People that work for themselves know their time is valuable. If they’ve a head for business, they know precisely what an hour of their time is worth, and their monthly revenue objectives. Really good businesspeople even know how much developmental or non-revenue-generating work they can take on each month or quarter before the law of diminishing returns takes over and risk sets in. The line between “income now” and “potential income later” can be a narrow one. So what type of client opportunity should you think twice about?
The Carrot and the Stick
It can be a tough lesson, especially in the early days of business, to learn the difference between clients that just want a job done, and clients interested in your expertise. Maybe you can nudge a few in the former category into the latter category, but at what cost? Will you have to reduce your rate or submit a reduced estimate to get the client to approve the new scope? Change your terms? Knock off a few features (perhaps prudent now, but may lead to remorse later)?
Sometimes you can reap rewards from giving – investing – concierge-level service and bestowing add-ons to clients, the type that favor such consultants with repeat business or a referral. Other times your hard work and diminished profits become a pawn in the game. Any derivative of “If you can give us xxx at a discount this time, I’ll have a case for sending you more work” should prompt you to stand, shake hands, and excuse yourself from the meeting, pronto.
“Just Get It Done” Clients
This tire-kicker type is often price-sensitive – possibly for the sole purpose of wielding control. He may or may not have been burned by a freelancer previously (real or imagined injustice). He has trouble seeing beyond the top layer of a problem and, frankly, has little interest in your cautions about the framework underlying the project or ancillary issues. He usually wants things done his way: quickly, cheaply, and with little disruption to his personal schedule. This type of client likes boxes checked rather than real solutions.
Pay special attention to any of these behaviors:
- Difficulty meeting by phone to go over your questions
- Incomplete or nonexistent project brief
- Email replies that lack substance (did he even read your questions?)
- Ridiculous timelines (surely they knew they were set to launch a new product before now?)
- The “Hot Handoff”, i.e., “We had someone helping us but we fired them because…”
- Initial inquiries that begin with “How much would it cost us to…?”
If you have some extra time on your hands or think you can piece together enough information from this guy to do a quality job that A) won’t become a time suck and B) won’t bite you later, then these clients could boost bottom-line monthly revenues. You just suffer a little metaphorical blood loss in the process.
Next time we’ll look at dreamy “What Do You Think?” type clients, the ones that, regardless of their size and income statement, look for fresh ideas and value-learned opinions, even from little old you.
Meanwhile, keep your antennae up and listen to your instincts.
Photo Credit jkunz