If someone is asking for your services, ask for a partnership opportunity, an equity percentage or simply a return for your effort.
By Adriana Galue (Co-Founder, Mint Consulting)

There is a new business model available today. It involves recruiting talent at low or no cost. I know several talented people who are currently “doing internships” at both new and established companies in exchange for “experience”, “recommendation letters” and “peanuts”. I don’t think that this model is sustainable nor do I think that it generates true economic development.

Nowadays, it is extremely important to refine one’s negotiating skills. After having made a plethora of errors by jumping too soon into a deal, these are my recommendations:

  1. If you believe that you are missing an opportunity by not engaging in a situation where free labor is required, think again. The concept of brand applies not only to Apple and McDonalds but also to human beings. If you don’t put worth to your skills, no one will. Your talent, education and experience are very valuable and no economical situation alters that.
  2. If you decide to sign in for the free version of yourself, make sure that the opportunity indeed enhances who you are, your connections and ultimately your skill set. Many internship opportunities out there are just another profitability measure for companies, not an avenue for you.
  3. Before jumping into a business transaction “just to get experience”, take your time and think through where the opportunity lies. If someone is asking for your services, ask for a partnership opportunity, an equity percentage or simply a return for your effort. I personally have put myself in situations where attractive opportunities blind my judgment. There is no replacement for early clear communication and early clear agreements in place.
  4. If you are a startup founder, think before asking someone to work for peanuts. Peanuts usually don’t generate loyalty, unless of course, you are the next Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg. The goal of creating a “startup nation” should be to enhance economic activity and generate wealth for all. While investors love to have lean ventures, at some point in the game, startup founders and those recruited by them need to be able to afford dog food.
  5. After several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate agreements to my benefit, I created what I call “The Video Camera Test”. If you are trying to learn negotiating skills, there is no better companion than your iPhone or Sony recorder. Prior to negotiating anything, practice your posture, idea flow and eye contact in front of the recorder. The amount of information that you will gather is unbelievable. My mantra is, “if I can’t convince myself, I won’t be able to convince anyone”. As with any other type of presentation, practice is key.
  6. During a negotiation agreement, I believe that it is always OK to say: Let me think about it. It is very important, even in fast moving environments such as the startup world, to think before committing to a step. You don’t want to jump in the bus and then have to figure out how to get off once the bus is on the way. Window jumping is not easy, is costly and is preventable if you just give appropriate importance to your pace of thought processing.
  7. An opportunity is defined as a “favorable juncture of circumstances”. One of those circumstances should be compensation for what you bring to the table.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
Photo credit: Andrew Hyde on Flickr.
About the guest blogger: Adriana Galue is a co-founder at Mint Consulting. She is a scientist, techie, entrepreneur, lover of nature and immigrant whose genes trace back to the Middle East, Africa and Spain. She was born in Colombia and educated in Canada. Adriana writes about her perception of the world, education and startups. She holds a MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business. Follow her on Twitter at @AdrianaGalue.