on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)
A Continuing Discussion on the Fine Art of Negotiation
So I was
goofing off -- er, reading a few of the court reporting groups on Facebook when I saw a notification go by in my sidefeed that the author of "The Art of the Obvious," Kyung Lee-Green had posted a rather lengthy post about the fine art of negotiation.
No, she wasn't talking about buying anything; rather, she was talking about selling something -- namely, your KSAs ... or your "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities" with the goal of getting paid more instead of less, as a few agencies have been trying to do to court reporters of late.
The bottom line? "Give yourself a raise."
As with her Obvious articles, whenever Kyung posts an update, it will be added at the end of the article ... but you can find the latest one by clicking here.
I recently did a talk for the DRA about negotiations. I think it's something we're all interested in so I thought I'd share some thoughts here and there with those of you who weren't able to attend. Feel free to ignore this thread if you want. Otherwise, just some things to think about.
This is a good time for you to look at the agencies you work for and see what they're paying you. And you should be looking at the total compensation, not just the page rate. You should also perhaps look at the type of work you're doing for that agency and the average page amount and dollar amount you are getting per job so you can have a better idea of agencies you want to give priority to in the coming year.
Don't be passive in your career.
Once you've figured out what you're really getting from your agencies, this would be a good time to send out those e-mails saying, hey, I'm adjusting my rates to better bring you in line with the industry standards in my area.
Remember, better to get out ahead of those rate adjustments. Here in California we've been super lucky and blessed because it's been pretty busy this year. You can all see it by the amount of last-minute job offers we're all getting. But I've actually had agencies contacting me asking me to take lower rates. Whoa!!!!! What is going on? Are they clearly out of tune with our industry? I don't know.
There will always be reporters who take the lowest rates. Feel bad for them. They're underselling themselves and do not know their true worth. If you know these reporters, help educate them. Maybe they just don't know what the industry standard is. Maybe they don't care. But still let them know what they could be making.
And for the rest of us, I'm just suggesting now is the time to look at rates and do some re-adjustment. Are you super tired because you're working so many jobs but not making enough? Take a look at your rates? Choose to work for agencies with better rates. You might find that as you get paid higher rates, you might have to work less.
I think one of the greatest disservices we do is saying lots of pages is where the money is at. Completely wrong. I don't want to do 300 pages a day. Quite frankly, my hands and arms can't handle it. I'd rather get 150 pages with extras and better rate. So I think we need to re-think quantity and think quality.
"I Can't Use You Anymore"
To pick up on a random topic that I hear a lot of -- when the attorney says, "I can't use you anymore because I must use X agency," then all you have to is tell the attorney, "Feel free to request me through X agency."
After all, we are freelance and independent contractors and can choose to work for whoever we choose.
If and/or when X agency reaches out to you, give them your rates.
Has no one ever heard of an attorney requesting a specific reporter? Yeah, it happens.
You and X agency may not come to an agreement on rates and then attorney still does not get to use you, but at least this way you have a chance of still keeping the revenue stream. Also, you may be pleasantly surprised and the agency will meet your rate.
Essentially, there is always room for negotiations.
I still get those. But it is not nationals that are now the "required" firm for insurance defense or other contract work. It is either locals or nationals I had worked with before they became "the" firm that a local law firm must use. If you have already worked for them in the past, they know you and are comfortable with you. If they are having to negotiate, add you into the rotation, deal with your "parameters," they may not play along. Or they may. Just depends how vocal the law firm is and how much the CR firm needs you generally.
I had one law firm that did request me (in-house counsel for an insurance firm) and I did a couple for the CR firm then nothing. A few months go by and all of a sudden they called me again.
I went to the job and the atty thanked me for coming and said they were surprised I was willing to do takedown only. Yep. They had changed to a non transcribe firm and the CR firm was probably having a hard time covering them so they didn't share that info with me.
So I told the law firm that I was unaware of their new status and I appreciated their business but I wouldn't be able to do their work anymore.
Walk the Walk
Or It Doesn't Help if the Rates you Negotiate are not the Rates you get paid.
You've done your due diligence. You've got your rate sheet. You got your rates "approved."
Glory be - you've taken your first job under your new rates. And then you get the check. Wah, wah, wah. NO bigger letdown than finding a check in your mailbox or direct deposit significantly less than the amount you negotiated for.
What? Yeah. It happens. You did everything right. So let's figure out where it went wrong.
Number 1: The right people didn't "approve" your rates.
In my experience, calendar usually does not have the authority to approve your rates. If you got the calendar person saying sure, sure, that's fine, here's the address, I'd still make sure you get it in writing from billing. And please make your rate sheet comprehensive.
Number 2: simple math error on their part or yours. If it's math, simply bring it to their attention as quickly as possible.
Number 3: Did you send in an invoice with everything itemized? Always, always send in an invoice. This is not a depo, guesstimating or even estimating is not going to bring in the dollars. Use your calculator.
Hint, you can pull one up on your computer.
Number 4: Billing didn't get the notice that you have "special" rates. Remind the person you negotiated and cc all people who "approved" your rate. Include e-mails and dates.
Number 5: They're just not going to pay. Keep following up, send them to collections, refuse to take work for them. Make a mental note. Depending on the amount, small claims is always a recourse, but you must have kept scrupulous notes and copies of all e-mails.
Learn your lesson. If you continue to work for agencies who don't pay as agreed, then the only person hurt is YOU.
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