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A potential new client finally dropped into your inbox. You’ve wanted this client for so long and they are finally here with an RFP. It is almost impossible to believe it! You haven’t wanted anything this bad since you first crushed on Sally during hormone-raging, junior high years.

The Qualifying Call

With shaky hands you reach for the keyboard to set up a quick phone call to discuss the project. The client obliges and the next day you find yourself talking to them IN REAL LIFE. You’ve dreamt of this moment so many times it truly seems as if you manifested it into reality. The client walks you through their needs and they seem genuinely interested in working with you.

Since you follow my content, you likely know that I recommend qualifying the client, project, and budget before proceeding with a potential opportunity. Being thorough, as you are, you ask enough questions to qualify the project. It is a good fit for your mad skills. You already know the client is a good fit and your new contact seems nice. And, oops, you forgot to talk about the budget in your phone call (or maybe you chickened out) so you really don’t have a sense of where to price it.

Pricing and Panic

You think to yourself, as panic sets in, “Oh no, what if I price it too low and it makes me seem too desperate? Maybe I should price it higher and act like I’m busy and I’ll have to work them into production? You know, like play hard to get. This will make them think I’m really in demand and they will probably want me even more!”

Desperate or Busy

Are you worried about seeming desperate? Should you act busy and play hard to get? (I’m not gonna lie, I hate that this mindset even exists.) Here is my recommendation.

If you want the project or client TELL THEM. You don’t have to play games. Everyone is already bombarded with click bait, discounts, sales, left-digit effect, price brackets, anchors, coupons, BOGOs, and every other psychological game we play in the business world. (Don’t get me wrong, I believe these things have a place, but NOT if you are trying to land an opportunity you REALLY REALLY want and you aren’t sure how to proceed.)

The Desperate, But Not Desperate Script

It is OK, in fact I advise, saying something like this to your client.

“I would love to work with you and I don’t want to price you out. Something like this would usually be $xxxx to $xxxx price, but I’m happy to work with any reasonable budget you have. We would really love to work together. Please let me know a good budget number for you and let’s make the scope work.”

This approach is professional, direct, and clear. You give the client a budget number to start with. You’re not hiding anything and you are expressing your sincere desire to work with them. You may feel desperate, but you don’t look desperate.

The word “reasonable” shows that you aren’t just going to cave and do it for free. And mentioning the scope shows that there may be a little negotiation involved, but you are coming to the table with a desire to get through that process and make it work for the client.

This approach usually results in an open conversation about the money and will help you secure the project WITHOUT playing the “too desperate” vs. “too busy” game in your brain.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.