Two jobs, one writer.
February 1, 2007 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Two competing companies want me to work for them. How do I negotiate this to my advantage?

I'm a writer with a specific area of expertise. Recently, two competing companies approached me to write about this topic on a regular basis for their websites. Company A won't pay now but might in the future; they will attribute my work and link to my own site. Company A is a small company. The guy in charge seems fair, and all our contact has been prompt and congenial. Company B initially contacted me back in the fall, but began pursuing me in earnest this week (just after I started negotiating with A, coincidentally). There will almost certainly be pay with Company B. Like A, B will offer attribution and a link; however, B is more popular than A, so the exposure would be much greater for me. I’ve long wanted to work with the people at Company B.

Company A and I have already hashed out most of the details and I could start almost immediately. With Company B, I still have at least one more round of interviews before a decision will be made.

I know this is a good problem to have, but I don’t know how to handle negotiations with two companies at once. Company A and Company B are in competition with each other. I’m worried about committing myself to Company A before hearing the final word from Company B (which probably won't be for a couple of weeks), since I’d rather work for Company B. If I take the position with Company A now, I fear that will jeopardize my chances with Company B. Do I take the sure thing now or stall until I’ve heard Company B’s offer and terms (if an offer is forthcoming at all, though it seems likely)? How can I buy more time with Company A? Or can I start with Company A and somehow use that to my advantage in negotiating with Company B?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if it doesn't pay it's not a job, it's you donating work and time to people who will profit from it. wait until company B makes an offer.
posted by matteo at 5:44 PM on February 1, 2007

I'm not sure why you'd consider doing work for free. Wait till you get an offer from B. Tell A you have to think over the offer for a few days or something.
posted by acoutu at 5:49 PM on February 1, 2007

It seems obvious from your question that you'd prefer to work for Company B. So, I'd stall Company A until you get a response from Company B. This doesn't have to be decietful, just tell Company A that you need a few days to think things over.
posted by ranglin at 8:22 PM on February 1, 2007

The "one more round of interviews" at Company B doesn't sit well with me... if you're already a qualified writer with proven skills, maybe you will be treated better in the long run by a small company rather than an impersonal one that sends you through their HR hoops. Also you might bring prestige to Company A and find yourself with more leverage there. Of course I don't know your long-term goals but that's how it would work with me. I've been a columnist for a national magazine for about 6 years, for what it's worth, but it's on a freelancing basis for all practical purposes.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:49 PM on February 1, 2007

You haven't actually been offered anything, so what is there to commit to? Seriously. An offer to work for no pay isn't much of a job offer. And as others have pointed out, if you have another round of interviews at B, that hardly seems like a sure thing either.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. If the Guy in Charge at A seems reasonable, tell him you would like to write for him but if a paying gig comes up, you might take that. Hardly seems too much to ask.

With B, just hang loose until they actually make an offer. Then if they do, and you're still unpaid at A, decide which you like better and go for it. On the other hand, if things have worked out well at A, and you're happy, tell B thanks but no thanks.

Personally I have never liked the idea of playing competing offers against each other. I think it's fair to mention once that you "have another offer" or are "happy in your current situation" and let somebody make an offer with that in consideration, but bouncing offers against each other is slimy, IMO.
posted by ldenneau at 10:37 PM on February 1, 2007

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but are you sure the two are mutually exclusive? If you thought about the different audiences you might be able to pitch your potential pieces for each company towards a different 'niche' and not overlap. If the audiences are different enough you could write the same piece for 2 different perspectives and save a lot of time.

You'd probably want to be up front about it with both of them, though, and recognize that especially company B would be within their rights to request that you not do so.

As for your current dilemma, it's not a dilemma. Is company A actually so bold as to demand you sign a contract to work for them with no pay and no promise of pay in the future? I doubt it. Keep stringing them along until you know where you stand with company B.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:06 AM on February 2, 2007

Slimey person here!

I'm not sure how you would feel following the route that I am going to suggest, but I have done it in the past to have resolution (speed up the decision making process), and negotatiate higher salaries when necessary.

I did this when I was applying to teach at universities. A college or university frequently took months to make a decision, and I was in a similar situation with a few simultaneous offers and other places had not yet made a decision. I strongly believe in telling the truth (e.g, don't say you have an offer if you don't, etc.)

