Join our Social Network for Creative Freelancers! Head over to Freelancer Talk and create an account!
Feb. 16, 2021

#4 | Negotiating with Merel van der Wouden | The Freelancer Talk

#4 | Negotiating with Merel van der Wouden | The Freelancer Talk

Let’s be honest. Most freelancers get anxious when they think of negotiating! But negotiating shouldn’t be something scary and more importantly, somebody who’s not self-confident isn’t going to be able to negotiate on anything! Don’t worry if you are one of those freelancers who gets anxious about negotiating, we got you!

Head over to, choose your favorite streaming platform, and listen to the episode with Merel van der Wouden!

For today’s episode, we asked Negotiating Coach Merel van der Wouden to join us on The Freelancer Talk podcast to share her expertise and views on Negotiating. 

Merel is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and business influencer. After working as a business consultant for a period of time she exchanged her corporate life in Toronto to start her own company named Blackbird Negotiations in 2017.

She mainly coaches ambitious women to gain the confidence, knowledge, and skills to successfully negotiate what they deserve. Her main focus is on teaching negotiation skills regarding salaries and fees. 

Since the creation of Merel’s coaching business, she has helped over 200+ women negotiate better salaries and has established herself as a public speaker sharing her journey and her passion for negotiating.

You understand why we had to ask her for a Freelancer Talk right?

In this week’s episode, we are really diving deep into the topic of negotiating. Merel provides us with incredible valuable answers to questions like: “Is there harm in negotiating”, “How do I make the money talk less awkward?”, and “When do I know it’s appropriate to negotiate?”.  

But besides answering these questions, Merel shares her story of why she started her negotiating coaching business and gives us a little sneak peek into her “Pro-Active Method”!

Read more


Are you absolutely loving The Freelancer Talk podcast? Make sure to let the world know by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or another suitable platform!

Join daily discussions and connect with other freelancers by becoming part of our exclusive international freelancers’ group on Facebook! Join us today!

Want to receive weekly updates about the latest podcast episodes, blog articles, and other related news items? Sign up for our Weekly Digest newsletter! 


Connect with us!



Facebook Page



For more visit

Support the show (


Wouter: Hello, all you freelancers? Welcome back to another episode of the freelancer talk podcast. I am your host Wouter Vertogen and I am really excited for today's interview , today's podcast, where I will be interviewing negotiating expert Merel van der Wouden!

And well, I think this episode is going to be incredibly informative, just also, already, just for me alone. And I just want to say hi Merel, and thank you so much for taking the time to. Yeah. To join me on the podcast. 

Merel: Hi Wouter. Yeah, I'm excited. Well, let's, let's go. Let's talk negotiations. 

Wouter: Let's do this.

Well you are a negotiating expert and I was wondering what it is that you exactly do. Do you negotiate on other people's behalf or do you teach other people how to negotiate? What is it exactly what you do? 

Merel: Yeah, that's a good question because I get this question a lot, so. I'm a negotiation coach, which means that I coach my clients to negotiate for themselves.

And I mainly coach women to successfully negotiate about salaries or fee. So it's, it's all about money. And next to that, I'm a coach. I'm a public speaker. So I share the story around negotiating about money as corporates companies, for example, or masterclasses. Yeah. 

Wouter: I saw a few of your things online and it looks super.

I mean, I was just like, Oh my God, you look so cool to also listen to and to actually learn a little bit from, from negotiating, because also you are a public speaker, what you said. So, I mean, I think you would be perfect to interview. On this topic. So I wanted to ask to you why you became a negotiating expert.

Was there a moment in your life that you were like, okay, this is like, you had a revelation of like, okay, this is what I'm going to do. And this is why I'm going to do it. Or that you just like roll into this. 

Merel: I think it's a combination because it has a lot to do with my personality as well. So yeah.

If I take you back a little, like when I was young, I thought equality in standing up for your rights and, you know, always making the best out of every situation was just in my blood. So when I was around seven years old, I remembered that I would go along with all my neighbors to get signatures against bullfighting in Spain.

And I would tell my parents to never go to Spain again, because we would support our economy and we would not. We should not support their economy. So it was always about equality standing up for your rights. And you know, when I was in school and people were being bullied, I would always stand up. And yeah, things like things that are unjust or unfair, I didn't know.

