Discussed money with a client, now they're not responding.
July 15, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Fellow sons and daughters of MeFiDom! I have taken your advice (that is, the extract from the collective juice from all your advice) and I was direct in the way I discussed money with my client. As a reminder, this is my previous post. Alas.. they didn't respond, so I figured my price was too high. Problem is, it's a project I really like. What now?
posted by cyrusw8 to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you lost the project, probably. That's a shame, but on the other hand, you may like the project, but the client doesn't sound too great if they can't even respond to discuss the price. That is generally the kind of client who turns into a royal pain in the ass later on.

Sounds to me like you dodged a bullet there. Whatever you do, do not lower your price!
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:23 PM on July 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

What now?

Find a new client.

No, really, that's the answer. Contractors can't effectively negotiate on price. If the client's budget is so tight that your portion would break the budget, the client is effectively insolvent and they are not worth working for. If the client just likes to hire cheaper contractors, then they are not a client worth working for. If the client doesn't respond to emails, then they are not a client worth working for.

Consider what it means if you were to decrease your cost and the client decided to start working on the contract with you. Say you decrease your price a little bit (say 5%) and they wanted to work with you. Figure out what that 5% adds up to and determine if you really want to work for someone that needs to save that money. Say you decrease your price a lot and they wanted to work with you. You will not be able to easily increase your rate in the future, and you will be stuck with that price for a long time - in particular, forever with that client.

If your rate is appropriate, then your client can't afford you. That's not a bad thing. If every client was able to afford you, then you are pricing yourself too low. If your rate is not appropriate, then you should reconsider your rate - but not with the client in question, who will take rate reconsideration as a hint that they can push you on price indefinitely in the future.
posted by saeculorum at 3:25 PM on July 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I care about this client and the project means to me on many levels. Getting back in touch with another offer is probably not a good idea. If in fact the client thinks it's too much to ask, how can I urge them to reconsider without appearing weak?
posted by cyrusw8 at 3:37 PM on July 15, 2014

how can I urge them to reconsider without appearing weak?

You can't.

This is part of working on a contract basis. You need to accept that you are now a business, and businesses don't interact with each other with "care" or "meaning". If you don't like that, you should not work on a contract basis. Companies don't get upset when a deal falls through - they strategize how to make the next deal work. You should do the same thing.
posted by saeculorum at 3:46 PM on July 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Come on, are you telling me if there's an account you really like you won't bother chasing it? Okay I get the "I have to maintain my professional image" but it is depressing..
posted by cyrusw8 at 3:51 PM on July 15, 2014

Do you have any idea what their budget is? For all you know, they may have grossly underestimated the budget and it may not be worth even discussing anything further with them.

If they didn't respond at all to your proposal, you could contact them as a follow-up and ask if there is any part of the proposal they'd like to discuss further. But, I wouldn't do much more than that. And, please don't offer to lower your rate as the first or second solution. It teaches clients that your price isn't real and it also teaches them to treat other creative professionals that way.
posted by quince at 3:54 PM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Didn't respond"...did you follow up to ask them if they have had time to consider your offer? It may actually still be on the table - can't hurt to ask for a decision from them...
posted by NoDef at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think the core problem is that you don't have enough information to really attack the problem. Follow up with the company to get a concrete answer on whether they've decided on a contractor, and then you could potentially offer to negotiate and/or address concerns if they haven't already contracted with someone else.

If they have contracted with someone else already, or if they just decide to give you a wall of silence, you're probably SOL.
posted by Aleyn at 3:57 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am confused. You keep calling this party a client, but you were never hired. If that is the case, they are a prospective client. The prospective client probably thought your price is too high. It is unprofessional that they are flaking instead of being direct.

Saeculorum has really good advice. This is business, not friends, so you can't take it personally every time you fail to close a deal.

The answer to "what now?" is pretty obvious. You work for your existing clients and get new clients. Or, you find a new line of work that is not independent contracting.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:03 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should follow up and ask them what's going on with the project in neutral terms.

You are correct to not want to bid against yourself, though. If they want to discuss money, try to make them name a number next.

