Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Triumph of Hope over Experience

Remember when the client said "I don't have much money, but if you'll do this one at this price, I will make it up to you with the next one"?

I am reminded, when hearing this, of one of England's great literary figures, Oscar Wilde, who said that " while a first marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence, second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience." (sometimes also attributed to a Wilde predecessor, also a literary figure, Dr. Samuel Johnson).

Bringing up a more timely analogy, as Wimpy J. Wellington said to Popeye "I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a Hamburger Today."

In over seventeen years, I have never experienced this as a promise kept, and have long since abandoned any hope. In fact, with all these litary references, I shall toss in one more -- "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."

One solution:
Here's the client's approach, who, in an attempt to get you to accept lower than acceptable terms (as defined by you), says "boy, am I glad to find you. We often have assignments in {enter your city here} and really like your work" and then they go on to say "...the thing is, we only have $400 for this assignment, but I can make it up to you in the future as we frequently have a need in {again, enter your city here} and would love to work with you on an ongoing basis."

Try this: "Wow, that's great. Who've you been working with before finding me?" since they said they often have a local need, why, all of a sudden, are they calling you?

To which you will get the response: "You know, I'd rather not say...", which is because, if you know your local colleagues, you will probably learn that they are either doing these low-ball assignments, or, this client is bluffing, and, moreover, at this lowball rate, the client is dissatisfied, and is literally getting what they paid for.

Either way, try this solution:
"You know, this sounds really enticing. How about this- $400 is really low, in fact, I can't justify it for an assignment like this. But, if it's as you say, and you'll have a frequent need for my services, then let's do this: Assuming that you'll have 10 assignments a year here, that works out to be $4,000, so, what I'll do is charge you $500 for the first eight, and then the 9th and 10th ones will be free. This way, you will stick within your budget over the year, and I'll be assured of a continued relationship and a revenue stream I can count on."

Think I've ever been taken up on this? Nope, and I've proposed it easily a dozen times. Yet, were I able to find a client willing to make that commitment, I would certainly uphold my end of the bargain.

What I have done, is say "let me send you an estimate at the rates I can do this assignment for you, and then let's have a conversation", and my estimate goes out, and I'd say that 80% of the time I complete the assignment at my rates, and moreover, those clients return time and time again.

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Unknown said...

I was ready the first time a client tried that approach. I knew I was a fill in and there would be no "second assignments". When I heard that famous line, I replied I'd glady discount my second assignment. I got what I wanted and expected, one assignment at my rate.

Peter Thomsen said...

Great words of wisdom. "Don't sell yuourself cheap," was one of the first things a mentor told me when I was getting started in this business. Stick to your guns. It will have a positive effect on both your income and preceived value. Thank you for putting this blog together. It is going to be a great resource.

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