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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast boagworld's Avatar
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    A new client/designer relationship

    I have been recently writing in my blog about how the way clients commission work needs to change. We need to move away from the fixed price, single project model to something more akin to the advertising agency model where there is an ongoing contact between clients and designers.

    I was wondering... does anybody already work like this? What kind of maintenance contracts do people have with clients? Do you think that fixed projects lead to website stagnation?
    Paul Boag
    www.boagworld.com
    Award winning web design podcast
    email: paul@boagworld.com

  2. #2
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    I guess I don't understand the problem.

    Developing a good relationship with a client leads to further work. At least it has for me. Of course there are those I thought would turn into long-term that didn't, but I have several clients that have either turned into repeat customers or long-term commitments.

    If you finish a project, the client should agree that it's finished and "sign off" with final payment or other verification that the project is finished.

    It's really up to the client whether they will hire you to make changes or hire someone else. I think you would be "cutting your own throat" to insist that every project led to on-going work.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I think he;s trying to say that instead of looking at site development as one big initial 'task' followed by the odd bit of piecemeal re-development, it may be better to approach it like ad agencies do, i.e. 'We have 10,000 each year to dedicate to the web and we'd like you to help us spend that money as best as possible each year to ensure our site evolves and progresses as efficiently as possible.'

    I'd love it if I could work out a way to sell this, but it's tricky trying to buck conventions. For example, in my city I seem to be the only developer who bucks the trend with regard to proposal writing - i.e. I don't do it unless I have 100% commitment from the prospect that the proposal will get signed (or am paid in advance for the proposal creation) - this alone has ben a hard one to sell to people, as it's quite often a case of 'Oh, well, all the other guys we spoke to created very detailed proposals for us, why won't you?'.

    The problem is just that - every other guy is doing it the other way (Paul, even you on your site seem to actively promote the whole RFP thing like it's currently the only way to do things, but there's a lot of people on these forums that use the same technique as myself). So trying to convince people that they need to put me on a huge yearly retainer is going to be some mighty, long term task - but I like the idea of it, as you say, it seems to promote the collaborative aspects of my job as a consultant.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast boagworld's Avatar
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    I am not so sure its such a big transition. At least not as big as saying that I wont pitch for work unless you guarentee me the job (that doesnt make sense to me). I am not even talking about paying a huge yearly retainer. I am saying after the initial build of the site, take the money you would have spent in three years time to get the site redesigned and spread it out over those three years so that the site evolves over that time instead.
    Paul Boag
    www.boagworld.com
    Award winning web design podcast
    email: paul@boagworld.com

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by boagworld
    I am not so sure its such a big transition. At least not as big as saying that I wont pitch for work unless you guarentee me the job (that doesnt make sense to me).
    Well I listened to your pod cast yesterday and seemed to me that you guys spend half you working week responding to RFPs. Now that doesn't make sense to me. Why spend days creating proposals for prospects with absolutely no guarantee that they'll sign it, in addition to the concept that they can walk away and give your ideas to someone else to perform the work instead? And what are the odds you'll get that job? how many other companies got that RFP? 10? 20? 200?

    Surely it's better to arrange to meet a client, discuss their needs and show them what you've done in the past, face to face, with all decision makers sitting in front of you so you can answer their questions and concerns there and then? You can also give them a good indication of the costs and timescales involved to do the job properly. This in my opinion is the pitching bit, and this only takes an hour or so, plus you get to physically interact with the client which is certainly better than being some faceless company name on a sales proposal.

    IMO, a proposal is merely the document you create to detail the agreement you have with a company. Creating a proposal/project specification correctly can take days, even weeks - I see it as part of the initial project fullfillment, and something that should be paid for by the client - certainly not something farmed out to 30 development companies and expect them all to bend over backwards,all putting in days of work when only one guy can actually get the job at the end of it.

