^Oh my yes!
It took me a long time to not start consulting on a project before I was actually hired to do so.
Now, being older and wiser (and sphincter-dilated
), I just sit, ask a lot of questions, and take notes. When the prospective client is finished I say:Just so I'm sure I'm clear on what you're asking (then recap the problem as given).
When they agree I've "got it," I then say:I can take care of that for you. My rate is $___ and it will take approximately X hours to complete.
(If materials or equipment costs factor into the solution I'll also give a ballpark estimate on what they usually cost with the caveat it's subject to getting actual pricing from the suppliers.)
Finally, I'll say: I can begin on <date>. Does all this fit within your budget and timeframe?
Within 10 seconds, one of three things will happen:
- The prospect will tell me "I'll have to get back to you." and wrap up the meeting. About 50% of the time they will call me back. Sometimes they'll also tell me they're looking at other quotes - which is something I encourage them to do whenever they bring it up. (From my experience, the people that tell me that end up calling me back about 70% of the time. Yay!)
- The prospect will say "It's too expensive." at which point I'll need to decide if I want to negotiate or further pursue the project. About 75% of the time I won't, in keeping with the Principle of Indifference pricing model. How to handle that remaining 25% that I do decide to further pursue is a complex topic best left for a whole separate discussion.
- The prospect says "That will be fine. Send us a hardcopy of what we've just discussed." At which point we shake hands and I feel fairly certain that what we talked about will actually happen. (It doesn't always.)
Note: until you have a signed purchase order or letter of intent in hand, you don't have the assignment. And until the client's final check clears, you can't really say you got the job. I could write volumes about that