I am a big proponent of pricing by the project rather than by the hour; to me, it’s a no-brainer that both my client and I are better off if we focus on outcome rather than the amount of activity required. But what do you do if a prospective client insists on talking about your hourly rate at the beginning of a conversation?
Here’s where I pause and take a deeeeep breath. I never want to talk about the price of anything until I have already demonstrated in my conversation that my goal is to enable my client to accomplish his/her goal. If I lead with a money discussion, I will always be thought of in terms of expense rather than value.If, instead, I guide the conversation back to what my client’s ultimate goals are, then I am seen as an ally who is focused on outcome.
When I get a persistent prospect who wants to talk about prices right away, my response directs the conversation back to the client: “My rule is to never talk about a budget until I understand what your end goal is. Can you tell me a little more about this project?” And if I’m really pushed, I will fall back on “My projects range in price from $500 to $50,000; where do most of your similar projects fall in that spectrum?”
Note that it’s very difficult to have this kind of conversation in email and I recommend against it, even if that means waking up at 3am to call a client half way around the world so that you can talk live. You cannot have a conversation that demonstrates your commitment to your client’s outcome if (1) you can’t make yourself available at your client’s convenience or (2) your client is not willing to engage you in a conversation.
When your clients see you as their partner rather than just an invoice waiting to happen, you are able to explore how you can solve your clients’ problems even more fully, creatively and effectively.