Btw, my current approach to freelance clients like this is, I take a guess at what their budget for the project might be, then try to bid above it, but not so far above it that they think it's not even worth haggling with me. This does two things:

1) They get a good impression of my worth, since I have the confidence to ask for what they consider a high number
2) Ideally, they come back with a counter-offer which is their maximum budget for the project, or close to it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2014

Given that your previous post was only ten days ago, there was a long weekend in there, and it's summer and summer hours right now, odds are pretty good they haven't gotten back to you yet because they haven't had time to think about it and decide anything yet. In my experience, some clients will get back to you same-day and say "Yeah, sure, I'm sending over a contract." Some take another few weeks or months to get those wheels turning, even if it's an enthusiastic yes to your rate. Stay the course, friend, the ball is still in play.
posted by Andrhia at 4:23 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help friends!
posted by cyrusw8 at 4:33 PM on July 15, 2014

It is not clear how long you have waited. People are slow. Somebody in the pipeline goes on vacation or some other thing comes up. Or, sometimes emails go to spam folders or there are other unintended hiccups in communication.

You can contact them again and ask them if they've had a chance to think it over. Go ahead, if you think there's crossed wires or you're just feeling anxious.

If you're pretty sure they're cutting off contact because they don't like your rate, that's a different story. Cutting off contact as a way of saying no is an asshole move. (A rather common one, unfortunately.) You can still send them a ping, but if it was me I would sharply revise my idea of how good this gig really was.
posted by mattu at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2014

Email them to check-in.

Dear _____,

Just touching base to check in on this proposal. Have you had a chance to review it? Would love to set up a call to discuss and get your thoughts and feedback. Let me know if there is a time early next week that works for you.


posted by amaire at 5:14 PM on July 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Given the number of salesmen who call me over and over despite rejections, I'd say the risk from a followup call is nil.

I wouldn't assume the price was too high. Lots of projects hang fire, often for long periods.

[Wonk alert] There is a pretty problem in one of my math books that demonstrates that, under certain assumptions, for a contractor there is a certain rate of return which is a critical point. He should accept projects that pay a higher rate and reject projects that pay a lower rate. If he does so, he should earn an average rate over time (incuding downtime) equal to the critical rate. I don't think the assumptions are necessarily realistic, but it's still a great insight. [End wonkiness]
posted by SemiSalt at 5:38 PM on July 15, 2014

Are you saying that you love this project so much that you'd do it for little or no money?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:59 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can't discount yourself. There are tons of great projects out there. Always have a full pipeline so you don't end up obsessing over things.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2014

Clients (especially naive clients) are sometimes reluctant to state a budget figure because they are convinced you will automatically find ways to spend it all. Frank talk about realistic costs is the only way to show them otherwise.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling to ask if they've had a chance to review your bid. Nor is there anything wrong with asking -- "How do the numbers line up against your budget?" I've also used the line, "Did you find any surprises or were the numbers within expectations?" to get a conversation started.

And IF you hear that your bid is just too high, don't revise your bid -- revise their expectations. Ask, point-blank, what they want to spend. Then suggest what you COULD do to meet their business objectives within that budget. Maybe it means scaling back the scope, strictly limiting the number of revision cycles, using their in-house resources for draft development and bringing you in later in the development process. Keep the focus on their business objectives and demonstrate your expertise/creativity in how you brainstorm to meet those objectives within their stated budget.

I find it helps to say "we" a lot! "Well, if we can't afford a Cadillac, let's build a fully equipped Chevy to get us where we want to go!" You aren't negotiating. You're putting yourself on their side of the table and showing them that you are just as invested as they are in good stewardship of their funds.

