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The Denver Web Technologies Meetup Group Message Board Business › challenging client issues

challenging client issues

A former member
I have a new client who is giving me the hardest time about my rates. Her company potentially has more work than I can even handle alone considering I work a full-time job as well as run my own design company. She didn't want to go by my hourly rate, so I agreed to give her flat rates on a job by job basis. Easy right? Wrong. We'll exchange a dozen emails about a job for which I'm only billing 1 hour of my time. I've already been giving them aggressive time quotes to attempt to win the client who is of course on an "extremely tight budget". The result after 3 small projects is that I end up spending as much time communicating with this obsessive emailer as I do working on the job effectively cutting my rates in half. And now to top it off, she's threatening to go elsewhere because my rates are still just too high, unless I'd consider lowering them. I'd love to know how some you handle shrewd clients like this. I'm completely prepared to walk away, but it could really be a lot of business.
Any thoughts?
Sean K.
seanking
Littleton, CO
Hi Michael,

You might want to check out this story for inspiration/sympathy. Not exactly the same situation, but the same theme--integrity and worth.

Too often fellow designers are compromising way too much in pay rates and effectively cheapening our chosen profession. Contrary to popular opinion, this is hard work and should be rewarded in kind. Bottom line, look hard at yourself in the mirror and think about what your time is worth to you, then stick to it. If you are worth the price, someone will pay for it.

As for your client, I think you've already come to a decision on this and just need some reassurance, so here it is: Cut her loose. Let some other poor designer deal with her. A high maintenance client is all right if they are willing to pay for it. But the worst kind of client is the one that doesn't respect and value your work or your time (in terms of $$). Besides, it sounds like she's just trying to keep moving you back on your price because she thinks she can.

PS - Never, ever, agree to a flat rate. Because of the nature of web design, you will always end up working more for less money.
A former member
Thanks for the reply. Good words of wisdom. Before I read that though, here's what I did. It's been amusing me all day. So she wrote me an email stating they were going to have to rethink the situation and shop around. After several hours of no response from myself, I get another email that just says "any chance of lowering your rates?". This just seemed totally manipulative to me. So the next morning I replied with this:

I'm sorry my efforts have not been sufficient to create a mutually
beneficial relationship between (company name) and flashlab media. I
understand that the tight budget and time constraints we are all under
sometimes make it very difficult to reach an agreement. I realize that
my rates may at first seem high to you, but I think there are some
important factors to understand about hiring a contract designer.
Without a larger entity to employ them, freelance designers are left to
provide for themselves all the things regular employment typically
would. Some of these items include: health insurance, paid breaks, a
guaranteed number of hours of work even in periods of low work volume,
paid training, workers compensation benefits, and no responsibility to
provide for equipment, maintenance of equipment, or overhead expenses,
ect.. On top of these expenses, taxes are also deducted from my income
as well. Perhaps a larger firm would be better able to provide the
services you require at a more agreeable price. If you have a large
enough volume of work, it may also be a better option to actually hire
an in-house designer. In any case, please feel free to contact me
about future projects if it is a practical solution for you and thank
you very much for your business.
(end)

So I pretty much thought that would be it. A nice professional goodbye and a little client eduacation. Not two minutes later she replies saying that in light of the work I've done for them she's determined to have me work for them, but she just has to convince her boss that it's worth the cost. ??? I couldn't believe. Her earlier email all but said "YOU'RE FIRED!" and now she's determined to have me on board? Crazy. I haven't heard anything since. I don't really care if they give me any more work, it's just curious to me at this point.
A former member
I have to believe that most potential clients don't want some wimpy pushover. They want someone with a certain amount of self-worth and confidence. I think you showed that with your response.
Sean K.
seanking
Littleton, CO
Excellent work. Very professional and admirable way to handle the situation.

Whether or not you keep the work, you can walk tall knowing you did what's right for you. Working with other people (especially freelance) will always require some compromises, but never your own integrity or worth.

BTW - Al (zarabadoo) was nice enough to set up a small mail list so we can to talk about issues like these between meetups. Its at http://webdesigndenver.zarabadoo.com­. There's about 10 or so people on the list, but all are web professionals in Denver. I'm going to send out a link to this conversation here because I think it would be great for others to see how you handled this situation.
A former member
Post #: 55
Hi Michael,

You might want to check out this story for inspiration/sympathy. Not exactly the same situation, but the same theme--integrity and worth.

Too often fellow designers are compromising way too much in pay rates and effectively cheapening our chosen profession. Contrary to popular opinion, this is hard work and should be rewarded in kind. Bottom line, look hard at yourself in the mirror and think about what your time is worth to you, then stick to it. If you are worth the price, someone will pay for it.

As for your client, I think you've already come to a decision on this and just need some reassurance, so here it is: Cut her loose. Let some other poor designer deal with her. A high maintenance client is all right if they are willing to pay for it. But the worst kind of client is the one that doesn't respect and value your work or your time (in terms of $$). Besides, it sounds like she's just trying to keep moving you back on your price because she thinks she can.

PS - Never, ever, agree to a flat rate. Because of the nature of web design, you will always end up working more for less money.

I strongly recommend reading a free ebook called "Breaking the Time Barrier." If you just Google the title you'll find the link to download it. It's essentially about trying to get out of the charge by the hour/selling hours mentality and charging for what we're worth, for the work we provide, and how a professional online presence (not just a "website" basic business listing) using social media marketing, effective SEO terminology, real UI/taxonomy, content that makes sense, and only working with clients who value and appreciate what we provide.

Flat rates devalue what we do. And I also recommend going to WordPress.tv and watching some of the videos by Chris Lema and Troy Dean about business and marketing. You can't let someone who does not understand or value what you do set the terms. You would never walk into a lawyer's office and tell him or her how to write the contract or how to best defend you in court, or tell a dentist how best do a root canal. Yet we as developers let potential clients tell us what they will pay, how to develop a professional site, and what to do and how to do it. It never works. And it takes a craft and turns it into just another job.
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