Learn the art of negotiation

Jar of coins

At the AOI we always say: 'If you don't ask, you don't get.' An initial offer from your client may seem considerable and tempting, but is it the best offer for the kind of work you're about to create? If the answer to that is no, then it might be time to raise the bar and negotiate.

Asking questions and negotiating can seem daunting, but becoming confident in doing so is necessary in order to advance your career. And with guides like our one on How to get your pricing right, there's no reason not to feel confident about negotiating a fair price for the work.

We asked AOI member Vic Lee to share his experience with negotiation, and why communication and building relationships with clients are so significant to him...

01. Build your confidence first

Vic Lee paints an illustrative mural

Vic Lee is a London-based illustrator who works in print, packaging, murals and events

I began my illustration career by selling screen prints at shows and events, and that gave me the opportunity to meet customers face to face and hear great feedback from them. This experience definitely gave me the confidence to communicate with clients and carry on with my work.

Because my murals are bespoke, long-term artworks, I rarely have to negotiate. It's a strange one, as I often expect to do so on larger works, but murals are, I find, often agreed (or not) from a first quote, whereas commercial work is more negotiable. I do find that when some design agencies are quoting for a client, their budgets are low and non-negotiable, and that can be frustrating; it can feel like they don't fully recognise the skills involved when they are commissioning you.

02. Know when to walk away

One of the most important aspects for me is the level of fulfilment on a project. If a job comes in and it's too tight or unreasonable, I will simply walk away. It's tough at the beginning to say no, as you think this will lose you work, or you will never earn anything ever again, but you have to value your own self-worth. 

Being able to hold my ground means other jobs come in that are even better. On average I get two or three requests for work a week, from packaging to murals, campaigns to tattoos.

03. Build a relationship

For me, the most important thing is to have a relationship with a client. I am a chatty chap, so never just turn up and 'do the job'. For me it's about understanding a client and what they want. 

I also realise that in certain circumstances, it's not about money, but forming a relationship. You need to see the bigger picture rather than the here and now.

04. Follow the magic formula

Credit Karma's office wall is covered in a cool black and white timeline mural

Vic's client list includes Virgin Atlantic, Nike, The Famous Grouse and, as seen here, Credit Karma

I think the best way to achieve balance in general when working with clients is by using the following 'formula': client + usage + skills + honesty = great possibilities. Through this formula I have worked with some incredible clients who value my work, and I have been honoured to work with them.  

Unsure on how to negotiate with a client? The AOI can help; join today!

This article was originally published in issue 272 of Computer Arts, the global design magazine – helping you solve daily design challenges with insights, advice and inspiration. Buy issue 272 here or subscribe to Computer Arts here.

Related articles:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Association of Illustrators is the professional body for illustration in the UK.