Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Artful Dodger – From no-win to win-win on offers you can refuse

                                                                  [Black pebbles]

Freelancers live by projects, long-term and short-term, which almost always involve providing a price proposal. Unfortunately, many of these requests are irrelevant due to the task, scope, price, deadline or nature of the job. On the surface, it appears that these situations provide no real opportunity and are simply a waste of time and energy. However, with some lateral thinking and proper communication, any request for a proposal becomes a real opportunity.

The most objective reason for not being able to take on a project is the lack of appropriate skills. Professionals know that discretion is the better part of valor, i.e., if you cannot do it right, don’t do it. So, freelancers faced with requests beyond their skill set tend to write polite refusal notes, hopefully explaining that the task is not in their realm of skill. However, since the requesting party has your undivided attention, it is a great opportunity to market your actual specialty. It is quite possible that the people reading it or any of their friends and acquaintances may need those services now or in the future. This request, however irrelevant, is an ideal opportunity to market as it is requested, does not cost a penny and allows freelancers to express their uniqueness to an attentive audience. Not only that, if you can refer another freelancer with the required skills, the reference will create a wave of goodwill for all parties, which may bear fruits in the future both from the prospective customer and the other professional. Thus, the presented opportunity for future business is just as important as the actual proposal.

In other cases, the requested proposals involve some elements that are beyond the scale or scope of the freelancer. In this case, an opportunity is still present. First, freelancers need to explain simply and clearly which aspects of the project are relevant to them. In regards to the other elements, a freelancer can offer to manage the project or have the potential customer handle the management. Again, if you can provide any referrals, it saves time for the customer and creates a future referral to you. Therefore, it is always good to be aware of professionals with complementary businesses. If the customer should opt for you to manage the project, the management fee provides supplementary income even if it does sometimes complicate life. With or without the management aspect, the freelancer creates a positive and professional impression.

The most common reason to dismiss a request for a bid, at least in translation, is the budget limits. It is often clear, explicitly or implicitly, that each of the parties is on a different planet in terms of price. There is a natural tendency to laugh or scowl and then ignore the request. Even this bottom-fisher type of request is a marketing opportunity. It is worth answering and even preparing a template that states your rate, justifies it in terms of the quality of your work, suggests that it may be possible to collaborate on a small project in the future where the price difference may be less meaningful, and plants in the mind of the customer the idea that you are the person if they need your special set of skills in the future and have an appropriate budget. It is quite probable that no immediate project will arise but business success is a matter of both the quantity and quality of marketing exposure.

In many projects, the major problem is the deadline.  As too many businesses do not or cannot plan ahead, they find themselves needing to outsource a task at the last minute. Here, the freelaner faces a dilemma. This request for a bid is an actual, even quite profitable opportunity. On the other hand, it carried great potential for short-term and long-term disaster in terms of work effort and poor quality. To avoid the danger, it is necessary to carefully consider whether the project can be properly executed within the allotted time. If so, the freelancer can and should add a hefty rush fee to justify the extreme effort. If not, the reply should include a realistic deadline that reflects the time required to provide a professional result. Curiously enough, the deadline is frequently not as firm as it was stated. Therefore, either the potential clients adjust their deadline or refuse the offer this time. The freelancer wins in all cases as maintaining a reputation is as important as gaining a project. Furthermore, the professional approach may bear fruit in the future.

An emotional reason to avoid a project is the unpleasant nature of the work itself. Just because a given task is part of the job description and within the skill set does not make it attractive and tempting. Every profession has its “dark side” of time-consuming and boring tasks. At certain times, freelancers simply “don’t feel like” doing them. In terms of business, this is often a poor choice but even freelancers are human. One way to alter the situation is to offer a price that takes the drudgery into account, i.e., provide a high quote. In such a case, freelancers win regardless of the result as if the bid is refused, a better job will come soon, while, if accepted, a handful of sugar (money) makes the medicine (job) go down, to paraphrase Mary Poppins. Just ask plumbers how much money they take to handle blocked piping from the toilet. Thus, unpleasant work creates an opportunity for higher pay.

In the famous story about lateral thinking, a girl facing the choice of two black pebbles changes a no-win situation to 100% probability of a positive result. Likewise, even faced with completely irrelevant project proposals, it is possible and desirable to answer and gain from them. As Mr. Buffet has often explained, opportunity comes to those who seek it.

*Label all images in order to allow blind people to access your blog.  All pictures via the pixiebay site.

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