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The dragonfly
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Like most of us, cheeky customers make me catch my breath (and sometimes mentally stutter). But over the years, I’ve worked up a series of responses that work every time. Here’s an example:

Client [who’s asked for a fixed price on a project with very blurry goalposts]: That’s more than I expected, but we really want you to do the work. If the project doesn’t take as long as you’ve got in your quote, can you only charge for the hours you do.

Reply: No problems at all [dramatic pause]. As long as, if the project involves more work, I can charge for the extra hours.

Client: [lightbulb moment] Oh, I see what you mean. No, that’s fine, we’ll except your quote.

Yes, it’s confronting. But I have lovely clients and, most of the time, they don’t realise what they’re asking (an each-way bet). I’m always respectful and light-hearted about it, but I’ve never had a refusal by being upfront.

Incidentally, Robert G advised me, at the start of my business, to make sure my proposals/quotes pinned down the scope. This enables me to charge for any additonal work (I always advise them before I do it, so they stay informed).

My design colleagues advised the same thing, so I added terms & conditions to my quotes and, for clients I’m not sure about, provide a “back brief” which they sign off on. I’ve only had to call on this once. It means that everyone has a clear picture of what I’ll do – and gives me the opportunity (not the expectation) to over-deliver.