Saying No, Politely (I Hope)

Untitled, from Robert Longo's "Men in Cities" series. 1980

A list of things actually said to me during the course of doing business, and the appropriate response, should you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of nonsense. Herewith:

We don’t need a contract! Let’s just start!

Your internalized response: Right. And now there’s good chance we’re not working together at all because you just told me that you don’t want to be held to your word.

Your actual response: We need a contract because both parties need to be protected from circumstances in which things might go south. I know this is business, and as such civilized behavior is expected. But business and money are emotional, and people sometimes get hot about it. This contract outlines our rules of play to protect against anything like that.

(If they still refuse to sign, you should walk. The more zeroes before the decimal of the price tag, the faster you should go.)

This pricing looks okay, but I need to get it okayed by the CFO. Can we go ahead and start on the design?

Your internalized response: Screw you for trying to throw sand in my eyes during negotiations, and no.

Your actual response: We need a written approval of costs before beginning. Since we’re actually making things, the numbers are based on an amount of hours to make what you’re asking for—so if something’s in flux, we need to make sure we can give you a good method of creation for a smaller budget, if that’s necessary.”

We’d like to get this produced by an HTML/CSS/jS production team on our own.

Your internalized response: Great, there go my quality control standards. Hello, sunny Mumbai.

Your actual response: You can have this produced anywhere you want. However, I’d like to help you pick that source so we can be sure you get what you need.

HTML/CSS/jS production is a big part of the design process, so the mockups you see could be at the mercy of a production person who simply doesn’t have the visual acumen to accurately recreate what I’ve designed for you. I want to make sure your work looks like it should.

If I do handle the HTML/CSS/jS for you, then you can be guaranteed function and appearance happen exactly as we’ve discussed. But if something happens and we need to visit someone else’s files, then I can’t guarantee the price for production. There’s no one way to code, so there’s a chance our coders would need to spend time looking at the other coders’ files, figuring out how they’ve created them.

We’d like to look at the numbers and line-item things so that we can get the cost down.

Your internalized response: You’re a monkey, and now I’m suspicious that you may actually not understand anything about pricing anything. This isn’t Target, and you are not in the ten-items-or-less lane.

(I have actually had a client sort of agree to a price, then fly us to their office across the country for two days to go over a project line-by-line, and somehow expect that it would translate to a lower number, never mind that they had stopped work on everything else we were doing to focus entirely on their project.)

Your actual response: Pricing item by item generally makes jobs more expensive, because one larger job becomes several small ones when broken apart. It’s the same rationale behind buying larger items in the grocery store for a higher overall price, but a lower per unit price. So in the long run, if you want all of what we’ve talked about, a job price will benefit your wallet. But if you need to pace this out over several smaller jobs, it’ll be more expensive, but you won’t be taking on the entire cost at once.

This has been a public service of House of Pretty’s accounting department. You’re so very welcome.

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