The Briefcase Technique — to earn thousands of dollars

Starting a freelance business | Here's a technique I've used to earn thousands of dollars in salary and freelance negotiations. Become a Freelancer and earn more money.

Ramit Sethi

Most people are terrible at negotiating their salary. They leave over $1 million on the table because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. And they worry that it’s not possible to negotiate “in this economy.”

Wrong. You can negotiate your salary — even now. A single conversation can be worth $10,000 to you.

(And it’s not just salary! We’re afraid of negotiating with our cable company, our credit card company…)

First, use this powerful technique, the Briefcase Technique:

Next, if you’re interested in a more expansive view of how ethical negotiation fits into freelance discussions — and all parts of life — here’s a 1.5-hour interview I did with renowned photographer Chase Jarvis:

If you’re only interested in the Briefcase Technique, skip to 34:00. But I recommend you watch the rest, because I reveal several scripts and psychological insights you can use today.
Ok, if this resonates with you, and you’re interested in learning how to negotiate, I’ve packaged the material up into a mini-course to help you use the same material, along with video of a master-level negotiation.

“I was able to increase my salary by almost $5,000/year and receive paid-time-off for a 2-week vacation all within in a 10 minute conversation.”
— Clay

“I used a variety of your material to land what I would consider my dream job and then implement your negotiation techniques to nearly double my salary. Thank you!”
— Don

“I’ve always had friends ask me how I negotiated my way from 40k to 50k for my first job with only 6 months of programming experience and only having worked at Starbucks previously. Thanks a ton for all of the advice you’ve provided.”
— Stephan

Here’s what you’ll learn in the mini-course:

  • The word-for-word scripts to use in your salary negotiation
  • The importance of timing: When should you bring up salary — and when should you avoid it?
  • Common mistakes for people negotiating salary (especially women)
  • How to recover if they say “no”
  • What to say if they tell you there’s no budget

To get the mini-course on negotiation, here’s the link (free for readers of this site):

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  1. Vincent

    It won’t play as it’s a private video?

  2. Brian

    The video won’t play – it’s set to private.

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  4. Mike


    At first I was a bit skeptical about something called “The Briefcase Technique” but I’ve been reading your blog long enough to know that you usually have something pretty insightful to say.

    Thanks for sharing that with us and laying structure to a solid negotiation technique. When I saw your video, it was one of those “aha!” moments – of course that makes sense. All good ideas do.

    Keep up the good work.


    I obviously had no clue what the briefcase technique was because I didn’t even see the briefcase 🙂

    Amazing technique though! If I were the client and you did that technique to me, not only would I be very impressed that you knew my business so well but I would also feel compelled to give you my business because you showed me you took the time to learn and understand my business.

    That’s something very important I think.

  6. Caron Margarete

    Oh wow! This reminds me of a internal job interview I went for, did something similar for landing the job! “I have something for you…” as I put it to the senior managers, specs on what I would bring to the role that would immediately improve the department! I thought they’d think me arrogant, instead they lapped it up!

    This type of advice is applicable not just for sales but simply accomplishing something you want, demonstrating you’ve thought over & beyond the expectations is what will make you successful!

  7. Adriana @ My Online Business Journey

    This sounds great! I am looking forward to the webcast.

  8. Phillip

    Ramit – I love all the information you are sharing, thanks again!

    Is there any risk in showing them the problems and them just taking the list of problems and handing them over to someone internal who already works for them and cutting you out of the deal?

    • Ramit Sethi

      No. It’s not the like the ideas are secret. What matters is having a fresh set of eyes to (1) evaluate them and (2) do them.

      You’re not selling the ideas. You’re selling your initiative.

  9. Phillip

    Ramit – I love it. That is great advice and I totally agree. So many times do I see things about other websites / businesses / business processes / etc. that I think could use an overhaul and this is a great idea of a way to basically walk in the door, tell them what is wrong (agreed – even if they know it already) and convince them that you (me) is the person to fix it.


  10. Alfonso

    Hello Ramit,

    So the video won’t be recorded? I would be very interested but i’m from spain, 9 time zones away!!! I just cannot be up at 4am! Is there no roundabout way?

    Thank you

    • Ramit Sethi

      Nope, sorry man

  11. Maren Kate

    Like the technique a bunch… I am going to try it on a big meeting I have on Thursday & will keep you posted on my success. Thank you!

