Bullish Q&A: How Do I Determine How Much I Can Charge For My Expertise?

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Hi Jen! I’ve been asked to teach a 1-3 day interactive “creativity/design thinking” workshop for corporate executives in Dubai! I teach design in uni and this is, in fact, my expertise, but: how do I determine how much I can charge? My flight and lodging will be covered, but research I have done has yielded FAR different numbers for speaking engagements/workshops: 1k-5k+. I know you have tons of experience in this area, so I wonder if you could shed light on the business side of things? MANY THANKS

Great, you’ve done your research and come up with a range!

Since you’re talking about 1) corporate executives and 2) Dubai, try for the higher side of the range. If you’re a young woman, someone will probably try to get you on the lower side of the range. You must work against this.

I like to negotiate by assuming that the person I’m speaking to is on my side. After all, they’re not spending their own money on me — they’re spending their company’s or department’s money. You set the dynamic. Don’t make it you-against-them. Make it you-and-them against whoever controls the money. In my experience, the person booking events and instructors often isn’t the person making financial decisions. And even if she is, this technique still works.


Instead of, “I think $4,500 is fair. Can we agree to that?”, try “I’m looking for $4,000-$5,000. Can you request $4,500 for me?”

That doesn’t put the other person on the spot the way “I AM WORTH AT LEAST $4,000 AND I AM NEGOTIATING SOOO HARD!!!” does.

The other person will often just spill the beans at this point. “Oh, that’s too much — I can get $2,000.”

And that gives you the option to ask the other person to help you out. “Ah, that’s definitely on the low side for me. Can you try, at least, for $4,000, and see what we get?”

Either way, you’ve just drafted someone to your team.

Finally, if it turns out that the gig pays $1,000, period, and that’s what all of the other instructors are getting, etc., there are plenty of face-saving ways to get out of this and still take the gig, all of them of the form, “Well, I’m really interested in working with you — I could make this work if you could just [give me some pretty basic thing that’s easy to arrange, like a LinkedIn recommendation or a video of your training].”

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