I secured a brochure writing project for a new client this week, a lead brought to me through one of my graphic designer partners. She asked for a quick ballpark range on what it would cost, so I shot toward the conservative end of things, based on my long-standing belief in the benefits of high estimates. I also asked for a deposit, as I always do with new clients.
The client, let’s call him Bill, signed off on it, but when we had our initial (and only) conversation about the content, he emphasized that he didn’t think the project would really take too long. I assured him that the estimate was just that, and that I would invoice him accordingly. I received his deposit check promptly.
As it turned out, Bill was right. I was able to re-purpose a decent amount of their existing materials, and my interview with him and his business partner supplied the rest. All told, meeting and writing took about half the time I had projected. And off it went for approval.
Bill emailed back the next morning that was pleased with the draft, and didn’t request any changes. He noted that he was going to need a brochure for his other business, and hoped I could work on that, too. And then he asked, “What’s the damage so far?”
The truth is, I would have been within my rights to charge him the whole enchilada. But I have found that in a hardball world, there are often benefits to playing nice. He was easy to work with, a clear communicator who didn’t consume more of my time than necessary, and had sent a deposit check as promptly as possible.
My estimate was too high. I let him know that his deposit actually covered the whole thing, and that he even had a small credit toward the next project. There was no need to inflict any damage, nor was I even tempted. I’d rather have a relationship with a client who trusts my judgment and believes he will be treated fairly over the long haul.
Update: Peter Shankman’s post from yesterday offers some related thoughts on distinguishing yourself, and, um, the importance of not being full of shit. His fifth point? “For God’s sake, if you do nothing else, just be nice!” Amen, amen.