As a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we often are asked to provide quotes for a setup or clean-up project. Let’s say you have a prospect call and ask “how much would you charge to get my books caught up for the year?” You have to consider if you have enough hours built in to cover your time. Quite often it’s really difficult to predict until you get in a file. This is a very hard estimate to prepare.
- Do they write a handful of checks a month, or is it a large amount?
- Do they need to track job costing, payroll or sales tax? That can add complications to the quote that are easy to underestimate.
- Will you have enough staff or time to do the project?
- Are they tracking inventory? There is a special level of expertise required to do this.
- Is this something you can delegate or is it better if you do it?
We have run into this issue before and find it is most helpful to do a data file review which we’ve even written a blog on to help you execute one.
In the meantime setting expectations is very helpful. When I first started consulting, it took me a while to figure out what my value was and we are often unsure about how the quote will be taken. When we are new at this and not as skilled, our rates are low and we have time. As we become more skilled our rates increase as well as our speed, although we may not have as much time.
When you are creating a quote, make sure you set out a reasonable timeline so that you over deliver! This always shows excellent customer service, don’t just tell them what they want to hear. Make sure your estimated time is on target, and try to BEAT the estimate. At the same time make sure you don’t take on a customer that does not value your level of expertise. Often I will suggest they hire me for one hour to see what and how much I get done. This way they aren’t invested too much and they get to see if we work well together.
I’ve also been asked, “do you have anyone on staff that is a lower rate than you?” Sure, we have data entry clerks that are less per hour, but they take longer and might not pick up on the advanced issues or be able to handle complex setup or corrections. Ultimately the customer’s bill would be about the same as my other staff might be half the fee but took twice as long. If the client is on a tight timeline, they would often get frustrated.
In summary, when you have a client negotiating about your rates, expertise or timeline, remember this:
“Good, fast, cheap, pick two”
- You can have it fast and good but it won’t be cheap.
- You can have it fast and cheap but it won’t be good.
- You can have it good and cheap but it won’t be fast.
A few words of wisdom shared by colleagues:
- “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur!” ~ Robyn Talbott
- “If you can’t afford to do it right, how are you going to afford to do it over?” ~Helen Donnell
- “Cross training. It’s not just for fitness” ~ Susan Humphreys
In conclusion, we do not advise selling yourself short just to get the job. If you are not appreciated now, you sure will be later. Susan said this perfectly, “I actually told one guy that was shopping, to please keep my number for when whoever he hired messed things up. Guess who called 6 months later?” Sometimes a client isn’t ready to hire you now and will come back later, so always keep the door open for a return request.
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