They just hit me in the core and it's been like that forever. So yeah, it it's game through no surprise to everyone that I went to law school and that I wanted to become a lawyer to stand for. Yeah, for, for the rights of animals or people. In the end, I worked a couple of years as a lawyer, but I don't know.

I really wanted to spread my wings and go abroad. And as a Dutch lawyer, that's, that's not that easy. So I decided to join a consultancy firm and I, and I moved through North America. And the negotiation part has always been there as well, because I knew that, you know, you can always. Make the best out of every situation because negotiating is nothing different than just having the influence.

I know when I would like influencing the other party to get a good. Like agreement or something. So when I moved to abroad, I remembered it. I got my contract in front of me and they were offering me a certain salary and I was like, Oh wait, you know, I need to know what, you know, what's my worth, what am I worth?

What's my market value. Like I should do my research and, I should for sure not accept the first offer. So it's been always part of me. So. I really learned to negotiate well, by just doing it. And over, over the years, I've created a method that's, that's been working and I, and I call it the proactive methods.

So I saw the four years of consultancy. I have been negotiating a lot, but I also saw in the, in the corporate world, I saw a lot of. In injustice inequality. I saw differences in pay between men, between women, between black men and black women. It's, it's horrible to see. And the, the effects and the numbers are there as well.

So after four years, I don't know, it was sort of like what you say. It was like a revelation, like. What am I doing here in North America? I am, I am really living that corporate life. I just help banks to make more millions. What happened to that little girl that always stood for, you know, for equality, for rights and.

Yeah. After four years, I couldn't do it anymore. And that's when my new company was born really out of a necessity, but also the feeling of purpose and everything that I have seen on, on the previous years as, as, yeah, in my corporate life and life in general.

Wouter: I think it sounds really incredible your story, and also that, you know, like where you came from out of that necessity, what you said that you had that you kind of touch a little bit on this topic already in the beginning. But you Coach women and I was wondering why only women cause, and I mean, now you kind of already answered my question, but you also talked about all these other injustices, everywhere else into corporate life. But why women for you? 

Merel: Yeah, it's because I'm a woman myself and I really experienced, or let's say I've seen a lot of.

Differences between men and women in general. And I know that there are so much to win, when I can support women to stand up for themselves to know what they're worth, through, you know, really start to have that conversation. And on the other side, it's also just. You know, it's a, it's a marketing idea because I'm really picking a niche.

And it's always really, it's, it's easier to pick a niche. And the funny thing is that I do coach men as well. I coach everyone who feels that they, you know, can have some support with negotiating, but it's just that the way I market myself, Is I'm a negotiating coach for women about money. And that's how you can, I feel how I can grow much faster because nowadays in the Netherlands, if people think about negotiation coach in the Netherlands women and money, okay, you have to, you have to call Merel and I, yeah, you love marketing as well.

And you know, that's, you know, the more specific you are, the more. 

Wouter: The quicker people will remember you. 

Merel: Yeah! 

Yeah. And you know, your ideal clients yeah. You can't help all, that's also true, right? Yeah. I really, you know, I really love that 30, 30% rule. Do you know that?

30% of the people don't agree with you? 30% agree. And the other 30%, they don't know and that's with everything in life. So why do we constantly try to have that a hundred percent? You will never have it, but none with not with your opinion with your business, with how you look with everything. 

Wouter: Yeah, that's actually so true. 

Merel: I focus on yeah, right.

You can, Oh, you don't. Anything you have to do is believe in yourself and go for what you really want. 

Wouter: Sometimes I feel like also it doesn't  remind me a little bit of what my mom used to say. Like, you know, I wanted to do so many things and I also also wanted to do help so many people, which she was like, just pick one thing because otherwise you're not going to have enough time or energy to do everything. And I think also from a marketing point of view, it's good that you niche down, let's say in, in that sense which makes you also more interesting. I think for, from my point of view. In the Netherlands, we have the saying Nee heb je en een ja kun je krijgen. Basically that translates into there is no harm in asking so no harm in asking for more, no harm in negotiating, but for me, for my perspective, as a dancer in my scene and in my world, there's always a lot of freelancers who are always very scared to ask for more. Or to negotiate because we feel we are replaceable and very quickly they just, you know, we can be replaced easily.

