Low Budget Projects with Promises of Future Work
Suppose you brought your car into a nearby repair shop for a tune-up. The mechanic took a look over the engine and told you that the cost would be $240, and you replied by suggesting that you pay only $160 this time, but that in exchange you’d bring all your future tune-up work to him. The guy would look at you like you were from Mars, right? And what if you followed up by threatening to take your business elsewhere if he didn’t agree? Right: he’d tell you to get lost.
Nobody acts like this in the real world, both because it’s disrespectful and because it wouldn’t work: people won’t put up with it. Yet this behavior is surprisingly common on the Internet. Freelancing clients are always looking to find ways to cut costs, and one of the ways they do it is by dangling the lure of future business in front of you in order to get you to lower your initial bid. And too often, they get away with it, too: freelancers fall for the trick.
This is something that often only comes up during the bidding process, and so I explore it in more detail in the next chapter. But sometimes clients will say right in the project description that they want a discount on the current project but will promise to make you a regular contractor. In a way, a client who is up front about this “offer” is doing you a favor: you’re better off knowing what you’re dealing with before you bid, rather than finding out later (usually via a lowball counter-offer to your submitted proposal).
There are two basic approaches I recommend for dealing with these sorts of projects.
One is to see wording like “I’m on a budget but will have lots more work coming up!”, conclude that you’re dealing with a cheapskate, and just skip the project. Yes, I did use the word “cheapskate”. Sorry if that’s a bit blunt, but it has been my experience that people who say right from the start that they are not willing to pay reasonable market rates for work they want done are miserly, and generally not much fun to work for.
The other option is to just bid on the project normally, completely ignoring the promise of future work entirely. Simply pretend that the line is not there. In some cases you will still win the project: the client may decide that your bid is the best one, even though you’ve put in an amount you feel is fair, and everyone wins. If the client comes back to press the “lower your price for future work” gambit, then deal with it using one of the techniques I discuss next chapter, such as offering future discounts.
But if you do decide to go after one of these projects, definitely don’t allow these gimmicks to influence your pricing. In my experience, the odds that you actually will get future work from a client who puts one of these “offers” in their listings is usually lower than it is for a client who does not. And even if you do, there’s a good chance that the client will want the work done at the same discounted rate, based on the precedent you have already unwittingly set by working on the cheap the first time!
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