Callières, as stated in the research, he argued that the Good Negotiator was one who possessed the qualities of “an observant mind, a spirit of application which refuses to be distracted by pleasures or frivolous amusements, a social judgment which takes the measure of things as they are, and which goes straight to its goal by the shortest and most natural path” but also “presence of mind”, “ingratiating manners” and self control”.

In view of this, freelance writers who try to negotiate with clients having this almost rigid approach will need to implement tactics on shifting the individual perspective of their clients. You may encounter clients that would inform you that they are trying to get the most out of their blogging efforts and so need your writing services. To deal with clients like this, you’ll need to learn how to argue your case from different perspectives, especially when they start to compare you with other freelance writers. For example, you’ll need to show the client how using your service would maximize gains or minimize losses.

4. Processual Approach

This approach combines both the structural and strategic approach where the parties involved have payoffs in mind but still uses power and so “unconsciously” don’t reach a profitable compromise. This is regarded as a less creative approach and often leaves both parties with options that have little benefit.

In freelance writing, this could lead to dozens of negotiation emails which might only end up in no contract. Or, it could lead to a contract but with little to no satisfaction on the part of the freelance writer or the client. I personally wouldn’t advise anyone to use this approach because it sounds “lazy” and “egoistic”.

5. Integrative Approach

This approach only has one thing in mind- Win-Win. It is a creative approach that leaves both parties with options that might even expand the initial argument into something that’ll create more value for the two parties involved.

For the freelance writer, this could lead to an expansion in contract such as a guest blogging strategy when only article directory writing was the initial discussion. Since this approach is aimed at solving problems and cooperation, you as the freelance writer would be able to get the most out of your client as long as you can prove that you can solve his/her content creation problems and that you wouldn’t cause any form of “friction” in his internet business.

This approach is really flexible and it’s pretty easy to spot a client for whom this approach would be appropriate. Once all a client’s email denotes is that he wants some specific content problems solved and is willing to do what is necessary to ensure that you enjoy working with him, then prove yourself from those angles.

Now that you know the different approaches you can use in negotiating with a client, let’s get to something more interesting.

Elements of Persuasion

This section will show you how to convince your client. On the internet, people only buy based on three things: statistics, emotional appeal or your credibility/authority. If you lack any or all these three elements, then forget about succeeding online. Seriously!

You need to know how to use one or all of these elements to prove to your client that you’re the right person for the job. And it seems Aristotle knew this fact thousands of years ago and for this reason, I feel he is the right person to show us the way.

The following are the three elements of persuasion according to Aristotle.

1. Logos (Argument from Reason): In this type of argument, there’s no room for guess work. You’ve got to be ready to use facts and figures to prove your quality as a freelance writer or you forget about getting the client. This element is often favorable for freelance writer who already has a good track record.

When a client asks you for proof that your guest blogging tactics work, you can show him the effect that guest blogging has had on your personal blog or on another client’s blog. You do this through statistics such as traffic, number of comments or number of subscribers depending on what the client wants. With this as a backbone, you can then use any approach that fits the negotiation environment.

2. Ethos (Argument from Ethics): This is persuasion through convincing your client of your credibility. In this argument, your name speaks for you. You don’t even need statistics of quality service before you move your client to say yes. It is based on your qualification and how notable you are in the field.

Once you can prove your worth in a particular field as Oni has done in the guest blogging niche, and you can get some specific kind or class of clients, your credibility becomes almost unquestionable. All you need at this point is consistency.

3. Pathos (The Emotion of an Argument): This persuasion appeals to the client’s emotions. The purpose of this element is to arouse the client’s feelings and instincts. This argument is powerful and so requires some level of skill with your use of words.

Pathos goes beyond the words you write in the email. What has effect on the client is not the physical word but the invisible message that the combination of those words pass into the clients’ mind.

I refer to this element as the Emotional Approach to Negotiation- the sixth addition to the five approaches above. And being that this is the only approach I have personally proved to be tested and sure, this would lead us to the next practical section.


The How-to of Persuasion: Using the Emotional Approach to Negotiation

Let’s do a brief word comparison game here…

Television is to remote control as a human is to what?

Every human has needs and so do your clients because they’re also human, no matter how tough, difficult or strong-fisted they may seem. Realizing this fact is very important if you want to successfully persuade any client into accepting your offers or demands.

Television channels change depending on what you press down on the remote control. So also human decisions and actions are influenced based on the emotions you trigger in them. And guess what?

Your clients have emotions too!

So let’s see how to influence those emotions in your prospective clients.

A while ago, I read a book, “Million Dollar Online Advertising Secrets” by Joe Vitale and Daniel Levis. Actually, I only read the first three chapters and what I learned was mind blowing.