I know that in the general world of freelancers, a lot of freelancers are also, you know, a little bit, sometimes scared to, to ask for more. But I wanted to know from you like your point of view and your thoughts, like is there harm in asking ?

Merel: Oh, but you, you touched two questions, two really important one because yeah.

Is there harming in asking and also the other one what you're saying? But yeah, is there harm in asking? There could be I, because especially then, and, and then I go back to the, the stereotypes. So I answer it first for the stereotypes. So when a woman asks for a race. And she could have backlash, which w what they call the social cost of negotiating for women.

And this is a research done by Harvard university, where they see that when women ask for a raise and when men ask for a raise, they don't get the same reaction. And sometimes women get punished by asking for a raise, if they are, for example an employee. But if you look at it from a bigger picture yeah.

Is there a harm? Yeah. Sure there could be hard, but then you really go back to, are you replaceable? I really believe that people buy from you that, you know, if you are a dancer like you, that people want to work with you, are you really replaceable? And second of all, do you want to work with people who find you replaceable?

So many things start with a mindset believing in yourself and really looking for that unique part within you? I always say. There, there is no competition for me because no one is me. We could do something similar, but we are not for example, selling the same cup, which is the same color, which is the same quality.

No, we are talking about people, you know? So it could do harm. Yes, maybe. If, but you can also say, does it do harm when you work for something where, what doesn't make you happy? So you're asking for, let's say a Liberty low, hourly rate. Like you're not happy. You're not going to be the best dancer or you don't have a most, probably really good relationship with the one who's paying you.

Like it's just losing, losing. I find.

Wouter: That's true. Well, yeah. Thank you for that insight though. Thank you so much because I, I think me personally, I am I'm okay with asking for more, especially if I find it that I should be Getting more but I think a lot of people also have problem determining when they can ask for more.

And if it's appropriate to ask for more. So how do you find out that this is an appropriate time? I mean, it's, this is also about like, if you go into a short term contract or a long-term contract, or if you renegotiate . What is your point of view of how can you find out and analyze this is the time that I should be asking for more.

Merel: Okay. So first the time asking for more, I think. You know, it's funny, to start this answer with like a lot of people are scared of this. Yes. And that's totally fine, but we have to get more comfortable with talking about money, right? Like we live in the Netherlands and it's sort of like a Taboo to talk about money, to ask for a raise, while it's not you have a lot of qualities and you're being valued and you're being hired to generate  income for the company you're being hired. Right? If you're a dancer, if you are a painter, if you are a coach, you create it's an investments. People make too. Earn more money. That's, that's how you see it as well. But when to be honest, a lot of people ask me for permission, like when can I do that?

They're not necessarily rules you create your own rules. And besides that, you can always, you know, in Dutch we say 'buiten de lijntjes tekenen' so how would we describe that? Like, Play a little bit outside of the rules. Yeah, the box. 

Wouter: Yeah. 

Merel: And I think that's a really important one. So, but if you want to have it like more concrete, I would say. Most probably you have I don't know. You have had more experience you had because you've been working there for a couple months. You've had amazing reviews. You've worked with some big clients after a couple of months, or maybe after a year you've grown. Right? If you are a coach, if you are a dancer or if you are a freelancer in any other yeah.

Wouter: Field 

Merel: Yeah. Fields. It's it's time to ask for dead raise. You can discuss, like, what am I adding more to, to the, to the company? Like what kind of edit failure do you have? So in that sense, you can always ask. 

Wouter: I do love also what you said is that a bit before that we are not replaceable because you're dealing with people you're not dealing with cups and mugs and just.

Products off of a shelf, you're dealing with people. So we all bring our own specific value. And then it's great to hear, like you write your own rules actually. I mean, for sure as a freelancer or your own business, so you actually do write your own rules, but you said also a fun thing about this whole money talk, being taboo in the Netherlands.

And I know that when we think of negotiating, a lot of people think about, negotiating money. Even though there is also much more that you can negotiate on. Which is what I wanted to dig into a little bit first, and then go back to the money question that I have, that you're going to need to answer for me.