Anyway, to speed up company B (if you truly cannot write for both companies at a time), I would contact them and politely say that you are still very excited to work for them, but is there a time when they will make a decision since another company is interested in your work.

Tell company A (after company B tells you a timeline or a decision) you are very interested in working for them and the opportunities they provide. Another opportunity has come up, however, and you just want to time to evaluate the possibility - can you have (insert time company B gives you). Company B may speed up their decision, by the way. Tell them you want to be sure to fully commit to a company.

Hey if you do get that offer from B, you can tell A that you are still interested but cannot resolve a difference in money, etc.

Why are you writing for free, however?

Okay on preview - ikkyu2 makes a good point. You can start writing for company A yet feel no obligation to continue if company B makes an offer as you are volunteering.
posted by Wolfster at 5:10 AM on February 2, 2007

There are good reasons to work for A other than money. Exposure for one. Which site will give you more exposure to the type of audience you want going to your own website? Which company is in a better position to prosper and thrive going forward?

Getting into an auction process, going back and forth between the two companies, is not going to help your reputation as someone who is easy to work with and reasonable. If that is important to you or in getting future offers in your industry, do not do it. Honesty is a good policy. If I were you, and I am not with less information than you too, I would tell both that you are in discussions with another firm in a similar business, you are not trying to jerk wither of them off so you wnat to resolve this by x date (a week or two at most). I would ask for their best take it or leave it offer and then take a day to decide between the two when or if you get them. By telling them you are not going to get into an auction process and giving them a chance to put their best foot forward knowing there is another suitor, you will get maximum leverage without looking like a dick. Or too much of a dick.

There is one more remote possibility to consider. Is it possible that firm B heard about your discussions with firm A and are just trying to either jack up the price on firm A or scuttle negotiations with A so that you get no offer from A and B has no intention of coming to agreement with you anyway? It would be a slimy move on B's part, but not unheard of in the business world.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:39 AM on February 2, 2007

I'm in the "working for free = bad" camp too. The guy from A is not fair. If both you and your "employer" place zero value on your work, it'll take a strange bit of magic to make them suddenly see a reason to pay you in the future since they're already getting everything they want for free. Accepting A's deal would also make it more difficult for you and every other similar writer to get paid for this work in the future. Let A do without your valuable skills and wait for B or some other entity (if 2 places want you now, surely there will be more down the line) to come along and pay you what you're worth. The only exposure A would give you is broadcasting to the world that you and everyone else who might fill this position are not worth paying. All of this advice also holds true if A is a charity or non-profit UNLESS absolutely no one (not the webhosts, not the pamphlet printers, not the office director, not the director, no one) gets paid for any of the work they do for the non-profit. Fact is, your work is extremely valuable to the company and its public perception and you should not allow yourself to be taken advantage of for the sake of having your name written on some web page.
posted by msbrauer at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2007

While I concede that msbrauer and co have a very good point about getting paid, I think it is should not be an absolute rule. If the choice is no pay or no writing then the intangibles of writing for barter (experience, exposure personal enjoyment) may out weigh the not worth the effort thought. If the choice is no pay for a reputable firm versus pay for a much lesser thought of firm I would take the no cash job. Of course this all assumes I can afford to not take the paying job which by definition the anonymous poster has implied because she is still considering the gig.

I, for one, would rather write a finance column for a Goldman Sachs newsletter for no cash than write one for $50 an article for a newsletter put out by AG Edwards. It is not a diss on AGE, but the prestige and credibility of the Goldman name outweighs the money. I believe my total career earnings will be enhanced by the Goldman work rather than the short run $ I would get from AGE. IF the decision was between Goldman and Morgan Stanley, I would take the cash as they both are considered top tier houses.

I am not sure how the whole world will know that you are not working for monetary compensation. I am not sure why the burden of "every other writer" getting paid for their future work is dependent on you getting paid for yours or even why you should care about other writers getting paid. The decision is simple in its basic form. Take the gig that you think will give you the best total overall compensation package.

For some, the short run thought of immediate cash outweighs the long term effect of establishing your credentials and getting exposure. For others, the future return working for no cash (not free) is more important.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2007

« Older Help, I'm not a very good feminist   |   how to find young red belgian? beer, that is. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.