• Chelsea

Negotiating 2.0

Ask any theatre artists what one of the most difficult tasks in this industry is and chances are they are going to say negotiating.


Why?


Because jobs in this industry are difficult to get. And so we tend to accept the fact that we are lucky enough to even have a job. We do not want to appear greedy or unappreciative and accept whatever small payment or promise for “exposure” they are throwing our way.


I also know for me personally (and I’m guessing for many others) I am not in it for the money. I do it because I love theatre and want to work on shows.


However, as much as we love theatre- we have to eat. We have to pay our rent. We have to stop accepting jobs for exposure.


If you are a union member or have a lot of credits on your resume- it is a lot easier to negotiate. But as someone just starting out in the industry it can be a lot more difficult.


And I’m sure in the post-Covid theatre era, negotiating is going to be even harder as theatres try to stay afloat after so much time away.


With this in mind I have created a list of my five negotiating tips for beginners.


1. Calculate the amount of hours you are expected to work and break down your pay hourly. Find out what your exact responsibilities will be.

This is the very first thing you should do. Honestly even before you apply to the job. It will most likely depress you because it really shows you how little we make. But this is crucial information because it helps show you how much more money you should be asking for.

Expected hours/pay = amount per hour

After figuring this out, look up the minimum wage for the state you are working in. Use this number to help base your rate. You should have a rate even if you are just starting out.


Find out what exactly the job entails as well.

2. Negotiate for other perks besides payment.

Asking for more money as an intern or as someone starting out in the industry can be difficult and intimidating. However, there are many other perks you can negotiate for when you are "breaking into the industry".

  • Housing. Some things to consider in regards to housing:

  • Location. How close is it to theatre? Will you need a vehicle to get from home to work or is it walkable? Will you be using a lot of gas to get to and from work each day?

  • Roommates. How many roommates will you have? Will you have to share a room? How many bathrooms?

  • Size of apartment in relation to length of contract. Sharing a two bedroom apartment/one bathroom with four girls for nine months is very difficult to do. Trust me.

  • Windows. Sunlight is good for your soul. Living with poor lighting can suck the life right out of you.

  • Wifi. Wifi is an extra expense and unless you have unlimited data you should definitely ask about this.

  • Cable. I haven't had cable since living at home and I've succeeded in watching all of my shows just fine. But if you don't have Netflix it is definitely something to consider.

  • Laundry. Is laundry onsite? Or do you have to go offsite and pay for it?

  • Travel

  • How far are you traveling to get to this gig? Will they give you a travel stipend for gas? Pay for a U-Haul to move any furniture/ big items you may have ? Reimburse your flight?

  • Microsoft Office or other computer software you may need

  • Your Team. If you are the PSM, you may be able to negotiate who your ASM'S are

  • Food

  • Workshops are great about this one because oftentimes they feed you SO WELL. So check in about it.

  • Rehearsal hours

  • Often times small projects in the city understand they are paying you less and won't require you to be at every rehearsal (i.e. if you are an ASM). It sucks b/c you want to be there, but in the long run you have to look out for your sanity.

  • Experience gained.

  • Pretty self explanatory, but how much will you be learning on the job? I believe you can learn from ANY job, even if it's what not to do. But if the job is not going to challenge you at all and you aren't going to grow from it professionally, it might not be worth pursuing. Do they offer masterclasses?

  • Connections made.

  • Can doing this job lead to future opportunities at this theatre? Will it lead to a lot of new connections? I am a huge fan of working on new play festivals / any collection of multiple plays at once because HI HELLO YOU ARE MEETING MULTIPLE DIRECTORS ON ONE PROJECT. If you do an amazing job (like you alway do) and these directors like you, you will then be on their radar to work with again.

3. Find out how much you want and ask for higher.

Do not ask for how much money you actually want. You should always aim higher, because chances are they will then counter offer. This counter offer will either be your planned asking price or something a little lower than your original asking price. If it is something lower, you may then counter again with your original asking price. Negotiating is quite a bit of a back and forth but is totally worth it in the end.


4. Be polite, but firm.

You should be polite when you negotiate, but language is everything. Do NOT apologize for asking for more money. I repeat, do not apologize for asking for money. You have to know you are worth it. Most companies and production managers are used to people negotiating for more money and won’t judge you for negotiating. They know we need to eat, pay our rent, and live our life.


5. Be prepared for them to say no and decide what that no means.

Chances are they are going to say no. Most theatre companies do not have extra money lying around and I’m guessing in the post-Covid era this will be even more true. You should always plan for them to say no and decide if no is a deal breaker for you. For me personally, a no isn’t always a deal breaker. However, sometimes a no means you walk away from the contract. The more you think about this ahead of time, the easier it will be when the decision comes.


Negotiating is a skill I am still working on every single contract. As difficult as it is, it does become easier over time. I highly recommend for your first time negotiating with a company or production manager you know or have previously worked with. This took a bit of the “fear factor” out for me. And as much as you prepare for the no, you should also hope for the yes. My second time negotiating for more $ I didn’t aim high because I was scared. I asked for $400 when originally they were going to pay $250 (even though I should've asked for $500.) They said yes the next day. Lesson learned. You never know if you don’t ask. The worst that can happen is they say no.


In order to help you negotiate your next contract I’ve created three base examples/email templates you can use to help get you started on the right track ! Feel free to adapt them based on your needs.

Template 1: (for other perks)

Hello _______,

Thank you for the offer! I am excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started!

I was also curious as to if I could request _______ (i.e. my own room; travel covered). While I am grateful for your initial offer, I believe having _______ (i.e. my own room; travel covered) would help ______ (i.e. maximize my productivity; offset the costs of moving across the country).


Let me know your thoughts and I look forward to hearing from you,

Thanks so much !

--

Name

Email

Phone Number

Template 2: (for more money with a company/PM you know)

Hello _______,

Thanks for the offer!

I would love to discuss negotiating the rate from ____ to ______. I currently am making _____ at _______. Last year I made ____ and after taxes it was _____. If I make ____ a week it will end up being ___ after taxes.

Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks _____!

--

Name

Email

Phone Number

Template 3:( for more money with someone new)

Hello _______,

Thank you for the offer! I am excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started!

I was also curious as to if there is any wiggle room for the salary(or stipend) to be raised from ____ to _____? While I am grateful for your initial offer, I would love to discuss a number that will better reflect the number of hours and amount of work I will be putting into this project.


Let me know if you are open to this and if you have any further questions regarding my request I’d be happy to jump on a call with you!

Thanks so much and I look forward to connecting,

--

Name

Email

Phone Number


I hope you found this information useful- please drop your negotiating tips down in the comments below.


Until next time,

💜Chels

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