How’s your head?
Is it wrecked from too much bottom-shelf champaign?
Numb from hours of obnoxious people blowing plastic noisemakers into your ear?
(When I was a comic, some clubs would pass those things out to the new year’s crowd on the way IN to the show! Nightmare. How do you combat getting heckled by a kazoo!?)
Or maybe your head feels perfectly fine because you’re the kind of person who skillfully avoids “amateur night” party scenes? (Geez, you don’t have to be so smug about it)
Either way, welcome to the new year, and my new Sunday Series blog.
I get that it may already be Monday in your town, but it’s Sunday here in the balmy swing of St. Petersburg, FL, and these emails are meant to capture that Sunday mindset; when our brains are more rested and ready to exchange good ideas.
These aren’t sales blog. I won’t be pitching anything in them.
Instead, I’ll share some big lessons, ongoing questions, and deeper observations about things that make us tick, hold us back, and give us advantages in life and business.
Something to spark ideas and set your week off right.
My goal is to get to know you better (yes, you), so I’d love for you to reply to this with your thoughts or questions about my ramblings at [email protected].
Let’s kick it off by exploring the art of Price Negotiation.
This is something I’ve had to get better at as a freelancer and business owner.
Some people are born into this skill because negotiation is standard practice in their culture. If you grew up in the Middle East working in the family market, for instance, you’ll have mastered the art of negotiation at a young age.
If you grew up in a place where “the price is the price” and there are no salespeople in your family, you probably get intimidated by the idea.
That was me, and man, did I suck at negotiating as a comic.
One time my friend Billy, who is a “natural” negotiator, had to coach me on how to ask a club owner for $1,000 to pay for four nights of headlining shows.
I’d never made that much before and it felt like a lot.
Billy knew the club, had recommended me and told me the owner typically paid a thousand for headliners, but it would be up to me to name my price and get it.
The guy would gladly pay less if I asked for it.
So, he made me practice saying “A thousand” with him until it sounded natural.
Billy (as club owner): What’s your rate to headline?
Me: One thousaaand dollars?
Billy: No! ‘Athousan.’ One word. Like you’ve actually fucking said it before.
My eyes were suddenly opened to the fact that value is perception.
Your perception vs. your client’s perception.
Negotiating can be tough for creatives because we tend to be driven by our amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for thoughts and emotions.
Negotiating is a prefrontal cortex activity, where we do higher-level thinking and decision-making.
According to ChatGPT (my new favorite research tool): This (prefrontal cortex) region of the brain is involved in analyzing information, evaluating options, and formulating strategies.
So, if like me back in my stoner stand-up days, you feel scared about raising your price, it’s probably because you’re letting your over-emotional amygdala rule your approach.
You start feeling anxious about offending your customer, coming off like an “asshole”, and piling on a ton of self-imposed pressure about whether you’ll be able to deliver enough value.
Meanwhile, your prefrontal cortex-driven, business-minded, client is focused on the number and whether it fits into his budget.
It’s a game.
Like poker or Monopoly.
The analytical thinker who keeps emotions at bay while playing will always have the upper hand.
As a comic, I knew I could deliver the goods, but my entire approach to the craft was emotional.
I never learned to separate the show from the business and play the game.
No regrets. I was a kid.
But, when it was time to grow up, I learned to set emotions aside and see negotiations as situational math instead of self-worth.
The price was the price and it either made sense for both parties within a negotiated percent of value or it didn’t.
Simple thing. Takes practice.