Katie Lane is the mastermind behind Work Made For Hire, a blog about effective negotiation that makes the business side of being a freelance “creative” way less scary. Her background includes, but is not limited to, both the law and the theater. I’m a huge fan of Work Made For Hire, so I wanted to take the opportunity to interview her about negotiation and other important topics.
What’s the most common misconception you’ve heard from creative people about negotiation?
The biggest misconception that anyone has about negotiation is that they aren’t already doing it. Negotiation is just encouraging someone else to see things your way. Unless you’re a hermit, chances are you negotiate something every day; with your partner, your co-workers, your friends, your children. Most people don’t associate that type of negotiation with the the negotiation that comes up in the course of business, but they’re essentially the same. Creative folks have as much experience negotiating as business folks; they just don’t wield it quite the same way.
We live in a world where the boundaries between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurry, especially for those of us who do freelance creative work. Do you have any suggestions for maintaining good, clear boundaries?
Thinking about the boundary, and what you want it to be, is probably the most valuable thing anyone can do. Everyone is going to have a different comfort level with how much of their personal life is mixed with their business life, but think about the following questions when you are creating (or cleaning up) online personas:
(1) Are you comfortable gaining or losing business based on what folks can find out about you on the internet?
(2) Are you discriminating between the quality or type of work your potential clients see?
(3) Are you making a philosophical stance or a business decision about the boundary?
Everyone’s going to have different approaches and that’s fine; just don’t do one thing and expect something else.
How can freelancers who collaborate on projects work together most effectively? Should they create some kind of agreement in advance, like a prenup for the collaboration?
I think collaboration prenups are swell ideas, particularly if you’re friends with the person you’re collaborating with. It’s a super easy way of saying, “Your friendship is extremely important to me and I don’t want to lose it over some stupid disagreement over money or font size.” ‘Course, if the friendship isn’t so important, not talking about business before entering into a business relationship is a great way of saying, “I don’t like you and I don’t really care if this arrangement screws me over.”
As most freelancers are painfully aware from previous experience, getting screwed over in a deal rarely happens suddenly. And it rarely happens as the result of a seething evil beast taking advantage of a poor innocent weakling. It is a progressive situation that is fed by not talking about what is happening. Having a collaboration agreement gives you something to turn to if that process starts and it gives you language to use that is neutral.
And to everyone who thinks “I don’t need that because it’s not going to happen to me; I’m best friends with my collaborator,” I have one simple question: Are you still dating your first girlfriend or boyfriend?
What if you’re friends with your collaborator? How do you bring up and then talk productively about sordid financial details?
My advice here is not fancy: talk about it. Talk about your expectations, talk about why you’re working with one another, talk about possibilities, both of the realistic and home run variety; but most importantly just talk about it. Agree at the beginning of the conversation that it’s about business, not the friendship, and if at any point in that conversation one of you feels this isn’t a good idea, you get a free, no-questions asked Get Out of Jail Free card.
Do not set yourselves up to fail by deciding to do something at the very last minute where your friend is your only hope and the chance of ever getting paid is equivalent to my chance of ever making out with Tricia Helfer.
If you cannot talk about these things in the beginning it’s probably a good sign that you should not work with one another.
What part, if any, would you return to theater to play — and/or what play would you most want to direct?
To play would probably be Trudy from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe by Jane Wagner.
I did a condensed version of the play back in the dark ages, but I’d love to give the whole thing a shot. It is a very silly play that tricks you into thinking.
For to direct, it’d have to be something by Mr. Mamet. I’m particularly fond of Oleanna. I’ve only seen it once, but hated it thoroughly because it was so well written. They are both horrible, horrible characters and the script has layers upon layers with which one can play.
Explain French bulldogs.
If I did, they would all suddenly disappear from the face of the earth denying thousands of people everywhere joy and clean toes. I refuse to be responsible for such a sad world.