Easily one of the most difficult things I had to learn as a developer is this: Estimating my time accurately
There are key questions to ask, unforseen issues that arise, and fickle client requirements and changes. About 4 years ago I changed the way I build my proposals and estimates for projects. I no longer sell hours. I sell solutions. None of my clients care about how many hours it takes me to solve their problem as long as the solution is delivered in a timely manner, and more specifically: when I said it would be done.
I’ve mentioned it many times in these posts, but this revelation hit home for me after reading “Breaking the Time Barrier” by Mike McDerment. Check out that link. The book is free, and a very quick and useful read.
Once I got my mind wrapped around the concept of providing solutions rather than selling hours, my whole business model changed. I’ve written my own short eBook that touches on this concept several times, called “The Skeptic’s Guide to Hiring a Consultant”. It’s a quick treatise on how to be a smarter client, and one that I should probably require any of my new clients to read if I’m being honest. Once you are able to convince your client to be honest about their perceived value of your solution, it becomes almost trivial to come up with a price that makes sense. Would you spend $40,000 to make (or save) $200,00? Of course you would. It also forces the client to be honest about the value my solution will provide. If you’ve inflated your “milllion dollar idea”, you won’t be willing to spend $100,000 on getting it built.
Approaching projects this way has also provided a level of natural selection on my clientele. I can usually figure out pretty quickly if the client doesn’t think much of the solution they are asking me to quote on, and there have been times where I simply say “I can’t solve this problem for the amount of money you will need to spend to get it solved”.
The short story is: Ask the right questions, understand what your client wants and the value you provide will become obvious.