The authors actually explained the advertising strategies used by Robert Collier, a man referred to as one of the greatest Letter Writers of the 20th Century. And I must agree, those letters really have effect.

As was stated in the book, The deepest and most powerful principle in human nature today is the craving to be appreciated.” In other words, if you want to see massive conversions, boost their self esteem.

Boosting the self esteem of your clients requires you to press some “Hot Buttons”. These hot buttons are esteem needs that need to be met. The table below shows these esteem needs grouped into external and internal needs.

Esteem Needs in Negotiation

From the image above, there are 19 esteem needs in total. Let’s briefly look at some of them and how they can be triggered in your clients.

Power: How do you give someone a feeling of power? When you place that person’s will over your own with his knowledge. For example, when a friend asks for a favor from you, doesn’t that give you a feeling of power? You can choose to acknowledge the favor or not, it’s your decision to make.

Appreciation: People like being appreciated. Asking a friend for a favor would mean that friend is being of help to you and so would expect appreciation thereafter. This would cause him or her to grant you that favor with the goal of being appreciated at the end.

Status: When you make people feel that they’re a part of something big or exclusive, it gives them the view of being in a position of status, especially when other authority figures are a part of that exclusive group. For example, informing your client that the guest blogging strategy you’ll use for his blog is the same that notable people like Carol Tice or Danny Iny use would automatically make the client feel like he is in the class of authority even when he isn’t there yet.

Importance: How do you make someone feel important? By simply making him know that some things just wouldn’t go well without his presence or opinion. Or by showing a sign of respect for his personality.

Attention: When you let someone know that you won’t take your eyes off him for a second, you satisfy his need for attention. By letting a client know that you’ll be constantly watching his analytics to ensure the effectiveness of his blogging strategy, you’re indirectly satisfying his need for attention and you’ll also be making him feel important.

Now that we know how to satisfy some of these esteem needs, let’s go to the next most important thing in giving you high conversions.


In other words, show clients what they stand to gain. I bet you’ve read enough articles that say that selling benefits to your customers is what guarantees sales. Well…

They’re right! But the crazy thing is that people still sell product features and advantages. You need to be able to know how to sell benefits because this is what motivates people to buy. As was stated in the book, Benefits are the motive power that grabs your prospect’s attention and moves her to action, while the features and advantages justify those feelings with logic.” This means that features and advantages are still important but you must never rely solely on them for sales.

But what kind of benefits do you push at them?

Emotional benefits! Let them know the impact your product will have on them emotionally. Let them know how it would make them feel after they must have used it.

Every need has its emotion and the esteem needs above all come with their associated emotion. The infographic below shows each emotion and its respective esteem need(s).

Emotions in negotiation

My Personal Case Study

After studying Daniel Levis’ book, I surprisingly got a new client and decided to test the techniques to know the potency. You know, there’s a lot of junk flowing on the internet and unless you test what you’ve read, you may just be overcome with information overload.

So, I decided to try out Daniel’s techniques and guess what?

I didn’t know how to apply it!

The book was so loaded that I didn’t know which hot buttons to press or which emotions to influence. But here’s what I did…

1.  I Studied the Prospective Client: You can’t effectively use the tips in Daniel’s book without studying your victim. Oh sorry, I mean your client. So, the question is how?

When I received the email from this prospective client (whom I’ll call Alex) telling me about how the content creation job would go and a few other specifications, I realized that he was someone who loved giving instructions. In other words, he wanted control.

Two approaches were used when negotiating with this client: Structural and Strategic approach. Being that Alex had a pretty strong will, it was hard to bend it (Structural approach), but he wanted something; he wanted quality guest posts on authority blogs which, it seems, he hadn’t been getting. So, I revealed my form of leverage that gave me an edge over his other writers (Strategic approach)- I told him I had a framework that helps me write top notch posts and get them published on authority blogs like Dumb Little Man and LifeHack. Actually, I do have a framework.

The words of your prospective client would help you know which approach to use.

2. I Targeted a Few Esteem Needs: The key to effectively applying the techniques is not by trying to target all emotions but a few. In fact, targeting all emotions is totally impossible.

So what esteems did I target?

At this point you don’t guess. If you properly studied the email from your prospective client, you’ll know what makes him tick. For me, I realized I had to target four esteem needs: Power, Importance, Status and Freedom. To explain further how I integrated this esteem needs into my email, view the screenshot below.

First negotiation email

Click to view

The email started with the phrase, “Would you mind giving me consent to provide content and guest posts for your website?” When someone asks for a favor from you, what does it do to you? It definitely puts you in a position of Power. In the eBook, Robert Collier used the following phrase to target that esteem need, Would you be good enough to do me a favor? I promise not to ask too much.”