    I believe the whole concept of the 'sales proposal' is an appalling way to conduct the sales process - it's inefficient, has low probability and in many cases is simply performed because the developer has no real sales skills and the prospect doesn't know any better.

    I mean think about it - RFP arrives in your inbox, you get all excited, spend a few days creating your 'sales' proposal and pop it in the post and hope for the best. That's not sales, that's a lottery. There's so many other better ways to get business, ways in which you have more control over the sales process - the only advantage of the RFP IMO is that you don't have to do much to get the 'opportunity' in the first place, it just arrives on your lap rather than you going out to find the work yourself.

  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Sorry to go off-topic here, but I do understand shadowbox's point. After seeing one of his posts about getting paid for a proposal, I've tried to do that a couple of times and I did lose one job because of it.

    However, I do think it is right. Why should developers, designers... any web providers work up free quotes only to have clients compare them?

    There are so many people that want you to just ballpark a price and then they are upset if the job gets to cost more or they want to add on additional work in the project. Doing a comprehensive proposal tells the client exactly what they'll get and what they can expect to pay. However, it takes considerable time and someone needs to pay for it. So anyway... thanks shadowbox!
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    I always compare it to the construction industry... (it helps that a lot of my clients are in that industry). If you want to build a house (and don't want a "pre made" spec home) you'll need someone to draw plans, or you can purchase them. Plans usually range from $500 - $1500+ for a decent sized home. That's just the plans... blueprints.

    You can't build a house without blueprints - and they're not free. A home builder isn't going to draw up blueprints hoping you'll buy a house. They'll charge you for it... and if you end up building the house they might credit that much to the cost of the home. Maybe not.

    Still, nothing is free. Especially not a detailed project spec. If we were talking about 3-5 page websites, then who cares. But when you're talking about a dynamic or e-commerce website, or a large corporate implimentation, intranet, etc. why on earth would you spend a week of your life working hoping to land a sale? No thanks.

    I'll meet with a client a few times in person (if possible) to make sure we're on the same page as far as budget, goals, realistic expectations, etc. I'll show them my previous work, give them references, and ask them if they're ready to move forward. I get at least a verbal commitment to buy before preparing a detailed proposal now. I've just started doing this as the projects I've been getting are larger and larger. I can't spend that much time preparing proposals - I'm too busy. Plus, if you only win 10, 20 or even 30% of the jobs you send proposals for - you're spending 70% of your time not making money!

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    After seeing one of his posts about getting paid for a proposal, I've tried to do that a couple of times and I did lose one job because of it.
    Yes, you will lose some jobs to some prospects, sometimes because they don't know any better or may have been infected by your competition's over eager proposal writing offers ( ) , while some simply have to follow the RFP procedure (some public sector for example), so they are unable to offer out work to guys like me unless I adhere to their way of doing things. I say good riddence though, as I went into business to avoid having people dictate how I should set up my business procedures. While compromise should not be completely ruled out, I find the whole RFP situation rather demeaning for a professional businessman -

    'here you go, aren't you lucky - if you spend a few days slogging your guts out for us (along with 30 other poor saps), we might give you this job, you lucky sod. Then again, maybe we'll give it to the guys who wrote the spec list for us, after all, they're our preferred vendor but our industry dictates that we get at least a few other quotes for show. OH, but you never know, we might steal a few of your ideas along the way, aint we lovely?'

  9. #9
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Getting back to the main question -- I do have one client for whom I have done extensive work. He recently gave me a budget for the rest of this year and 2,006 and made me project manager of his site.

    This is what I was talking about building relationships. If you show your clients that you can deliver what they want, simple projects will develop into something better. I do think it is a mistake to suggest long-term to a new client unless you have results you can show from other long-term projects. In that case, maybe it would work, but I think that building trust is the first step in the evolution of a client-provider relationship.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  10. #10
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    I agree with that - most of my clients started out is distinct projects, but as teh relationships (and trust) grew we moved into a move budget-driven model. It's all about the relationships..
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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