By Jake Poinier
Earlier this week, I received a freelance referral from a previous client for a web project — and an object lesson in dealing with ridiculous client expectations.
Nice guy, we got along swimmingly. We went through the sitemap for the new, improved website, I asked my usual rotation of questions, and it seemed like a good match of their needs and my background.
Then, about a half-hour into the conversation, he mentioned that my referral contact had thought the price would be around $1000.
I must have raised my eyebrows halfway up my forehead, because he quickly backpedaled and said something to the effect of, “Now, keep in mind, he had just thrown a number out. I’m a numbers guy, and just wanted to let you know my expectations.”
I resisted the urge to run screaming from the room, knowing there was no way $1000 was going to be even close for a 20-odd page site. We wrapped up the meeting in businesslike fashion and shook hands. I told him I’d crunch the numbers and have an estimate for him the following day.
When I crunched those numbers, they indicated a cost of around triple what he was expecting. I sent the bid anyway, with a mention that I realized the estimate was far higher than he was anticipating. Perhaps not surprisingly, my phone has not rung. But you know, I’m OK with that.
Besides the need to reject lowball freelance work, there’s another lesson in here: You should never, ever try to estimate the cost of someone else’s services. My previous client, in an effort to be helpful, had established a mark that would be impossible to hit, even if my rate was half of what it is. The best course of action is always to let your fellow creatives do their own math — or things aren’t likely to add up.