The later part of the second line says, “I know you must be a busy guy who needs to tend to his business. I respect that!” In case you don’t know, calling yourself an entrepreneur automatically gives you the feeling of someone who invests some or all of his time into his business, with little leisure time. Even though sometimes, this isn’t fun, it definitely gives you a sense of pride. So, the esteem need I targeted here were Status and Position.

Now look at the first part of the third line. It clearly targets the esteem need of Freedom. Every entrepreneur wants freedom to live his dream life. The more you prove that you can help them get there, the more they’ll need you. The second part of the second sentence, “…your consent is all I need!” still stresses on Power.

The fourth and fifth lines, no matter how normal they may look, shows that you respect their opinion. Here, the role of Importance came to play. Show clients that you respect their opinion and you’ll make them feel more important.

So, that’s four esteem needs in one little email. Can you guess what emotions were targeted in the email? They’re Vanity and Pride. You’ll get this by viewing the infographic on Esteem Needs and their Associated Emotions above.

3. I Focused On Those Esteem Needs in Subsequent Emails

Subsequent negotiation email

Click to view

The screenshot above is the next email I sent after receiving a reply to the first one. If you look at the later part of the fifth paragraph, “…because your business is super important”, you’ll realize that I still try to give Alex a sense of Importance. But it doesn’t stop there. The next paragraph says, “You’re the one in charge, so it’s your call.” This still feeds the esteem need of Power.

The key here is to build on the needs you focused on at first and not to introduce new needs in subsequent emails. It’s like laying the foundation and then constructing the building itself. Build up on what you have and don’t go laying another foundation on the second floor. That’s crazy!

The Result

Final negotiation email

Click to view

Did you see the statement, “You mentioned me giving you my consent to provide content and guest posts for the website? Yes of course, what other information do you need?”? Now that’s what you get when you put someone in a position of Power and then show him that you can make his dreams come true. It’s important to note that negotiation is not about you but your client. So, always try to make your client feel better than he was before he met you.

Well, that was one long post. Now let’s look at what we’ve said so far. First, we made it clear that negotiation is the way to go if you must be in charge of your freelance writing career. And the best way to do this is through persuasion (by studying your client and then knowing which of the six negotiation approaches to use).

Afterwards, take a cue from Aristotle and know the kind of argument you would use to convince your client. If Pathos is your chosen form of argument, then the Emotional Approach to Negotiation is the way to go. However, note that the emotional approach does not need to be applied in all cases, especially when the client displays a strong inclination towards any of the other five approaches.

I really don’t need to tell you that the first step to even winning any negotiation is to actually get the client first. Now you can do two things- you can either go all out looking for clients via Job boards and freelancing sites or you could get them to come to you.

The client whose emails I shared with you actually came to me through one of my guest posts on Dumb Little Man, an authority Self help blog. This simply means one thing- guest blogging is an effective way to get clients and Bamidele completely explained how to effectively use guest blogging in his eBook, “Stop Pitching Clients- How to Get High Quality Freelance Writing Clients to Come to You- By Blogging.” Therefore, in order to start winning e-negotiations, you first need to start attracting high quality clients. So, if you haven’t downloaded the eBook yet, do so via the link above and let’s hear your success stories of how you got hard-headed and tight-fisted clients to bend to your demands ;).

Note from Bamidele: The ebook Lanre mentioned was released for a few days last year and is currently no longer in the market. However, it will be released again soon; if you want to be the first to know when it is released, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter using the form below.

Lanre Solarin is a WritersinCharge team member and a freelance writer who helps service professionals generate leads online using content marketing. Download your free copy of his Proven 20-step blueprint to start generating your first few leads online.

Category: freelance writing

2 Comments on "The Writer’s Guide to Winning E-Negotiations (The Art of Persuasion)"

  1. Junie says:

    Wow Lanre, this is an awesome post. It’s got so much information, it’s worth printing off to use for reference. I love the way it’s structured, the case studies and the examples you gave.

    I got a client once by using face-to-face negotiation. For some reason I feel more comfortable meeting a prospective client as opposed to talking on the phone. I get nervous and speak too fast.

    I love the esteem needs techniques. It clearly works because it makes the client feels you’re doing them a favour by highlight the benefits of them using your service. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this great post Lanre.

    • Lanre Solarin says:

      Thanks for the compliment June. I’m more comfortable with e-negotiation…after all that’s why I wrote a whole post on it :). But face-to-face negotiation can be equally easy; confidence is all that’s needed.

      Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it!


Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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