It has been a busy week for us at MOI, which is a good thing. Part of what has led to the time-crunch is a handful of new projects that required new quotes, which led to old-fashioned head scratching on our parts.
When we started out, we navigated the waters of freelancing like two drowning kittens, desperately clinging to anything, and looking pretty disheveled to boot. Clients noticed. There was a palpable air of poverty around us, in the tone of our emails, the cadence of our conference calls, and the absolute terror on our faces during client meetings. Not to mention the way we smelled. And although we’ve grown into our financial dire straights as though they were two moth-eaten sweaters, we’ve learned to wait until a quote is high enough, until a client is as enthusiastic as we are, until the right life raft comes along in order to take on a new gig. It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t invoice until the completion of a project, which, now, in our haughty sense of maturity, seems absolutely batshit insane. We wondered why we were so often swindled, we cursed the tiny jobs that we “needed” to take in order to eat, most of which were projects that could never be used in our portfolio, projects that robbed us of the elated creative collaboration that has been the motor of our partnership. We were lucky to have each other and a handful of wise Obi-Wan Kenobe types to help see us through times so dire that we split cans of beans for lunch and dinner. No joke.
Guessing was par for the course early on. How much do we charge per hour? How much do we charge as a flat rate for a website overhaul or a press release? Are we Net 14 or Net 30? Er, taxes? A lot of guessing, and learning, hit us hard and often. Sooner or later (later) we plateaued into a comfortable system of operation, using our working knowledge about work to keep our fingers clacking on the keys, and our clients happily appeased. In place of guessing came arguing. I’d want our rates to be higher, Simon would balk. Simon would suggest taking on flashy free work for our friends, I’d say we should have a work-trade. If this company was the equivalent of us having a wailing, wet baby, I was playing the role of “bad cop” and Simon was infinitely “good.” If the arguing took the place of raising the child, then the guess work was tantamount to labor. Well, welcome back to the delivery room.
This week was like a flashback sequence in a sitcom. Suddenly we were faced with two predicaments that led to us nearly scrambling for the canned vegetables aisle:
1. How do you quote a project extension to a client who was paying a flat rate?
2. How the hell do you estimate a competitive quote, based on your hourly rate, for a project you would never, ever say no to, even if the client’s budget tallied up to be free-fiddy-free?
The first one seemed so easy. We have a fantastic client, one who seems to look at us like some sort of Heckel and Jeckel of words, who enjoys our banter and our work to the point that he’s offered to pay us more up front whenever he’s needed a time-sensitive press release, or an additional section of text. Now he would like to change our invoicing system, in light of the project’s scope and increased work load. How could we handle this without it blowing up in our faces? It was similar to a husband, faced with a middle-aged wife trying on her old prom dress and asking how she looks now, if she should get “some work done,” etc. Wherein that husband might instantly think breast lift, the way that he addresses the matter may forever taint the relationship, or at least prevent his pillow becoming stained with dirt from the interior of the dog house.
We needed to view the situation with a wide-angle lens. By looking at this as the opportunity for a long-term business relationship, one with somewhat steady paychecks versus several sporadic invoices, we were able to come up with a new method of billing that would both keep our client’s site afloat with new consonants and vowels, and keep our pantry stocked with vegan vittles and cold syrup. Why not bill per item, and send out our invoices monthly? It wouldn’t matter what we said — “We’ll send an invoice after the first frost.” “Can we bill you using the points system for Scrabble tiles?” — the lesson is in the liaison.
This is a client that we were originally afraid to take on. The project was enormous, we had to ping-pong back and forth over the rate until both parties were slightly exhausted and almost disappointed, kind of like we had played a good game of Twister. But over the course of the past six months we’ve developed a repoire that has led to one of the more productive and lucrative business relationships of MOI’s life. We enjoy working for this company, and we’ll be sad when the hourglass on the gig has run out. But judging by how our work has helped them to drum up business — business that has ultimately led to more work for us — hopefully this back-rub chain will continue for a long, long time.
As for the other Issue Of The Week, the project that we wouldn’t say no to. Imagine, if you would, your most desired crush. This can be anyone, Shia LaBoeuf, that girl with the C-cup and illegible nametag who works at Rite Aid, Rachel Maddow. Now imagine they make a play for you. Sure, you can fall all over yourself in that first date, and put out immediately, but, really, where will that lead you, other to the health clinic and back to the land of bon-bons and no phone calls? No. You have to play the game. So when we were solicited to propose an aggressive quote for a project that would elevate not simply our current workload, but our entire portfolio as a whole, a project that could virtually redefine our company as legit and having “arrived,” well, we couldn’t just vomit up an email laden with “FUCK YES”s now, could we? (We could. But we didn’t.)
Any savvy businessperson or stud-muffin knows, it’s about seeming slightly unavailable and being competitive, without coming across as too much of a hard-ass. We convened. We discussed what a competitive quote would be, and exorcised all of our what-ifs. Obviously, it was negotiable, any number was. And we weren’t trying to come across as too cool for school, our emails definitely expressed our unbridled enthusiasm and humbled dumbfoundedness when it came to the opportunity. So we submitted our quote, which was a reasonable number that we came to after analyzing the number of the hours we’d potentially put in. Perhaps most importantly, we made sure it wasn’t laughable. Now it’s just a matter of watchful waiting until the company decides who to fit into their budget. Pick us! Pick us! At least we can walk away from the table knowing we did right by MOI and didn’t sabotage any future opportunities with this agency.
Sophomore year is interesting for us, we’re harder on ourselves and our clients are more demanding. While many might develop serious cases of agita over the fact that the financial benefits aren’t congruent with our workload’s increase, we’re hanging tight. After all, there’s two of us. We can take turns wringing our wrists while the other takes the helm.
Drop me a line, let me know about your work (mis)adventures: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. And thank you to everyone who donates!
You can always hire us to word you.