The thing that really used to kill me on flat rate projects was project management time. One client would take little hand holding, but I’d have charged a lot.
Then the next client would want me on the phone daily and I’d have charged too little.
It seemed like something I almost never got right.
Here are some tips to try and catch those extra pricing considerations in your project estimates.
Point of contact
Who is your point of contact at the company? Do you get to just talk to a single person or are there many people that need to be copied?
If you’re lucky enough to have a single person (and I always insist on that) do they have the power to actually make decisions? Do they have direct access to the decision maker or do they have to go to the ‘web group’ and get a consensus decision?
The fact is that the more people you have involved in the decision making process the longer the project is going to take. The best case scenario is when your main contact point is the decision maker for the site.
The ‘worst’ case scenario is when you have to report to a committee of people and they have to come to a consensus. Not only can it be frustrating to hear some of the absolutely asinine arguments from departments, it takes time to get that group together before they get to make their self-serving points.
A single point of contact that is the decision maker takes wrangling your schedule and their’s for a call. Getting a group of people together means many many schedules.
My best recommendation is to wrangle schedules right away and pick a single day and time of the week to meet each week the project will be running. Then you know you have one chance each week to get real decisions from people.
Are they onboard?
While you may be talking to a single person it’s possible they are not on board with the web project. Maybe they just happen to own an Apple computer and thus are viewed as the ‘tech person’ at work and get the web project tossed at them.
Maybe they hate the company and are just sticking it out in a job because of benefits (which is insane I know).
Maybe that committee of people has one person on it that always derails every decision. They always have the bad reason and no solutions.
How does the company want to communicate with you?
Do they want daily phone updates?
Do they love Basecamp or Trello?
Does that communication style fit with your favourites?
What time do they want to talk to you?
Here is not where I tell you to avoid phone calls. Talking to your client is one of the best ways to really get to know them and build a rapport with them. People trust you when they like you.
I am quite happy to use any communication medium that a client prefers but on my terms.
I only book calls at 9am PST or 1pm PST. I only book them during those times because that gives my hours after a call to actually get some work done. Booking a call at 10am is a sure fire way to make sure I tackle nothing hard for the whole morning.
I only have 40 minutes before the call (accounting for more coffee and a bathroom break) and by the time the call is done lunch is fast approaching. You need big swathes of time to get things done so make sure you get them.
Yeah how on earth do you find out these things about a client?
By talking to them more than once before you start the project. Don’t rush from initial call to estimates and deposits and contracts.
Ask them if they have a project management system to use. Ask them if they have to report to on project progress and outcomes. Ask them if they want a weekly or daily phone meeting. Ask them how many calls they expect to get during the project? Ask them what their preferred in project communication tool is.
Then make sure you account for all of that in your project proposal.
Weekly helped me here
Moving to weekly pricing helped me here. On a project in December 2013 the client wanted to talk lots. Sometimes twice daily.
Then we missed a weekly milestone and they weren’t super happy.
Our next call focussed on the time that I was spending managing the project and a light bulb turned on for them.
We cut back our calls to 2 per week (I had already enforced my 9am call routine) and nothing slipped further.
If I had been billing flat rate I would have had to go back to the client and ask for more money (or realize it was a money loosing project) and tell them essentially that they talk to much.
Weekly pricing helped them see the cost of project management and decide how important it was for them to talk daily. They easily could have decided to talk daily still and add 2 weeks to the project.
They decided that 2 extra weeks wasn’t worth the PM time though.
The second thing is that weekly pricing helped me with is that no client likes to see a line item about PM time. Any consultant worth something will be charging for email and meeting time but no client really wants to know the meter is running.
Weekly pricing means that I don’t have to start ‘running the clock’ when the client calls. It’s all just included. Yes in my example above we were using lots of PM time and we addressed it to hit the goals of the client but they never say a line item about 20 hours of PM time in a week.
That’s it for my pricing series. Is there anything else you’d like me to talk about in regards to pricing?