Taming the Dragon
How to talk with your client/designer about project estimates and fees.
In negotiations, emotion should not be part of the process but it’s often at the front of the discussion, and most of the time, unacknowledged. Where does it come in? Money. It’s a push button for many of us and carries with it a lot of emotional baggage.
Talking about money is something that can be uncomfortable, very uncomfortable and inserts itself into the discussion with the subtly of a fire-breathing dragon. It’s important to note that both parties may have a fear of being taken advantage of. I can’t tame the dragon on my own, but I think if we elect to consciously reframe the discussion, better business choices can be made by all the parties.
I belong to a resource group for local area mothers which exists solely online. I get the weekly digest and regularly skim the headers for interesting topics and questions. Today there was a question about the “accuracy” of a project bid for a website. In this instance, they had high praise for the designer who had just finished the branding, print collateral, and packaging design for the new product they’re preparing to launch. Even with an established relationship, there was a sense of sticker shock and, equally present, distrust. From this, a question was put to the group: is $7000.00 fair and accurate for a website? In other words: were they being taken advantage of?
The importance of trust
Her question captured the essence of the biggest problem I confront as a freelance designer and consultant: how to overcome the absence of trust. Trust in part grows from previous knowledge but there are also all of the invisible and unspoken parts of the equation on the table; things carried over from our family, our financial history and even our ability to have healthy relationships.
In this story, there was a happy and successful history, but the lack of trust still played. To me, that speaks volumes about how big of an issue this is for all of us. I think for designers that is important to remember when talking with prospective clients: laying the foundation of trust starts from the first ‘Hello.’
Remove emotion from the discussion when negotiating a new project for better results.
Leave emotion at the door
Sticker shock can play the devil in our thought process and bring the dragon roaring to life. It was impossible for anyone to answer her, but I’m sure her request got a hefty response, most of them rooted in the sender’s own trust issues and feelings around money because of how the question was framed. If you elect to work outside of your hot buttons what are the criteria for judging the project proposal and the associated costs?
In my example from the mom’s group, the price she quoted was in the ballpark of today’s pricing – maybe. Even if she had given us specific information about the quote we still would not know enough to guide her in the decision. The bottom line is important but to evaluate it fairly look at the specifications of the project.
Some things to think about when considering the price estimate
What should be considered when creating a bid or reviewing it?
First there are practical things. For instance: how many unique pages are there or even if the timing is a rush? Are you buying a Chevy or a Maserati (are you being quoted an existing “off the shelf” design with basic functionality and minor customization or a fully unique design with a hand built back-end and even a few bells and whistles? Is the basic SEO being laid in place? Will they be setting up support systems like an email list or linking in social media, do they have to create final versions of all graphics, create custom graphics…. it’s a big list of possibilities.
What value will it have for your business
Aside from the practice things; which can to a degree be measured; are the truly important things and they are controlled by the client but affect the contracts bottom line:
- How much value or revenue will this add to the business’s bottom line
- What are the overall projected earnings of that business for the year
For the business owner your goals and projected revenue are important to the discussion. When factored in with the deliverables you can make a good decision for you business. Instead of working at it from your emotions weigh what the offering is in view of your business’ structure and if the price is in line the revenue it will drive for you. Couching your decision in facts will guide you through a cleaner process. Keep your business goals front and center and weigh everything with this in mind.
So now it’s your turn. What’s your experience with this either as the client or the designer/developer? How did you manage the discussion? I would love to hear your thoughts and about your experience. Let’s work together to tame the dragon!
Dragon clipart based on a medieval tapestry. http://openclipart.org/detail/1045/dragon-by-liftarn