That’s a common dilemma most freelancers face at some point. If you quote a ballpark figure early on, you run the risk of scaring the prospect away before you have a chance to explain the value of your services.
But, if you wait too long, you risk wasting time with someone who would never pay anything close to professional-level fees for your work.
So, what’s a freelancer to do?
You quote the ballpark figure anyway. And you do it as early in the conversation as possible.
It’s a Matter of Time
Here’s the thing. As a freelance professional, your most valuable nonrenewable resource is time. You must use it wisely. So when you spend two or three hours “educating” a prospect on the value of your services (and why you’re a much better option than someone charging one-tenth of what you charge), you’re using up valuable billable time.
Let’s settle this argument once and for all: There are enough prospects who understand the value of what you offer to save you from wasting time with those who don’t.
Believe me. If you accept this fact and are willing to let the deal go elsewhere, you will be a much happier and wealthier freelancer. Yes, it’s hard to see a potential client walk away because you won’t budge. But, let’s face it. If his budget is 75% less than your absolute minimum fee … what’s the point?
Take the Stress Away
Another reason to quote a ballpark early in the conversation: It’s much less stressful than quoting your fee and waiting days to hear back from the prospect.
When you have three or four hours invested in that prospect, you feel much more committed to the deal. So if pricing suddenly is a big problem, you feel that you have to make it work somehow. After all, you wouldn’t want to let that time you’ve already invested go to waste.
Spend Time Assembling Pricing Intelligence
Naturally, in order to provide ballpark quotes early on, you’re going to have to assemble some sort of master fee schedule, which lists all the types of projects you work on and the approximate fee range for each.
This is going to take some work. You’ll have to go through dozens of completed projects and estimate their value based on what you charged, the level of difficulty, how long each took to complete and so on.
You’ll also have to call some trusted colleagues for their advice. And you may have to scour freelancer sites to get an idea of what others are charging. Do this part last, however. You want to have a good idea (from trusted sources) of what professional rates are in your field before you go out to sites of freelancers whom you don’t know and who may be severely undercharging.
What If You Keep Scaring Them Away?
OK, Ed. But what if I keep scaring prospects away? What if after all this work, I still run into the same problems?
Simple. Start pursuing better prospects! (Notice that I said “simple” and not “easy.”)
I know it’s tempting to go after only local small businesses or folks you know. I’m a big proponent of tapping your personal and business networks. So I see the value of approaching what may seem like low-hanging fruit.
But, if those folks simply don’t get it … why bother?
Again, there are enough prospects who understand the value of what you offer to save you from wasting time with those who don’t.
Part of my definition of “wealthy freelancing” is working with clients you enjoy—people who value your skills, insights, creativity and work ethic. Clients who give you projects you want. Projects that enable you to make a nice living and enjoy a great lifestyle.
Screening out poor prospects and clients early in the process is essential to achieving this level of success.
What About You?
Do you quote ballpark figures, or give precise estimates? How quickly do you respond to an inquiry from a prospective client?
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