Cause I'm like, huh? Help me please. What else can you negotiate on when you think about negotiating besides money? 

Merel: Yeah, I get this question a lot as well. So seriously, like everything that's valuable for you, you can negotiate about, because why not? Like we are constantly looking for rules for permissions.

Like what can I do? But you you're a freelancer. You started a company. Because you're good at something, what you do and you make your own rules.. But okay. If you want to have some examples let's say you're going into a contract with a new client and they are, they want some discounts, like you always have to look like, okay, what's more important.

A little bit more money or a long-term relationship with the clients that I really love, but you can think about certain benefits. Maybe you can work at their office for free. The other days that you're not working for their the company. Maybe you get a laptop, maybe you get a phone, maybe you ... they sign you for long-term right.

Instead of saying, okay, I'm willing to work for you for this rates, or let's say I'm not a fan of hourly rates by the way. We'll get there. Let's say we do this amount. Normally I charged days, but if you really, if you don't have the budget or don't have the the money, then I'm willing to do that.

But I would like to, to share, or like to create a long-term contract, it would be an idea. But seriously, you can negotiate about almost everything that's valuable for you. How many hours what's kind of maybe, maybe you need certain products and maybe they are willing to sponsor that, maybe what I asked a lot as well.

It's really valuable if you can dig into someone's network, if they want to introduce you. 

Wouter: Yeah, 100%, 

Merel: Really everything that's valuable for you think about it and just write it down. What's valuable next to many, because there are so many things so valuable. I remember also that one time. I was being asked to speak at my university.

I graduated from Erasmus university in Rotterdam, and they asked if I wanted to give a talk. And yeah, I have a certain fee of course for speaking. And that's 1500 euros if I give a talk and it doesn't matter if it's 10 minutes or it's one hour, it's just 1500 euros before tax  and then they said that they didn't have the budgets because it was coming from the students committee and blah, blah, blah. I was like, okay, well, I'm going to think about it because you know, I'm an alumni and I would love to give back, but I need to have a certain.

Exchange of value? No. What if you interview me in your magazine, you give me two pages and you write about me of being a negotiation expert. Would that be an idea? And you know, what's funny this this professor was totally in shock that I asked him that and he started to like, like, stumble, like I'll get back to you, people aren't comfortable with discussions, but seriously.

Yeah, it happens. But I mean, That's such a good deal. Instead of paying me 1500 euros, give me an interview and you're in your magazine, that's going to be seen by 20,000 students, right? Like those kinds of things you can negotiate about so much that holds value for you.

Wouter: Interesting. It's what you said.

It's you need to have an exchange of value and if that's money or if that isn't money, as long as it is valuable to you. It's great. And I mean, from my own personal experience speaking, I've had Ones that, for example, cause I also teach, I've had one set. I said, okay, this is my rates. And then they were like, that's too expensive.

And then I was like, okay, but are you guys giving me any other benefits? Because then I might, you know, be able to move, but then they couldn't. So I was like, okay, no by, but then another studio was like, yeah, we can give you much more hours. We can give you these benefits. I was like, okay, Dan, I'm actually willing to do it because they're also giving me much more exposure because I'm getting more classes out there.

So yeah, definitely an exchange of value. You still need to be fulfilled at the end of the day. I think what you're getting out of it. 

Merel: Yeah, totally. 

Wouter: So talking about the money, talking about the awkward. Awkwardness of having money discussions. How do you take the awkwardness out of the discussion from a mind set perspective almost.

Merel: Yeah. 

Well, if you, if you're going to have a discussion about money, I always talk about the pink elephant in the room, right? Like. The first thing you should talk about when you're going to talk about money is to talk about money. So let's say you're going into a conversation or, you know, someone calls you and wants to work with you potentially be really specific and be really clear about your prices.

Like, why would you waste each other's time? With talking about what you're offering and you could maybe be a match and then you hear, Oh, but I only have 700. Oh. But I charged four thousands. Okay. You know, and, and there could be like such a big difference in gap and there are matches for everyone. So the most important thing is is to really manage expectations around money.

