We’ll tell you a secret: nearly every web services provider sizes prospective clients up before creating an estimate. Experienced firms know that prospective clients who seem organized, decisive, and savvy, up-front, are more likely to see their projects run on time and on budget—clients like this get better pricing. Similarly, prospective clients who seem unfocused, unfamiliar with the work to be done, and in need of a more hands-on approach, are identified as ones who will require a bit more time—these clients are charged more.
This isn’t price discrimination, though it may seem that way at first—it represents your provider’s earnest attempt to assess how much effort your project will really take in order to complete. There’s good news: by developing a few habits that will identify you as “easy” to work with, you will be in better control of your own project timeline, and of keeping project costs down.
Do Your Homework. Providers don’t expect clients to drive a project, but they are looking for signals that the client is taking the effort seriously and will make the project a priority. At early meetings, this means being able to articulate your vision and project goals. At later meetings, this means doing the pre-work required to make the meeting as productive as possible. Providers assume that clients who are serially unprepared will put them on the hook to not only do their own part, but also to help the client do theirs. Conversely, providers who seem proactive and engaged instill confidence that both parties are equal partners in moving things along.
Know Your Role and Understand Your Deliverables. Even when service provider expertise is critical to project success, what they aspire to achieve depends on the caliber of input and clarity you can provide. In that sense, some projects go awry because clients fail to realize how critical they are to the process. In order to fully support a project, clients must understand the role the service provider feels they need to play in order to make the project successful. Clients and service providers should also discuss the set of client deliverables prior to the project start.
Be Responsive. Often, clients who are overbusy and overwhelmed with competing priorities unintentionally cause project timelines to go off track when they are unavailable to promptly answer critical questions, or give timely feedback on project milestones. An up-front discussion with your provider about how long you will need to provide responses and feedback will help establish an expectation that your provider can build into his project plan, and that you can aspire to meet.