What I’m reading: The Racketeer by John Grisham
What’s on the iPod: A View that Almost Kills by We Invented Paris
I was talking with a writer friend last week about work. Things are going well for both of us at the moment, but we’re used to the tenuous nature of the job. What takes a little more getting used to is the day-to-day questions and requests writers get from client prospects.
I was relating an encounter with a prospect in which we were almost to an agreement when the they got hung up on the price. The hourly price. Mind you, I’d furnished a list of estimated costs for various items. They were fine with that. But they saw $125 an hour and could not get past it.
I told them to look beyond the rate and look at the per-project price, saying if they agreed to a project at a certain cost, they could budget for it. I gave the usual options — bulk-rate discounts, payment plans, you name it. I heard nothing back. I’m not within the budget even though I probably am.
We’d just gotten beyond the other obvious question — may we see samples of your work?
My friend and I were wondering out loud why it is that despite hefty resumes and portfolios, we were still having to hold these same conversations. More to the point, why is it we have to continue proving our value to new client prospects?
It’s frustrating, but it’s a common occurrence in our profession. We know we can do the job. The prospect, however, has never met us. That’s where we writers have a sizable disconnect between our egos and reality.
Think about it as though we were about to hire a contractor to install new windows. Word of mouth is great, and a good resume is great, too. But aren’t we going to ask for referrals? Feedback from customers? Why do you think Angie’s List is so popular? We want assurances that our money is well spent. So do prospective clients.
Budgets, I get. Not everyone can afford a writer with a specialized portfolio. If it doesn’t fit with their budgets and I can’t help them fit it within their budgets, not much more to do other than wish them well, and maybe refer them to another writer who could do the job for less (if that person exists).
Portfolios and samples, well, that’s a question that’s never going away. Client prospects want the assurance that the freelance writer they’re hiring is going to be able to handle the job. Even people I know still ask — an editor I worked with for years just asked, and she and I were a dynamic team back in the day. But we haven’t worked together in 12 years. It’s natural for her to ask, and I was happy to provide samples and a resume.
We as writers aren’t going to see the day when new clients won’t ask for proof of our skills. Nor should we want that. Not asking for proof, to me, would indicate a lack of concern for quality, and while it’s not always the case, that’s usually coupled with lower-than-warranted pay.
Writers, when do you think the budget conversation is best held with client prospects?
Have you been able to work out a way for clients, who have originally balked at the price, to afford you?
How often do you send samples ahead of the request for them?
Do you have your portfolio on your website? Has that helped reduce the number of requests for samples?