High Quality Versus Low Price Projects
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Competing on Price Means Lower Pay and More Competition
Ironically, it’s often easier to win projects with decent skills and a low price, than it is to get the very highest price for the best quality work. Again, this is simply because there are more people looking to buy fish sticks than lobster.
But does the greater demand for moderate quality, low cost work suggest that you are better off focusing in that area instead of trying to be the best? Well, not so fast, because there are also some major drawbacks associated with trying to compete on the basis of price.
One is competition: you’re going to find yourself in the middle of a very crowded field. Just as there are many more clients who ask for work at the low end of the quality/cost scale, there are also many more freelancers at that end of the spectrum. While you will certainly have more opportunities to choose from, you’re going to have more proposals to beat out to land work.
Another drawback of not focusing on high quality services is a function of simple mathematics. Value is the ratio of benefit to cost, so if you want to provide high value at low to moderate quality, you must also charge a low to moderate price. That means that you will be making less per project, and per hour, than you would if you were able to attract a higher tier of buyer.
The high competition and low rate problems in many ways reinforce each other. Many new freelancers find themselves overwhelmed when they discover that a project they are interested in has a dozen or even more other bidders. And geography—or more accurately, cost of living—also comes into play here. If you want to offer good value by charging a low price for your services, and you live in a country where the average annual salary is $25,000, you’re going to have a very hard time competing with people who live in a place where the average salary is $2,500.
Another issue is that just as some providers don’t have the skills to do top-quality jobs, some lack the skills to do low-cost, moderate-quality projects. On the surface this doesn’t make sense, but it’s really a matter of personality and pride in one’s work. As somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I personally have a very hard time just doing a “quick and dirty” job—even when the person I am working for tells me it is sufficient.
So, which should you focus on: high quality projects or low price projects? Again, many professional freelancers won’t consider this a tough choice: even though there aren’t as many high-end projects out there, they will want to go after them. Heck, some might even accuse me of heresy for considering doing low price projects at all. :)
Hey, I agree that most serious freelancers are better off focusing on quality for a variety of reasons. But I think completely writing off lower-price projects isn’t always the “no-brainer” that some portray it to be. Low-price projects can sometimes be helpful in a variety of situations. They can help newer freelancers build a feedback record. They help smooth out cash flow during those infamous dry spells. They can also help establish a relationship with a client that could lead to more and also better quality work in the future. They are a good way to get experience in a new field. Finally, sometimes a low-price project can represent good value for a contractor, if it’s a task that the freelancer enjoys and can do quickly and easily.
Of course, there are good and bad ways to approach low-price projects; jumping into the fray and bidding indiscriminately against mediocre freelancers who win projects solely on price is not the pathway to success. Later on in this Guide we’ll examine in more detail many of the issues related to bidding that can help make even lower-priced projects worthwhile.
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