So drop the money thing in the beginning. Always if you're an employee or a freelancer, right. Talk about money, but in general, talk about an investment. For example, if you talk about, well, what I offer, for example I am a coach so people, invest in themselves 

Wouter: By buying your service.

Merel: Yeah. Yeah. 

They will get better. They will get so much benefit. And, and that's the most important part of it. It's about investing. And if they, if they think someone, something is too expensive, then I always tell them  if I come from a coaching business , okay, first of all, it's an investments.

And if you don't believe in yourself that you're going to make more money after being coached by me, then you're not my clients. 

Wouter: Yeah. That's fair to say, actually. 

Merel: Yeah. Yeah. 

 Wouter: So if you have a job or if you get an offer or just, if people are interested in you, what do you say? Do you drop your amounts first, or do you wait for other people to offer you first?

Merel: Now I'm really a big fan of first dropping. And that's part of my proactive methods, which means that you are always in charge. You know, what you're offering, you know, you know that you can bring a solution and you know, what, what your prices are. A lot of people say, To me like, Oh, no, but what if I could have, gotten more because they have more budgets, like, no, you know, you are driving the car, you are driving your car and you're sitting behind the steering wheel and you know, what you want to charge and what you want to be paid for.

And just keep, just keep leading that. So yeah, you were the first one, you know what you want!

It's like 

Wouter: Yeah. You also know what you're worth, right? So you should then ask for it and not wait for others to, to say, okay, we can offer you this. I also find it. Cause sometimes people have this feeling of like, okay, I'm going to wait their offer because maybe they can offer me more than I want to ask.

But I think very often it's the other way around. That they come in with a lower number and then you are like, Oh my God, I need to make a counter offer. Do I go over, do my normal thing? Do I already kind of like come closer because then it's actually on you that you have to do the thinking, but let them do the thinking.


Merel: Totally, and what I've been just saying, like, you just want clarity around money because it makes it less awkward. Yeah. You know, being clear about your prices. If people ask me what my prices are, just have a look at my website. It's there there's no, it's no, no abracadabra.

It's just there. Makes it's easy to talk about it. It's in, you know, like, Oh, you think that's in? Yeah. Like, Oh, I think that's expensive. Well, okay. You might think that's expensive. I don't think it's expensive. I think it's worth the investments, but yeah. There is a match for everyone, right? Same with you. If you go dancing and you are,  you're a professional dancer, so you're charging something different than someone who just starts.

And it's also about quality. Who do you work? What kind of clients do you have and CV and your portfolio? 

Wouter: Everything counts. Yeah. 

Merel: Everything counts. Yeah. And  some companies work with the most qualified dancers, for example, and they are willing to pay double or triple the price from someone who just starts because yeah. That's maybe less quality. 

Wouter: Yeah. Yeah. True. I mean in the Netherlands, it's actually organized into CAO that if you are progressed during the years, as a dancer, you start earning more, as you have more experience as well, which is in a lot of countries, actually. It's not like that, but I think, what you said, like how much value can you ask?

How much experience you have. What I wanted to ask you as well is, okay. So they, you have made your offer and they have made there offer. How much flexibility do you allow in your own offer? Like how much can you move towards each other? Or, I mean, it's a bit what you said before. Like there also other things that you can take into the, the combination, but how flexible should you be also as a mindset when you negotiate?

Merel: Well, you know what I always say, just have a certain figure in your head. That's for example, it gets you want to be flexible, but on the other hand, I say, just have one certainprice and be really specific about that. And also what's really important is. But I always suggest, let's say that you are willing to do two or three gigs a year.

If you are a dancer, if you are a coach, if you're a public speaker, if you. Whatever you want to do for free, because maybe it's for charity. So I always tell my clients write down three things you want to do for free this year, because it's nice to give back, right? Let's say you're going to speak for your university or you're going to speak for an alumni, or you're going to speak for an NGO.

If they say I don't have a budget, but it's, it's really near your heart. And it's good for your business. Just tell your client really clear. Normally I would charge, let's say 1500 euros. But I have to deal with myself. That's three times a year for three clients. I do this out of, off my giving back like a cup.

