Ok, that title isn’t exactly scintillating, but lowering the perceived and actual risk for you and your clients is a big part of landing paying gigs and making your clients feel confident. There’s plenty of risk when hiring a freelancer and, as a freelancer, empathy regarding that risk will give you a massive advantage in landing them as a client.
The client isn’t the only one taking on risk with a new project. Think of the risk of not getting paid for hours you’ve spent working for a client. No one wants to spend time working on a client project they don’t get paid for. It happens all the time, which means you should be sure to guard against it.
The Trick to Changing Things for the Better
I have a little trick to lower risk for both you and your client. It’s a simple compromise. Charge hourly for planning, then give them a fixed bid to build the project.
Break down the project into two logical pieces: planning and building. The planning phase should be flexible and your billing model should reflect. This is when your client can give extensive feedback, change her mind, explore new ideas, and be otherwise contemplative. The planning phase should entail a lot of change and flux, which means you really should charge hourly to protect your time.
A planning phase like this is a unique service unto itself and carries its own value. Planning is often something that clients don’t do well simply because they don’t know all the concerns regarding their project. That’s why they’re hiring you after all. After the planning phase, you should have done a good enough job that your client could theoretically take the work you’ve done to another freelancer and get the project done based on your plan.
Switching to the Fixed Bid
Once the planning phase is done, and you and your client are 100% agreed on the scope of the project (direction, time, features, deliverables, roles, content, etc), switch to a fixed-bid approach by giving your client a hard-and-fast cost for building out the plan. If you’re the type to use a contract, this is where you pull it out. Your client will probably want a couple revisions down the road, so build this into the plan at the appropriate stages (like around visual design and content implementation) to preempt their concerns about losing control of the project.
This approach, hourly at first and then a follow-on fixed-bid project, eases the risk that both you and your clients incur. It means that both parties compromise, but the outcome is mutual respect and trust. Think of this as another tool in your sales kit for landing new clients.