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“Normal” customers are a blessing

Abe Lincoln said that God must love the common man since He made so many of them.

If that’s so, I have days as a freelancer where I believe that God must love pains in the posterior since He made so many of them.

Actually there are all sorts of customers who are pains in the fanny. Sharp stabs. Dull aches. What itches like a mosquito bite and then become painful upon scratching.

As a freelancer / consultant, I have experienced all of them. Here is the wildcard of pricing freelance and consulting work. Indeed, it the wildcard in dealing with all facets of the business.

How do you estimate time you will spend making innumerable changes back and forth? Pleasing multiple participants with warring opinions all at the same client? Time spent clarifying an assignment you don’t understand?

Time spent phoning names you’ve been given to track down a specific number or other detail that’s crucial? Time spent negotiating an unfortunate truth that no one wants to admit to but must be included for regulatory or other reasons?

And then there’s the time you can’t really report. The time spent pacing in frustration, going for a walk to cool off or simply whining.

Sometimes the answer is to charge by the hour and remind the client that you are doing so. And then sticking by your guns.

Sometimes the answer is a project fee, specifying that only one or two revisions is included.

Or simply charging an especially high fee, aware that if the prospect rejects it as too high, an underpaying headache has been averted and passed on to someone else.

If you have a sense of the client in advance, you try your best to price that in. And if the situation turns out worse than expected, sometimes all you can do is remember that for next time. If there is a next time for that client.

Sometimes things simply don’t work out. I phoned someone with a heavy foreign accent. I couldn’t even figure out his email address despite asking several times to clarify. So I sent him an email as best I could which turned out to be incorrect.

That’s the way it goes. It wasn’t meant to be, I figure.

And then sometimes I have a client who is exceptionally rational and easy to work with. The rate I am charging is modest . . . but well within a range that is respectable even in the U.S. of A.

Yes, I get the same emails as you about getting paid what you are worth and sometimes I suspect those writers would be ashamed of me.

But I have no plans to mess with something that is working. Though my rate per hour is not what I would like to believe I am “worth,” I love clients whose jobs go smoothly, time after time. Where I spend no time suffering and all my time on the assignment doing the job.

It’s a blessing.


Originally posted 6-6-11

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