I don't know how you, you know what I mean? It's my charity cup and it makes it clear again, because if other clients, because. You know, community and network is everything. If other people hear Hey, but a Wouter has been dancing, that' event for free. Did you know that? Blah, blah, blah. And then other, you, you can say, and others can say, yeah, that's true.

But because that's, you know, he does that three times a year and that's because that's his giving back idea and that that's based on this, this, and this rule, you make it so clear for everyone and for yourself, 

Wouter: Yeah, not that you become known for the person that does jobs for free because yeah. 

Merel: Or gives a lot of discounts.

So that's, you know, like don't, don't change your prices too much. Like maybe, maybe 10%.  But I'm more a fan of saying no discounts, but I add a bonus .As a bonus you get, I don't know. It depends on what kind of you get an ebook or you get an extra hour or you get this, but I'm not lowering my price.

I do add ons, but I don't lower down lower the price. 

Wouter: I think for my experience speaking as a dancer, very often, what happens in dance world is that you just do an audition, you get hired, and then it's just like you signed the contract. Right. That kind of happens, which is this weird thing in the arts.

As freelancers, you're almost not doing business to business deals, but actually you are a business. So it's a contract is a 50 50 thing actually, but we are just giving the contracts because a lot of these younger people are just like, not informed enough, but I was wondering how do you deal with that?

When there is a lot of other people who would work for less or work for free when it's inappropriate, but I am. But I don't want to do that. For example, how can I still make my negotiations reasonable in connection to all these other people who just want to work because they want to work? 

Merel: Yeah. Yeah. I get that.

I think the most important part is that you're really good at what you do. And, we also shoot really stop comparing ourselves constantly to what others do. It doesn't matter what others do. You know what you can deliver? You know, that you're a good dancer, you know, that you deliver quality and with quality comes a certain price. And if they say, yeah, but I can have this, this, this, and this and this person for 30% of a off the price, or let's say 30% discount. And then you say, well, if you want to work with me, I stand for quality. I deliver. We've been working together.

Then this is my price. You don't want to have to defend yourself because you can not compare yourself to the others. I would say like, yeah, like I don't really have a meshes of people say, Oh yeah, I can get someone else to speak at my event for that price. Well, sure. Get them.

If it's only about price, get them. If you go for quality and you want to work with me, get to me and you know, what's re yeah, take me. And then the most important thing is. You know, no one to say no, it's so good that we learn to say no to receive no, to say no, to, to know where our boundaries are, because if we keep saying yes to jobs that are.

Not paying enough. We don't have the space do gets to get hired by companies who are willing to pay the, the amount that we are worth. If you keep on working with companies who don't fail, you, you other companies see that as well. It's sort of like a vicious circle you're in, you have to break out and you have to be brave.

Wouter: Yeah. Wow. I mean I'm yes, yes, yes. I fully agree with you. Now, so we have talked a little bit about all these details and about, about negotiating, what you can negotiate on. And we talked a little bit about your story and how to negotiate, but I want to dig in a little bit more deeper into the how, as in.

What should your tone be when you negotiate? How do you communicate with people whilst negotiating? I know negotiating is very formal and you set also just make clear what you want, but how, how do you communicate that in a right way? What you want? 

Merel: Yeah, that's such, yeah, that's such a good question.

Because a lot of times people think that when you negotiate, you're not a nice person, but I always say. I can, first of all, be a nice person, know what I'm worth and negotiates, you know, you can still be nice and make jokes and be yourself, but to be a hundred percent clear about what you're asking and, you know, like you have the, the still the, the ruling methods in which is called a Harvard method of negotiating.

And it says. It means that you are negotiating soft with the person, so in a nice way, but you negotiate really firm on the facts. I really translated the little bits to literal, but I don't know how to translate it differently, but you can be really clear on what you're talking about and what you want and still be a nice person.

I dunno, like, you know, what's funny and it brings me to the topic of off off, because people say, I read her has a nice job than money. I read her black than have money, blah, blah, blah, or, or, okay. I say. I want to have an awesome business and I want to have money because I live in and and yeah, you can be both.

