August 9, 2016

What to ask next...

Once you have responded to “What’s your hourly rate?” and “How do you price your work?” in your initial meeting with a prospective client, it’s time for you to ask them a question:

“Can you tell me a little bit about the project?”

The client will then proceed to braindump for a while. Usually at least 15 minutes, but probably more like 30. 

But here’s the thing:

Almost nothing they say will be of any value.

While they are talking, you should:

NOTE: You should barely talk at all during this brain dump. You want it to end as soon as possible. You want the client feel they have shared everything they know about the project.

Do not ask questions about scope, or features, or color palettes, or unit testing, or etc etc etc. These things don’t matter yet. Even if you did ask, their answers would probably turn out to be wrong anyway. 

Do not get excited by some novel problem that the client describes. Do not start exploring possible solutions, or trying to demonstrate how smart you are by describing a solution. 

Chatting about project minutia like scope, features, and deliverables will prolong the conversation without learning anything useful. It’s just useless noise at this point.

The purpose of this meeting is NOT to determine scope, or identify obstacles, or agree on deliverables. 

The purpose of this meeting is to find out why the client wants to do the project. 

Without the answer to this question, you have no way of knowing whether you could deliver a positive return on investment. 

Without the answer to this question, you have no basis for calculating a price that would be profitable to both parties.

And if you eventually take on the project without the answer to this question, you’d be like a doctor performing heart surgery simply because the patient asked for it. (e.g., Patient: “Hey doc, I heard you do triple bypasses! Can I get me one of those?” Doctor: “Sure! Hop up on the table and I’ll grab my scalpel!”)

Next time, I’ll explain how to find out why the client wants to do the project. 



Don’t have my book yet? You can buy it here: