Brochure writing and playing nice

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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.

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  1. Princess Jones says

    Jake, I quote high, too. One, I’m a fast writer but that doesn’t mean the research won’t take forever. Two, everyone’s always happier when you come in under and very few people are happy to hear a project came in over.

  2. Dr. Freelance says

    @Princess, that’s exactly it—setting the expectation is part of the deal.

    @JPB, thanks. I’d like to think so.

    @Cathy, I appreciate being called classy—that may be a lifetime first, haha! The most successful businesspeople I know are also great at building relationships.

    On a side note, Lindsey commented on my Dr. Freelance Facebook page that one of my sentences needed to be modified: “But I have found that in a hardball world, there are often benefits to playing nice—when the client is clearly awesome, as in this case. Good edit, Lindsey!

  3. says

    They don’t call you Dr. Freelance fer nuthin’! Now we know how you got your Ph.D. Yes, there’s something about integrity that makes a lovely first impression. Great lesson, Jake, thanks. : )

  4. says

    All good points! I’ve learned the hard way why it’s important to quote high. For all the “Bills” of the world who are easy to work with and accept the first version you send them, there are other clients (let’s call them “Bobs”) who are virtually impossible to please and want to spend hours on the phone ruminating about their vision. You can certainly get a “feel” for a client’s work style from your initial interactions, but until you’re actually working together and discussing revisions, you won’t know if you’re working with a Bill or a Bob. And you have to quote high in case the client winds up being the latter.

  5. says

    Thanks, Susan. You’re right–the signs aren’t always evident when a client has “Bob potential.” All the more reason to protect yourself on the front end to avert problems on the back: You can always go down in price, but very tricky to go the other way!

  6. says

    Better to estimate too high than to low ball it and come in over the estimate. I don’t know anyone that would be happy to learn they had to pay more money. Most people however would be happy to learn that