“I’ll do it for free!”
Those are the words any organizer or client would love to hear if they approached you to MC their event. If you are an occasional master of ceremonies or do not need the money, working for free is fine. But should you decide to earn a living from the profession, you had better learn how to negotiate well or you are quickly going to be one broke, hungry and bitter MC.
Here are some tips to help you talk about money.
“So what’s the damage?”
“How much do you charge?”
“What’s your fee?”
These are the questions you are likely to hear soon after a client contacts you about an event and establishes that you are available. Do not be in a hurry to name a figure. Note that the successful negotiator is one who is armed with superior information. Research what kind of companies the event organizer has worked for in the past (Note: Big companies tend to have big budgets). Find out more about the event. Take a look at the kinds of events below and the possible questions you could ask about them in order to determine your fee:
Awards ceremony – Will you be the sole emcee or will you have a co-MC?
Book launch – Will you host the event and auction the book too or will you perform just one of either roles?
Conference – Will you MC the opening ceremony alone? What about the conference itself – will you moderate some or all the panel discussions? Will you host the dinner in the evening?
Wedding reception – When does your work begin? Will you organize the photographs before the reception or will someone else do that?
The answers to these questions will give you additional information to inform your negotiation.
Most often, your prospective client will raise objections to your fee. Do not give in automatically and reduce your charge. Probe to uncover additional facts that can help you in your negotiation.
If the client claims “I have no budget”, you can counter by remarking: “Really?”(You’re testing to see if the objection is really true.)
If their complaint is “You’re too expensive” respond by asking “Compared to who?” (They may just reveal the name of your competition to you)
If the request is “Can we get a discount?” you should ask “How much of a discount are you looking at?”(It just might be smaller than the amount you intended to give.)
Set Base, Start High & Drop Slowly
It is understandable to try and get the best deal for oneself. You want the highest possible return for the hire of your services. Conversely, the client will want to get away with paying the least she can to get you on board. So what you want to do is to first set your minimum figure and then open with a figure that is about 50% higher than it.
Say your minimum is 600 dollars. That is the least you will accept. If the client falls below 600, you walk away. Be confident! Open with 900 dollars. The client may just accept it, no questions asked. Bingo! You got a great deal.
Assuming she asks for a discount. You pause and then inquire how much of a discount she wants. If the figure that is still above your minimum, you can take it and shake hands on it.
If the client throws the question back to you, respond with a discount of 60 dollars. If she insists on a further drop, take off a further 45, and then 30 if necessary. The client will get the message that the discounts are getting smaller and will probably try to squeeze you out of a further 15 dollars. By this time you would have reduced your opening offer by 150 dollars, bringing your fee to 750. If the client accepts, you would have negotiated for 150 dollars more than your minimum fee of 600 dollars. It is a win-win situation – the client also feels she got a good deal.
Sometimes clients can really push the ‘Oliver Twist principle’ and continually ask for more just to see what happens. If she demands yet another discount, offer your minimum as your rock bottom special offer to her and be prepared to walk away if she is not satisfied.
Use a Range
Instead of quoting a single figure, say something like, “For this kind of event, I usually charge between 750 and 900 dollars.” (Remember your absolute minimum is 600 dollars.). The client will naturally go for the lower figure, which still leaves you room for maneuver should she decide to ask for a further discount.
Negotiating your fee requires that you get adequate information. Remember to establish your minimum fee and get all the information you can. Now go out there and do it!