Even if you lose this project, you'll give this client a better understanding of what you do and how much you can contribute. A better educated client is a smarter client ... and a much easier client to work with and for.
posted by peakcomm at 7:31 PM on July 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

I see it somewhat differently from the other posters. You obviously really want to work for this client, you are excited about the project, and (it appears to me) you are looking for permission to give them a healthy discount. If you really want this job that badly, go ahead, and charge them whatever you think they'll accept. I think it will be a good learning experience for you, regardless of how well it goes. We humans sometimes don't learn stuff unless we actually go through it. I think working with clients in this scenario is rarely a win for the vendor, but you might need to actually do this to really believe it.
posted by Atrahasis at 8:51 PM on July 15, 2014

You've got nothing to lose by sending them a message, such as:

Hi _____,

I was hoping you hear your thoughts about my proposal for the _____ project. Since I haven't heard back from you, I'm not sure whether you started the project with another provider or postponed the start date.

Thank you for letting me know the status.

posted by Dansaman at 10:04 PM on July 15, 2014

IF (and that's a big IF) you feel the need to give them a discount, in order to get to do the project, by all means be sure to TELL THEM SO. It's not always wrong to give someone a lucky break if you know that's what you are doing and want to be doing, but you have to let them know.
1) because they'll appreciate it more
2) because there is a smaller (even though it's still non-zero) chance that they will always expect this price in the future

If you give them a discount and do not tell them, you can bet your sweet ass they will always expect that lower price from now on.

Also, be sure to tell them a plausible reason why you can work for a lower price this time (but just this time).

But I would definitely not tell them that you can give them a discount before they have actually told you that your original price does not fit in the budget or is too high for another reason. And if that reason is 'we don't think that the work you do is worth that much'... well, that's not a good sign for the future. Clients who believe that will never be good clients. Is it still a great project if they treat you like shit?

If in fact the client thinks it's too much to ask, how can I urge them to reconsider without appearing weak?
The only thing you can do is to tell them in detail how well you can do this project and how great it's going to turn out if they let you do it, but you should have done that before you told them a price. Before you sell them the steak, sell them the sizzle.
If you've already done that, and they believe you are asking too much, then there is not a whole lot you can do to change their minds.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:33 AM on July 16, 2014

Especially with the way the original one was framed, i would still be in a fairly alarm-bells mode here. Yes, follow up like others said in a "have you had a chance to consider..." way, but then drop it.

They're basically at least hinting at taking the path suggested in the previous question of not wanting to pay a reasonable price for the work. Assuming your asking price was market rate, if they rejected you it's fairly likely that they either don't have the money to really pay you, or are dreaming that someone will come along who's desperate, doesn't know what to charge for this type of work, or something that they can take advantage of.

I mean, maybe they just haven't had a chance to churn through the peristalsis of meetings on getting this done or someones out of town or whatever, but after the previous question, it just makes me more suspicious. an incredibly high percentage of businesses, even sole proprietor small home/family/etc businesses do not work unprofessionally like this with contractors. It follows the outline of work/assessment>estimate/rates>agreement/partial payment up front>work>full payment formula. You got jammed up at the beginning and now you're getting jammed up at the second step.

This isn't exactly an awesome sign, and it reflects just as badly on them as the first part did.
posted by emptythought at 3:49 AM on July 16, 2014

Get used to it. I have sent quotes on $100k+ jobs and never heard a single peep from the potential client ever again. And a couple were "We are definitely doing this and are soooooo excited to work with you!!!" situations. That's why when I send out an estimate, I promptly forget about it and assume nothing will come of it.

Also people are indecisive. There are also the folks who need a price yesterday because their work is oh so important and cannot wait. So we rush to get it put the price together and they go silent, reappearing six months later with the same sense of urgency. Your last post wasn't even two weeks ago so it wouldn't shock me if they hadn't even looked at your proposal yet.

And no, we don't chase clients. Ever. There are tons of jobs we could have gotten had we done them at the expense of our overhead and profit. What's the point of that?
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:36 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in a somewhat similar situation last year, and I did what peakcomm suggested-- I set up the bid to show a golf cart, Chevy, and Cadillac option. The potential client told me she had a bid for $x from another company, so I just told her straight up, "I think you should choose them; I can't be competitive at that rate."

A couple of months later, I heard back that she was having all kinds of problem with the project, and that the company was cutting all kinds of corners to bring it in at that price point. So: better educated client!
posted by instamatic at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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