You know the feeling when you estimate projects for new clients: You run the numbers, and then run them again and maybe once or twice more. And yet your cursor still hovers over the “send” button on the email. I’ve been at the freelance game long enough to know there aren’t many constants, but estimate anxiety is surely one of them. When your mousing finger freezes up, it’s time for a reality check: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Your instant response might be “I don’t get the job” or “They want a discount” or “I get ghosted.” Sure, those are a bummer. But they’re not the worst.
The worst is that you get the job at a price that makes it a bad deal. Not enough compensation for the workload or the deadline constraints or—let’s face it—the handholding required for a given client. That makes you unhappy, and it’s also an opportunity cost. And that makes it harder, maybe impossible, to deliver an excellent product for your customer. That makes it a bad deal for them, too.
Obviously, you can always raise your rates for the next project with that client. That comes with its own challenges, though, because it’s darn difficult to un-anchor a price expectation.
Reducing Estimate Anxiety: It’s a Mindset
Sometimes you need to trick yourself into action. It’s not cost effective to spend hours tweaking the price by a few bucks up or down, and it makes even less sense to waste a lot of emotional energy in the process. Asking What’s the worst that could happen? functions as a final reality check to verify you trust the numbers you’ve crunched. Given the facts you know and the gut feelings you have, do you believe you’ll be happy if the client responds “Yes, let’s get started”?
An example: I recently received an inquiry from a potential freelance client to work on speeches and compile books in a topic that’s a significant professional and personal interest of mine. In a few back-and-forth emails, we had terrific rapport. As a rule, I don’t get too excited about projects or clients until a deal is signed, but I’ll confess this one had me buzzing.
My first estimate wasn’t accepted, partly due to weakness in the currency of the client’s home country. Bummer. So we negotiated a bit on price and the list of services. Still no, as it was after one more round of negotiations. I’d reached the point where it just wasn’t going to work, no matter how I penciled it out nor how cool the projects were going to be. I told them thanks and to keep me in mind when they had the budget, or even when their currency firmed up. (It hasn’t.)
The feeling of hovering your cursor over the “send” button when you estimate projects is part of the business. But from a productivity perspective, you need to create a system that gives you the confidence to get past estimate anxiety—and let the chips fall where they may.
Hello, Providence! I’ll be heading to ACES 2019 next week, presenting on a few of my favorite topics: how to identify and deal with red-flag clients, and a joint presentation with Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing on the freelance feedback loop—a.k.a., how to use pricing and other data to improve your business. Hope to see you there.
NAIWE News: I’m honored to have been named “The Freelance Expert” on the Board of Experts at the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE). Check out the NAIWE site for lots of great training opportunities and how-to articles on everything from the fine points of writing and editing to building your business and career.
Share your thoughts in the comments: Do you agree or disagree that the worst that could happen is getting the job at the wrong price? What’s your favorite trick to overcome estimate anxiety?