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How to Talk About Money

As the “front man” for our company I frequently discuss money with clients. I have to be comfortable doing it, because otherwise they may sense my discomfort. Then they will either use my weakness to haggle and bring the price down, or start feeling superior and will behave like a boss.

I’m proud to say that all the awkwardness and haggling is behind me now. It wasn’t so great at the beginning though. Things that were going against me:

  • I’m a woman, and everyone knows women as a group are reluctant to discuss money and generally feel shy when it comes to concrete numbers… Ok, I thought everyone knew this. My husband was very surprised to find out about it just now.
  • I could add that I’m an immigrant and even if most Canadians won’t admit to it, I believe there’s an expectation that immigrants should work for less. Like, They should be happy to get any work at all! It could all be in my head but anyway, glad I never thought about this aspect much when it mattered. That would be quite a confidence-killer.
  • For the first 16-18 years of my life I was conditioned for a full time job by my parents, at school, at the university. Negotiating and ‘talking money’ wasn’t a very prominent part of my upbringing, even worse, my parents have always said and still say it: “Our family just aren’t good at selling anything”.

How and If to Talk Money to Colleagues

I was an employee for a total of 15 months of my life, at 3 different companies. With some of the coworkers I became friends, and was comfortable discussing money with them. With others I maintained a strictly business relationship. It should be decided on an individual basis. However the bigger the company, the more secretive I would be. Not that big companies don’t have nice people that I could befriend, just seems to me there’s a lot more room for office politics and back-stabbing at places like that, and money is something that can easily become a point of contention.

How to Talk Money to Clients

Be really upfront about the hourly rate or project cost. There’s nothing to be afraid or be ashamed of. This is a fair exchange of services for the fee, simple as that. I try to avoid phrases such as “We can figure it out later”, or “You’ll be happy with our rates”, or “We’ll see”. Be as clear as possible. If they want to negotiate, and you feel inclined to lower the price, don’t do it just because they asked, but only if they give up something in exchange for the lower price.

I personally don’t like to build-in extra for these discounts, I just don’t understand the idea behind it. Am I supposed to name an inflated rate at the beginning, see if they bite; and if they don’t, lower the price a bit? It may work for bazaars, but this is not suitable for our industry. Again, this is not to say I won’t negotiate, but any sacrifices on our part have to be justified.

How to Talk Money to Your Boss

Well, here I’m just clueless, sorry. Lots of factors at play here and I don’t feel qualified to give any advice. I was 17 the last time I negotiated money with a boss and my memory is getting fuzzy. The other 2 times I took the hourly pay that “came with the job” (US$5.15 / didn’t even pay for the textbooks, and CAD$10.00).

Well, it’s not coming out as useful advice, so consider it rumination with notes of reminiscing.