Clients ask for freebies all the time. In my research on scope creep I’ve uncovered another winning strategy for handling requests for freebies: identifying nibbles and utilizing swaps.
What? I love little mysteries and things that sound absurd. Nibbles are when people flat out ask you to do things for them for FREE. If you are a web professional, I’m certain you know what I mean! The swaps are asks you have prepared for the client in return. For example:
I might be able to do that for you, however would you consider doing X for me?
Credit where credit is due: Last week I took a workshop from Bob Gibson called Negotiating with Existing Clients at the Bay Area Consultants Network. Bob presented a wealth of information about how to be prepared to negotiate with clients as new ideas and problems come up in your client relationships. As I said in my last article, scope creep really is inevitable in web programming projects and some other kinds of work, so you need to be prepared to respond.
Back to Nibbles: There can be pressure to simply agree to small requests. One wants to keep the client happy and to be generous. You also don’t want the clients to feel nickeled and dimed. However, once people discover they can get something for free, they keep asking. It’s like you’ve trained them to get stuff for free. If you realize your mistake later and try to change it, the client is unhappy because you’ve taken away their free stuff!
What Bob Gibson is suggesting is that you have requests of your own in mind to swap with the client. They might be related to the project such as a discussion about an extension of the project or the time table or it might be something that doesn’t involve fees such as event tickets (if the client does events) or referrals.
This way you aren’t saying “no” to the client but you are asking for something for your time and effort. Expecting something in return does alter the dynamic of the relationship and prevents you from starting a pattern of giving (in the business context) with no return.
This is but one of many strategies for dealing with nibbles and other requests for freebies. I’ve collected a number of books on negotiating. Another great source of ideas is “The Positive Power of No, How to Say No and Still Get to Yes” by William Ury.
Karen Nierlich is an internet marketing consultant at Full Orbit Web and Marketing. She works with clients to help them generate more leads and grow their business. Services include search engine optimization (SEO), creating effective websites, writing calls to action and and other strategies.