“Establish a ballpark as soon as possible.” That’s what Greg Ioannou, editor–mentor to many, told me when I complained about spending hours on a detailed and accurate estimate only to have the prospective client tell me that my estimate was ten times more than they were prepared to spend.
For one-tenth of that estimate, what I’ll give you is the detailed estimate.
For me, presenting a ballpark estimate “as soon as possible” means almost before they’ve finished describing the project, because they’ve probably contacted me while I’m deep in some other project and short on deadline. I’ve been at this long enough that I know how much I make, on average, on a great number of products.
An instant estimator was born out of Greg’s advice. Type a word count into that widget on my website and watch the time and cost estimate build before your eyes. But my instant estimator relies on an average, the mean of all projects I have ever worked on. For an actual price quote, I need to see the project. Then, I can tell where the writing lies in my “easy-peasy to send-more-chocolate” scale of difficulty, and present the prospect with the three tiers of service discussed last week.
Another option is to ask the prospect what their budget is. Not surprisingly, many prospects guard their budget information, fearing they’ll be cheated if you know how much they’ve got to spend. So, you might ask instead: “I can give you a quote that is going to range from [low] to [high]. Does that sound like something you can work with?”
Of course, the reason I can ballpark with confidence is that I have kept detailed records of my pace over the years. It also helps to work on the same kinds of projects again and again. And some types of projects are more consistent than others. I’m sure there are a thousand other reasons pessimists think this won’t work. But I guarantee you, it’s worth a try. If you know assignments typically pay $5000, there’s no reason wasting everyone’s time when the budget only allows for $500.
Haven’t kept records of your own productivity? Start with one of the generally accepted words/hour paces found online (some right here) to generate a high/low range for each stage of editing. Then start keeping track to see how your pace compares to those. More on that next week.
Once you know that you and your prospect are at least in the same ballpark on price, it will be worth your time to get the materials you need to make a more accurate estimate.
What is your strategy for getting a number on the table quickly? Leave your comments below.
Next week we’ll look at how to track your productivity (pace) so that you can come up with those ballpark estimates when you need them. Last week we looked at the art of the upsell, or: how to generate happier clients and more income. Also check out this post about Pricing a Project.