Do you *really* have to learn how to negotiate?

a gross story about dishes
how to negotiate for double
hard truths about negotiation
how to never be underpaid again

my roommates put dirty dishes in my bed

I’m not great at doing the dishes. But I used to be HORRIBLE.

In college, I was so bad at doing the dishes there was a Facebook group about how bad I was at doing the dishes. It used to have 50 people in it. (Seriously.)

When it was my turn to do the dishes, I would wash at a rate of about one plate an hour, and by the time I “finished,” my roommates had already cooked and eaten dinner, so I had more dishes to do. Endless dishes.

I was kinda sad at the time, so I would respond to lacking this basic life skill by smoking in bed and listening to music really loud with my door locked.

Naturally, my roommates got pretty frustrated.

My dishes piled up. They swore at me. We ran out of dishes. They invited more people to the Facebook group.

And I did nothing.

In my head, this was just the way things were, and I couldn’t really change, so they would just have to deal, I guess.

That all changed in one fell swoop:

I came home from class and there were dishes in my bed.






There was a baking pan with chicken grease on it. There was a pot of old tomato sauce. There were spaghetti noodles on my pillow case. There was old, wet rice throughout my sheets. Bowls, cups, spoons, mugs — and whatever they once held.

I knew right then.

I knew that even though this was the grossest thing I could imagine, it was my fault.

I was the unreasonable one in this situation.

I had been a crappy roommate all year, and someone decided to do something about it. Yes, it was insanely gross. And yes, it was insanely effective.

(Well, fine, I didn’t become a master dishwasher, but I did start trying.)

Sometimes it’s OK to be a little unreasonable to get a result. It was pretty cruel and unusual for my roommates to fill my bed with dirty dishes. But it worked. Do the ends always justify the means? Hell no.

But, it was a solution that brilliantly ignored “the way things are” in order to make something meaningful happen.

A lot of life’s important moments involve negotiations. And if you’re just sticking with “the way things are,” you might be missing out on big results.

how to get double what everyone else charges

Once upon a time, I negotiated absurdly well. And it was for something I had never been paid to do before.

I was very broke. A friend hooked me up with a freelance writing gig.

I was supposed to write about supercomputers being used to study Alzheimer’s. A science-y article, for science-y folks. At a super-prestigious university.


I had never done any freelance writing. I had certainly never done any SCIENCE writing. But I needed the money badly. In fact, I needed double the money that a seasoned science writer would get for this article — just to pay the rent that month.

So I learned all I could about negotiation. I read every negotiation book at the library and watched every single negotiation video on YouTube.

It didn’t go well.

This dude yelled at me.


And to that I said,

“Yes, but, have you worked with anyone who got you the result you wanted?”

“What do you mean?”

“You say you need an article about Alzheimer’s research. But what you really want is more students and professors to use your supercomputers, so you look good. You want to look good to your boss and raise more money for your department.”

“Yes, that’s… basically right.”

“So at this point you aren’t paying for any old article, you’re paying for me to help you improve your perception at the University. That is a big result. That’s worth a lot more than 50 cents a word. I think it’s worth double.”

“Get out of my office, you lazy millennial!”

Just kidding.

He didn’t say that.

He said, “Yeah, alright. That makes sense.”

hard truths about negotiation

  1. Negotiation makes people extremely uncomfortable
  2. Because of this discomfort, a lot of people don’t prepare for negotiations
  3. And even worse, they tend to devalue their own worth SIGNIFICANTLY
  4. Most people are wildly underpaid
  5. Lots of people mess up their initial salary negotiation at a new job
  6. And pay for it for years
  7. It’s really hard to recover from a bad negotiation without getting a new job, BUT
  8. Negotiation is a skill. A skill you can learn.

how to never be underpaid again

Every negotiation is different, for different reasons. A step-by-step doesn’t work here.

Instead, I’m leaving you with a framework for thinking about your worththat will help you whenever you need to negotiate any kind of compensation. This works for freelancers and professionals alike.

I used to be on food stamps.

I was a budding, self-taught web developer, who thought it was a brilliant idea to charge almost nothing for my work. I thought being cheap would get me a lot of clients.

(I love you, young Darren, but you played yourself.)

Don’t ever do this. No one really wants the cheapest option, because their businesses and lives depend on your good work. (If you don’t value your work, why should they?) People are actually happy to pay quite a bit, especially if you can deliver them a good result.

My sad, low rate couldn’t last. The food stamps ran out. Oops.

And then, just a few years later, I was making over $100,000 a year.

What changed?

How did I go from 10 dollars an hour to 100K?

Why do some people have insane salaries, insane freelance rates, insane consulting fees — while other equally talented people make much, much less?

In the web development world, I’d say you’re pretty skilled if you can charge 75/hr for code.

But there are a small number of “consultants” who charge hundreds, or even THOUSANDS, an hour doing similar work.

There are lots of reasons, details, and techniques, of course. And I’ll continue to share them with you every week.

But there is one underlying negotiation principle that can level you up fast, if you absorb it fully:

Stop charging for your time. Start charging for your results.

Don’t think in terms of what you make an hour, or what you make a year. Start thinking in terms of the results you get for the clients, companies, and organizations you work for.

Repeat after me:

From this day forward,
I will charge for
my results.
I will not charge by the hour for my trade.
Or the average yearly salary of my title.

I will charge for my results.

The truth is: you’re probably making your company a lot more than they’re paying you back. Way more. Enough to make you sick. Maybe even enough to make you rich.

This totally sucks, and it’s not your fault. The system is set up that way. The culture that keeps people underpaid is pervasive and powerful.

But there is hope. (Especially if you kick ass at what you do.)

Instead of focusing on your title or trade, position yourself as someone solving the business’ problems.

A business will pay much, much more for someone who helps them get more customers and sales than they will for a “Junior Graphic Designer,” even if they have the same skill set!

If you’re working for a numbers-driven company, try and quantify what you’re actually contributing to the bottom line. Ask around. Quantify the times you saved the day. You might be surprised.

You can take those numbers with you into your next negotiation. It’s hard to argue with data.

Your true value is of mutual importance. (You both want it to be high!) And if you know you have crazy value, and you bring proof to the negotiation, they should be happy to pay up. Stupid not to, really.

What if you could walk into your next negotiation and say something like this:

I’m not your average candidate. I know that I have the skills to bring in way more revenue than your average candidate. Here’s the proof. Here’s what I did for my last company.

Also, I would love the opportunity to teach those skills to the rest of the team, which will compound the effect.

I think you’ll agree — that kind of result is worth a lot more than the “going rate” for this position. It makes sense to pay me more — a lot more — than you “normally” would. Because my results will be far from normal.

Please share this with your smart-but-underpaid friends so I can help them :)




(It goes without saying that you should be good at what you do before you try this kind of negotiation strategy. But I’m officially saying it: Don’t lie to someone if you can’t deliver.)

Here is my favorite negotiation video on YouTube.
Here is my favorite Kanye video on YouTube.
Here is the Facebook group about how I can’t do dishes.