Friday, July 04, 2008

Say no to el Cheapo

I have been think over some of the material that I learned in the Presentation Zen workshop with Garr Reynolds at WebStock the other day. One thought, probably quite random keeps bobbing up to the surface which is a realisation of a problem that I have been contemplating for years.

"Be very expensive, or free. But never cheap."

A number of times I have allowed myself to be whittled down on price because I kind of felt sorry for a client, or because there were a friend or colleague whom I wanted to help out. The 'mates rate' never turns out to be a good idea. Things take time whether they are expensive, cheap or free. But by allowing the project to err into the cheap zone you go with it into a bad psychological place that can lead to problems.

The cheap client has a moral position over you. Having agreed to buy your services at a reduced rate the price is irrelevant - your obligation is the same. A small amount of money might be perceived by the client as a great deal of cash - it might be all they have and so their expectation is elevated, possibly to higher level than for a client who is not betting the farm.

In my experience el cheapo clients tend to behave the worst. They often demand more from you than first class, full fare paying passengers. Like holiday makers on a budget they want their full allocation of complimentary drinks, and will doggedly stay awake on a trans-continental flight to make sure they don't miss out on any in-flight service.

If there is a project you want to do, but the client doesn't have the cash to pay your rate-card fee, and you want to do the job do it for free. Come to it from a generous place - don't be the mirror image of the cheapskate and demand more of the client because they are enjoying your beneficence. Do your usual great job and do your best work. Why would you offer anything less whatever the price? (after the money is spent you still have to live with your work). As a measure - if you can't afford the time and resources to do it free, and it will never be a job you can be proud of - don't do it at all. Having dud projects orbited by the satellites of passive aggressive reasons why it could have great - if wasn't for a) lack of budget b) cheapskate clients c) any other feeble excuse you can think of - will affect your ability to shine your brilliance on the plum jobs that keep you in the luxury you have become accustomed to.

My suggestion is that you budget a certain number of pro-bono projects each year and stick to it. Or learn to say no. Life is less complex that way

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