There's like, there's a button and there's enough. Like, don't think in scarcity and fear and Oh my God, I have to compete and it's not a good energy. And it's also not true. It's it's again, the vicious circle you're in, like, there is enough, you can have an awesome job and you get paid awesome, if you believe and you stand for it and be a nice person.

Wouter: Yeah, be a nice person but stand for it as well, a hundred percent out, you said before, something is like, you're not a fan of hourly rates. Why, why is that? And what do you believe in then besides hours? 

Merel: Well, first of all, I don't believe in. Like the hourly rates, because it's about a solution, right?

If you're a coach, if you're a denser, you're delivering something. Most of the time you fix a problem of a client, it really depends on because we're speaking really broad now. Right. Really why it's dancing, but I'm more fun coach. Yeah. So it's, it's a little bit tough to, to say like that. But for example, if I look at it from a coaching point of view, what my clients wants is a solution.

I can deliver that solution and with all my experience and all my knowledge and my degrees and blah, blah, blah. That's why I can deliver this solution, for example, in one hour. But it doesn't mean that I charge an hourly rate. If I get you a solution. And and I charged you 2,500, let's say. Would you be, you know, if you really need the solution to anything, it doesn't matter if I work 10 hours for that two hours, one hour, if I hire you want the solution and what are you willing to pay to get, to get to that solution?

And that's the most important thing. So I don't even communicate in hours when people say, Oh yeah, I saw you're giving a master class of one and a half hours or one hour. Yeah, I just wanted a little bit shorter. What's the price? And I said, no, you know, there's, if you hire me 10 minutes or max one hour, when I'm a public speaker, it's the same amount 

Wouter: Because it's the same message. It's the same solution. It's the same product. 

Merel: Yeah. When I share my story on stage I just have, I just say, okay. Minimum of 20 minutes, I love the 20 min Ted talk idea talks. Yeah. Yeah. Max 15 minutes and maybe then 15 minutes of Q and a, but that's it. And if you want to only have me 20 minutes, then it's still the same amount because I give a certain energy I need to prepare and that's always the same.

Wouter: Yeah. 

Merel: Does that answer your question. 

Wouter: Yeah. I think what you said, it's you come from a coaching perspective and public speaking perspective? I think if I were to translate it in a dancing way or for. Teaching. I think teaching is complicated because what happens is that the system in the Netherlands is that you get a hourly rate while the system in a lot of other places, you get a percentage of the amount of tickets you sell for your class, which I think is a better, which I think is a better rule because you know, then it's easy.

You don't need to negotiate when you have all of the sudden more students in your class. You're just like, I get that percentage. Period, I think that's, but somehow the Netherlands is really behind that. But if you think about dancing, if I'm hired for dancing projects, the sad thing is, is in the dance world, that if we don't put it by hourly rates or by daily rates that people take advantage of you, because then it becomes this gray area line of how much are you worth as a dancer and very often they just pay crappy pay. So I think then it's, I think the hourly rate for dances somehow so that we're getting paid by standards almost. Cause it's almost barely. Earn more, especially it happens that if you're 35 in Germany and you get hired at a theater, you get to stay the same pay as if you're 18 years old.

So you're just like, wow. Luckily here in the Netherlands, they changed that. But everywhere in the world, it's it doesn't, it doesn't work like that. They just don't want to pay somehow. I don't know. Yeah. It's just a vicious circle into dance scene. 

Merel: It is. And, and, you know, that really brings me to, you know, be the change you want to see you have to chase the system and that's why you have to lead. And. How tough that could be. You know, I've also worked at as a law firm and when I was not yet a lawyer, I would negotiate. I was a secretary. I would negotiate my fees already from a young age. And it was an hourly rates.

And seriously, I was earning much more by hour. Then the first year lawyer. We were in the same room. I was a secretary. She was hired as a lawyer and I earned more. You can say the system doesn't work like that, break the system, change the system, go for it. I've had really tough conversations with those lawyers, but I knew I was a good secretary and the new lawyer came in and she never negotiated, like, didn't.

That's on her. So I understand what you're saying. The system works like that, but keep trying, keep framing it in a different way of how it would work. Right. And what you're saying with the gray area to sort of like tackle that, I would say, this is what I charge for half a day, and these are decent amounts of hours.

