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3 Lessons I Learnt From Losing A Contract Job

For the risk of over-sharing (and, perhaps, I would) I decided to make this a CAREER post and not a ‘Dear Diary’ entry. 

When you lose a contract, a job or a business deal, the last thing you typically feel is positive.

Losing A Contract Job

I am not ready to job-hunt but I am ever-ready and willing to put my skills to work and make some cool money. Having spent almost half a decade as a creative freelancer, I pride myself on being good at what I do. I'm thoughtful about managing communication and relationships, clear about my rates and scope of work, and good at under-promising and over-delivering on results. 

Generally speaking, my clients are always happy. While some show their gratitude with words, others do by referrals. 

Wait, I’m losing focus. This article is not about how good I am but how TERRIBLE I am at NEGOTIATION.

I like being liked, and I tend to feel uncomfortable getting into a squabble with someone over money. So it caught me off guard when this contract went south.

As awkward as it was, I learned quite a few lessons that I hope can help you too. They are:

Know What You Want. . . and What They Want

Sounds simple, but quite difficult to implement. You need to know SPECIFICALLY what it is you want from the transaction or negotiation. Don’t wait for the other party to state their position to determine what yours is going to be. If you want a raise, how much? A commission for click-thru sales, what percentage? How many brands? How many words? Write these things down as a wish list of all the things you want before you begin negotiations. If not you may look back and find you were coerced into accepting terms for things you didn’t need to begin with.

The major mistake I made was agreeing to accept the job at a rate when I hadn’t gotten a full knowledge of what was involved. As more and more information continued to unfold, I was bewildered. 

But now, I would make sure all my future contracts are fully vetted for all contingencies, especially what could go wrong. It's easier to talk about these issues up front before the work relationship begins, to make sure that you're on the same page, and that you share the same business philosophy.

Be Patient

Lack of patience on your part can make you look like an amateur, a desperado and a pushover. You can kill a deal by being in a hurry. Calm down. Take a breathe. 

Let me share a bit of what happened to me; 
I had told one of my girlfriends that I was available for an offer. She asked how much I was willing to take from the business owner, I told her to let me know what the business owner was willing to pay first. At this point, I only had a faint idea of what job I was going to be doing. 

Eventually, the business owner reached out to me and told me half truths — based on the fact that it was a small agency with a small number of brands, I accepted his very small offer verbally and asked him to put the contract in writing. Everything was happening fast. Lol. Then suddenly, I realized the business was bigger than I have been told. 

So, I asked for a renegotiation. 

I was too impatient about the whole situation. I should have asked more questions and even got my husband (who is a better negotiator) involved before the first acceptance. I messed it all up with impatience.

By the way, that’s my husband 😍

Yes, It’s About The Money But It’s Not All About It

It wasn’t only that I was selling myself cheap but I also realized I was undermining my skills and strengths. 

I feel very strongly that people working in the creative industries must stand up for their value and worth, and not be cowered by a client, an employer or business that seeks to undervalue or underpay an employee, contractor, or consultant. It's just plain wrong. I realize that, due to financial constraints or lack of opportunities, some folks feel they've got no choice other than to accept a low- or no-paying job. But at the very least, take those jobs at the beginning of your career, not 5 years in, and certainly don't let a client convince you that your time isn't worth compensation. If you're down to work for equity, or pull extra free hours, discuss this up front. There should never be a situation where you or your client/employer aren't on the same page.

No, my reason for wanting more money is love. It’s my husband, my children, my parents, my ministry, my friends. And it’s experiences: travel, adventure, discovering and trying new things. That’s what I need most of all.

Deep down, we all know this. But it bears repeating: Our identity — not to mention our self-worth — is hardly synonymous with our job title or bank balance. So, what is it all about for you?

Finally, I like to think that I didn’t lose this contract job, they lost me. 

Have you ever lost a business deal, job or contract that you wish had gone differently? Post a comment and let's chat!

Written by Nwamaka Onyekachi
Let's connect on Twitter: @Amakamedia
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Heart Rays . . . giving light.

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