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Information for buyer to tell seller on first contact


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I like it when potential clients contact me first but it’s important for a buyer to be clear about everything they want right up front because if not it can delay the start of a piece of work, and it can create misunderstandings as to scope and cost.

So to buyers a couple of things that are not useful:
Thing 1:
Buyer: "I want to do something in Excel. Can you do it?"
Me: I don’t know. I mean Excel’s pretty much what I do. But please tell me what you actually want me to do.

Thing 2:
Buyer: "Can you do X?"
Me: Yes, I can do ‘X’. It will be $5.
Buyer: "Can you do Y as well?"
Me: Yes, I can do Y but I have to change the way I do X, so now it will be $??
Buyer: "That’s okay, and I would like you to do Z as well."
Me: internal grumbling

In a lot of cases a change of requirement can affect how a requirement is delivered. The back and fore, re-scoping and refining is very time-consuming when we could be focussing on delivery.

Lately I seem to have been in long conversations (over a week in a few cases) with several potential clients who keep adding requirements. It would be great to get the whole scope upfront, even if it includes some options the buyer isn’t sure about.

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Just wait till you get someone like this who then orders anyway and keeps adding or subtracting to the order and… basically, they’re paying you and they appear to be under the impression that this isn’t a simple gig where you do xyz as stated in your gig, but they’re paying for that plus your time.

Drives me UP THE WALL. Because by the time I deliver, I’m completely confused as to what I need to deliver. They also can’t write a brief to save their lives. Problems upon problems.

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Yep, I’ve had one or two of those too. They order based on first message. Then in the order it’s, Oh,and by the way, can you do this…
i’ve actually someone at the moment, who’s a very nice person, but ordered multiples of my gig with no requirements. They know they want something, they’re just not sure what yet!

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When new buyers contact me for the first time and I think we have decided what needs to be done, I create a proposal in Word and send it to them. This makes it absolutely clear what my offer includes (and sometimes what it doesn’t). Obviously, this is only for orders that are for a decent amount.
It sounds time consuming but actually, once you have a few templates done, you can customize them within a few minutes. This also shows the buyer a level of professionalism which should discourage them from trying to add things to the order. If they do try to, simply send a custom extra with an updated proposal. If Y causes you to have to change the work you have done on X then explain this and include it in the price.
If it goes bad and they want to cancel even though you have done the work, deliver it along with the original proposal. This should be more than enough for CS if the buyer decides to turn nasty.

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I do this too and it’s always a good idea, even with small things, but definitely with bigger jobs.
I always summarise the requirements and clarify them back to the buyer so that it’s clear what’s in and what’s out of the order offer, even specifically stating exclusions. For bigger proposals I have an estimating tool that I can send them if they want to understand the cost breakdown.
My biggest beef is more before the order. It’s so time-consuming to have to re-do proposals and estimates based on requirements being drip-fed through the message system. For my gigs, the way in which you do something might change depending on all of the requirements seen as a whole and I need to look at it in terms of a business outcome rather than picking off requirement by requirement. Not always the case, but enough times that I sometimes spend more time in communication with a buyer before the order than I do on the actual order, and I can’t include that in the price of the gig unfortunately.

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