And then. If people want to count it back two hours fine. But don't try to work with hours. You have your own system and what's also good to say because you weren't talking about the CAO, right. That's the law we have in the Netherlands,  but you know, I didn't know really how to explain it in Dutch in English, but because I'm a lawyer by training.

I know what that means. It is a minimum. 

So it's a base and people always say, Oh, I cannot do that because it's the say, Oh, no, no, no. The CAO law is being created to protect employees from not getting paid less, but it means you can always pay more. So when your employer or when you're, when someone says, yeah, but it's in the CAO and they, you say, okay, but that is a minimum 'bepaling' , I don't know how to word it in English.

Wouter: The minimum wage almost 

Merel:  It's sort of like, okay, this is the minimum wage, which means I cannot pay lower than this, but. There's always room for more. So that's really important to know.

It's like a non-valid reason it's not to pay you less to pay you not more. 

Wouter: I think for also some, if there is some dancers who are listening to this podcast or other artists, and I have a lot of freelance artists who listen to this podcast, I recorded last week. Another podcast that's out before this one with, bilal and he is from the Kunstenbond, which is a union for the arts. And he sees the same problem that dancers and artists are not educated enough or knowing what they're worth and how these things work. So he did a podcast with me on knowing your worth as a as a freelance artist and where you can find your resources and what it means.

So just to give a little connection, listen to that podcast, that will enrich you a little bit more on this technicalities, and then listen to this. I mean, actually, you're already listening to this podcast for a while now, but anyway, this podcast will then help you really set yourself up for a better success on negotiating your contracts.

I, I think I'm kind of almost through my most important, crazy questions. But I just wanted to ask you if you have a word of advice, just a small tip. I know that if you really want to work with you guys, you should check out Merel van der Wouden on her Instagram and on her website. You will find all the links down in the show notes.

And I saw that you can organize a call appointment, which you, so if you guys have any troubles negotiating, make sure you of course yeah, contact her, but just a word of advice. 

Merel: Ooh. I think it all goes back to, what do you value you yourself? Do you believe in yourself and really the starting point, because how are you going to get that?

They, you really want, if you don't even believe in yourself that you are worth it, you have to feel that you are worth it. Like. When I speak to people about my prices there, they don't even negotiate because they feel that this is the price. And I seriously few it go practice it in front of your mirror, practice.

Why? And also don't ask for permission, never ask, you know, for, for, for a raising that way, just suggest what you think is a suitable solution and explain why like, You know, really believe in yourself and do your research and, and go for it because. It starts to get easier. Once you start talking about money and when you negotiate, it's it gets easier.

Wouter: Break that wall. Yeah. Break that ball, tear it down, tear it down. No, but I just, for me, I would like to really thank you for everything, what you said. And I already feel like almost that I have gotten another understanding of all of this. Of course, I have my own feelings and thoughts, but you made a lot of really informative remarks and comments that I'm like, okay, that's actually how you should see it. And yes. So, I mean, I can only imagine what you really do as a coach when you book you and you know, like when you help people, I saw on your website that you also you've helped a lot of people and they have all have incredible returns, let's say so. I think that just to point out that you are doing a great job and I think you're a very inspirational person and I wanted to thank you again for making the time available to join me on this podcast. 

Merel: Thank you as well. You know, like it's really interesting to look at this from a dancer perspective and that's what I really do in my one-on-one coaching. Right. And I can really look at your specific situation. Yeah. That makes a difference. Totally. 

Wouter: Thank you. So, so much for doing this and to all you guys. I will be back next week with another episode with another guest and I hope you guys are good.

Stay safe, stay healthy. And I'll talk to you guys later. Ciao!


Merel van der Wouden


Merel van der Wouden, LL.M is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and business influencer.
After working as a business consultant for a period of time she exchanged her corporate life in Toronto to start her own company named Blackbird Negotiations in 2017.

Merel coaches (mostly) ambitious women to gain the confidence, knowledge, and skills to successfully negotiate what they deserve.
Her main focus is on teaching negotiation skills regarding salaries and fees.

Since the creation of her coaching business, she has helped over 200+ women negotiate better salaries and has established herself as a public speaker sharing her journey and her passion for negotiating.