Got me all like..

Preamble

On one of the consulting Facebook groups, Freelance Hackers, I saw something that holds true to Hacker Ferret Software as well as countless other freelancing and consulting companies and thought it worth pointing out.

The post is by Heidi Hanson reads as follows.

TL;DR: If you’re going to make a post here, then be clear and honest and responsive!

Between my partner and myself, all of the leads we’ve responded to from this group have had the following results:
– Client asks for quote and then says ‘I got a lower quote, I’d like to go with you only if you can beat my other quote of xx less’ (extremely unprofessional)
– Client asks to talk, interview becomes a long and free-advice seeking mission, client admits they can only pay about 1/10th of what project should cost even when we help them come up with a very conservative and affordable plan
– Client is broke college student, says they can only pay a few hundred dollars for a massive undertaking
– Client doesn’t know what they’re doing at all and isn’t ready to hire. Client has no plan, no designs, and no concept of what software development costs
– Client replies and says they’re excited to talk, schedules a time, then flakes on the appointment.

I like this group, but I’d like to see it flourish.. and we’re all wasting our time if we continue to condone leads like this.

This inspired me to go over them in depth. Let’s talk about these in a bit more detail.

 

#1. Unreliable Communicators

“Client replies and says they’re excited to talk, schedules a time, then flakes on the appointment”

UnreliableYou wouldn’t enjoy an employer flaking on you for a job or a Dr for a diagnosis then why is cool to flake on a consultant for a proposal? I’ve experienced this for my free 30 min meetings, mutually agreed on follow-ups, feedback sessions, initial contract negotiations, after receiving all the client’s project info and personal information and awaiting the signing of a contract (kinda weird getting a clients credit card, and existing code based and not their contract signature)  and worst of all receiving payments. If no one has ever told you that “ghosting” is worse than a negative response up until now … consider yourself officially warned. If for whatever reason, you hit a snag in talking to a contractor then some response is always better than no response. Consequently, if you do this enough I will charge you a “Jerk Client Penalty” then refuse any future business with you and let my contacts\partners know about you.

#2. Quote Bating\ Unrealistic Estimations

Client asks for quote and then says ‘I got a lower quote, I’d like to go with you only if you can beat my other quote of xx less’ (extremely unprofessional)

Comic “CREATIVE DIFF’RENCES” by Johnny Sampson © 2015 Johnny Sampson All rights reserved

I’ve never been one to deny shopping around as thing you do in life but to be a brazen, bull headed, brat about my project estimate\hourly rate is something that I don’t tolerate. I’ve spent many an hour on project research work that would be considered “spec work”\“Free work” prior to delivering a rough estimate. This in and of itself is one of many parts of the life as a consultant that I’d consider a real pain in the rear but, because of the way I do business, is often crucial to getting work. If you are not serious about working with me or think I’m too expensive then let me know any concerns you have in this regard up front. I’m pretty flexible in terms of payment timelines, project scope and would be glad to give a bare minimum, ball park number up front and prior to any in-depth project research. I do realize that in this world there are companies and individuals that are cheaper than my rate. This is not something that needs to be pointed out, nor is this something that you should expect to change by asking.

 

#3. No Concept of the Cost of Implementation

-Client is broke college student, says they can only pay a few hundred dollars for a massive undertaking

-Client doesn’t know what they’re doing at all and isn’t ready to hire. Client has no plan, no designs, and no concept of what software development costs

This sort of thing is pretty common among young business majors, small business owners and folks that consider themselves “hustlers”. They typically have a “Game Changing”, “Revolutionary” or “Disruptive” idea that has next to no actual research into implementation, customer validation or planning but, they are convinced is worth its weight in gold.For more on the value of an idea check out my thoughts on ideas vs execution.  There are a couple variations on the “No Concept of Cost” scenario.

#3a. The Lower Expectation Variant

Comic “CREATIVE DIFF’RENCES” by Johnny Sampson © 2015 Johnny Sampson All rights reserved

 

This will typically begin with an “I only have $x” or a baseless “There is no way this should cost any more than $y” I’ve been called a ripoff, overpriced, BS artist and similar by folks like this. Any continued extended conversation with this type of person will likely end badly and I attempt to extricate myself from them at the first opportunity. Arguing the merits of being properly paid for your work doesn’t typically help as they have vilified you and causing a scene will not likely endear you to them or others around you. I chalk this up as a product market miss match and that they are simply not my customer and after a bad experience or two they often will come around asking you to fix their broken\unmaintainable product.

#3b. The Partner Variant

They typically have no idea what an undertaking of what they are asking costs and typically they will frame the conversation in such a way that they are doing you a favor by approaching you at all. After talking to them for a few minutes about the money they typically deflect with a meager single digit percentage 1%- 5%  for you after they make a profit with it. They sling around all sorts of fanciful magical thinking-ism like “All you have to do is….”  “when we get acquired you get a …”  “You’d be dumb not to…” I won’t deny that there are times where partnering with someone as a technical founder isn’t a completely off the wall idea. I will say that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. My fellow consultants at Krit write about finding a technical cofounder in depth.

 

4. Penny Pinching

Client asks to talk, interview becomes a long and free-advice seeking mission, client admits they can only pay about 1/10th of what project should cost even when we help them come up with a very conservative and affordable plan

 

Penny PinchingI’ve gone as far as putting together an initial projection for 3-6 months with milestones, API mappings, technology plans and all the trimmings for this type of customer after about a months worth of work and had all of it sent to an outsourcing company for pennies on the dollar. It starts reasonable enough with all expectations seemingly set with respect to budget costs and timelines. They want you and claim to be okay with pricing and have no problems signing your contract (at first) but, as time goes on they ask just a bit more from you before signing the dotted line after each meeting and giving you an endless stream of promises on that contract. “Just one more thing and we will sign”  eventually turns into “We just can’t afford you. ” or “Would you just work for $x?”. They suck all the work you put into planning up and send it to a cheaper alternative often a college student dev or off shore company\upwork. I’ve played with the idea of charging upfront for a proper project plan but, have not had any luck with this. The best I’ve been able to come up with is time-boxing the amount of effort put into the upfront work and leaving an option in the contract to pivot or renegotiate on a project should there be any red flags after it starts.

 

Conclusion

From what I’ve seen and heard from other independent working creatives these are some of the most prominent problems. Before talking to myself or other consulting agencies I’d recommend at a minimum keeping these in mind.  Many of them boil down to a combo of the golden rule and just not being an asshole.

Aside

Comic Strip “Creative Diff’erences” credited to Johnny Sampson.
For more about him or his ongoing weekly comic “CREATIVE DIFF’RENCES” check him out at http://www.johnnysampson.com/ or check out the folks that publish them “Co-Op Advertising” https://www.instagram.com/cooptoronto/