  12. Adam

    Really? A webcast during Lost? 🙁

  13. Alfonso

    Damn… Sorry for swearing… Frustrating. I giras i will have to get up at 4am… I think im not going to be very sharp at work tomorrow… I hipe i raen some points with you ramit! 😉

  14. Rudy

    Wow, that totally worked on me, and i am not even looking to buy anything! Awesome technique!

  15. Hesitant

    I just finished your book and was motivated to finally invest my savings in a lifecycle fund…until I received the latest edition of The Economist. Now, I am hesitating.
    The cover story claims that the American stock market is “still nearly 50% overvalued on the best long-term measure, which adjusts profits to allow for the economic cycle, and is on par with two of the four great valuation peaks in the 20th century, in 1901 and 1966.” It then suggests that there is no reason to believe that the stock market will definitely continue its upward trend of the last 70 years: “The NASDAQ trades at half the level it reached during the dot-com mania.” Similarly, “the Japanese stock market still trades at a quarter of the high it reached 20 years ago.” What is to say that the American economy will not exhibit a similar decline?
    How safe am I investing my hard-earned savings (long-term) in a life-cycle fund?

    • Ramit Sethi

      That is why you don’t try to time the market. You dollar-cost average in. Maybe it’s too high. Maybe it’s not. Who knows? Certainly not you. So invest consistently and focus on the long term.

  16. finance

    Well it reminds me of preparing for an interview and how to sell yourself to the employer’s LOL. I don’t know if there’s more to it but it’s kinda good technique i’ve seen in you video.

  17. Jeremy Williams

    Although I like your technique – isn’t this just ‘never sell on price’

  18. Lisa

    This tip reminds me of what a good car salesman does. They keep telling you about the features, not the cost. Get you sold on the product (or service), then and only then once the client knows it is what they want, price.

  19. Peter

    I’m using this today. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  20. Peter

    Reporting back.

    I came up with a “Top Ten List of Things That Need Changing Now” for the company’s website.

    During the meeting, I gave it to the lady who was interested in hiring me. She could not stop reading it. Seriously, she was ignoring the other people present in the meeting while voraciously reading every bit of the advice I had in the piece.

    Plus, all the things I said needed fixing were included in my proposal.

    Keep up the good work.

    Just read 4HWW and it seems that much of your writing is based on his principles. Love that book.

  21. Dan


    your videos are always so clean and professional – who does them for you? Can you recommend any resource/ company/ person?

    Thank you and keep it awesome !

  22. Finance

    Really a great article! Nice post! This type of advice is applicable not just for sales but simply accomplishing something you want, demonstrating you’ve thought over & beyond the expectations is what will make you successful!

  23. E

    Hmm, really interesting. It makes you seem prepared. I get the feeling that people don’t do any preparation when I just get the same sales material that seems to go to everyone. Maybe I’m being a bit naive, but getting personal stuff makes me feel more important.

  24. Dtalero

    Hi Ramit, any chance you could post the document you pulled from the briefcase, names changed for confidentiality perhaps? It would be really interesting to see the kind of analysis you would need to make to really address an organization’s needs.

    • Ramit Sethi

      In the Earn1k course, I’ve posted the exact proposals that 2 separate people used to get me to pay them:

      1. A $25,600 bonus (one person)
      2. $750/month (another person, ongoing)

  25. Ben Biggs

    Brilliant. This is another manifestation of the “Craigslist Penis Effect”. Why be any thing else than brilliant at what you’re supposed to be doing. Your doing it anyway, why suck at it?

  26. Bloggersn

    Is a pity that I could not see the broadcast. I just subscribed to your blog. Thank you!

  27. Justin

    Yeah I just found it today and was hoping to see it too :-/ Oh well- I’ll pay more attention from now on!

  28. Glendon Cameron

    Wow! So it is called the brief case technique now it has been a while since I had to negotiable anything. Any time you show a customer that you really have looked at their situation in such a manner if will be hard for them not to hire you.

    I uses this method in conjunction with the Ben Franklin closing technique . Very hot stuff.

  29. Pete

    Sheer genius. Thank you for sharing.

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  32. Lulu

    Thanks alot for that! great stuff 🙂

  33. Nnamdi

    Thanks for this great tip. It is totally TRUE !!!

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