Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Confused in Connecticut

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Dear Bonnie,

I have a potential new client who is too cool for school and won't answer any of my questions. Simple questions like, "When can I expect to receive more content?" get no response. Meanwhile, they want an estimate. What should I do?

Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused,

I’m not sure that they aren’t answering your questions because they’re too cool. In fact, it may be the opposite and the client is embarrassedly avoiding your questions because they just don't know the answers, and are not cool enough to say so. The first thing for you to to do is figure out if you want to work with this person. People usually reveal their true colors in the proposal phase. If someone is pushy and inconsiderate and dodgy as a potential client, they tend to behave the same way as an actual client. If they are respectful of your experience and time from the beginning, they tend to continue to be. In other words, a client in good stead tends to stay in good stead, and an annoying client tends to stay annoying. In this case, that means they will probably sidestep your questions throughout the project.

If you do still want to work with them, you should begin by determining what you MUST know in order to provide an estimate, which will probably be different from what you’d like to know. Explain that in order to give them an estimate you need just three (or whatever the number is) pieces of information to move forward. Spell it out as clearly and simply as possible.

Assuming you get what you need, make sure that when you do provide the estimate, you note that it is JUST an estimate. Let them know that you'll give them a more accurate cost when you have more information and will then issue a detailed contract before the start of the project.

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