Creative + Co-Pilot

What I've Learned From Teaching as an Adjunct Professor This Year

The Danger of Estimating on the Fly


I recently learned that my anxiousness to please and lock in clients can potentially lead to promising too much for too little pay. Negotiating on the fly without a full grasp on the project scope can be dangerous and I'm going to explain how I avoid some of these situations. 

Let's just walk through the initial contact with a client. You are contacted through your website about a potential client opportunity. The client talks about how much they love your work, and that they have a new project that will need some packaging, a website and a menu. Sounds good right? It could potentially be a very fun and worthwhile project to work on. You both set up a time and place to meet to discuss the project further, but here are some in-between steps I encourage you to take to prevent taking one in the arse for the sake of landing the work.

  1. Don't go into that next meeting with a number already in your head for pricing, because you haven't hashed out all the details of the job yet! There is no better way to screw yourself out of what you are worth, than to price the job out before you have heard the details.
  2. Come fully prepared to ask the questions that will determine the scope of the project. What is the deadline? How will each design piece be used? What type of distribution or presence does it have on the shelf? Will the client be selling merchandise to continually make money off the artwork you provide? Is the packaging their most forward-facing first impression of their brand? Get really specific when addressing the physical pieces as well. Are there multiple pieces to this packaging project? Does the logo or type treatment need revising or revisiting? How complex is the website you will be designing, is there heavy back-end development you need to take into consideration? Dig in and find out what you are actually going to quote. Details people! Details!

Let's approach this scenario as if we made shitty decisions prior to our meeting. You hear website, packaging and menu in your initial email conversation. You think in your head, oh well I can do a website for 4k, a menu for 2k and packaging for one piece for 3K (all numbers are made up for the sake of getting the damn point across) You feel good about the price and come to a tally of 9k total. That sounds like good money right? 

You sit down with the client to talk more about the project and discover that their logo needs redesigning, (which in all actuality should be the price you charge for a full logo design) the packaging piece is actually packaging pieces with 5 different flavors and labels, and the website needs to have a custom interactive map. You've already come to terms with 9k in your head as a reasonable price before you even walked into the door. Now after having further understood the scope you have to refrain from reverting back to that price. When you are on the spot and the client asks,"How much do you think this amount of work will cost?" you have to resist the urge to give them a number right then. The client is evidently interested in your work, and this shit isn't the Navy where it's life or death. So...whatever you do, don't screw yourself out of the money you are worth by committing to a price without allowing yourself the time you need to fully think it through. Take a day, ponder on that shit and then send it over. The guilt you can put on upon your shoulders for taking on too much for too little is not worth it. 

Don't screw yourself out of the compensation you deserve by being too eager to seal the deal.


Stephen Jones