@curtismchale Yea "Pick one and stick to it"
— Eric Davis (@edavis10) August 8, 2013
Do you have a minimum value for any new projects? I know I do and my current minimum for new projects is $2000. It’s fine to say that but why exactly do I have a project minimum, and why should you set one?
First, there is a minimum cost to setting up any client. You have to enter their information in your billing system and set them up in your project management system. Those are just base admin costs for any client and you need to recoup them. Setting that project minimum can ensure that you do.
There is also a cost to context switching on a bunch of small projects. Each time you have to shut down one project and pick another one up it takes extra admin time. Taking fewer projects at a higher cost means that you have less context switching and thus less time is wasted so more time is paid.
I’ve also found that setting a project minimum helps weed out the projects you just don’t want. You know the local business owner that really just wants you to push some pixels around and add content for them and be at the end of the phone every second of every day. If you have a project minimum you weed them out right away.
That means you weed out the 900 phone calls about an image change that needs to happen ‘now’. You don’t want them anyway so set a minimum and stick to it.
But I have excuses
You will get clients that want you to waive the minimum rate for them because “I’ll have more work in the future that will be above the project minimum”. I’ve heard that for years (across construction and programming) and I can’t think of a single time that the client actually had more work. In fact most of the time they were a terrible client anyway and I didn’t want to work for them ever again.
I’ve had the same experience when I’ve heard “I’ve got lots of friends that need XX and I’ll send them to you.” The friends never materialize and you got stuck working on a project that you didn’t want to take anyway.
Now notice I’m talking about ‘new’ projects. My project minimum typically doesn’t apply to existing clients. I’ll hop on something for them that only takes a few hours. They are already set up and since we’ve done a project before I know how good/bad they are at communication.
The only time I bring up project minimums to existing clients is if they are in my lower 20% and I want to stop working with them anyway. It can be a great way to end the relationship without any hurt feelings. Ending projects with grace is important to keep a solid reputation.
The hard part
The hard part about project minimums is that you may have to say no to some awesome opportunities. As I type this I have a great opportunity to work with a developer I respect on a project that I use and enjoy but it doesn’t hit my project minimum (or fit with weekly billing) so I’m going to say no.
Sure I could say yes since it’s my internal policy and I only have to answer to me about it but I set the project minimum for a reason and that reason hasn’t changed because of the opportunity.
It can suck to say no but you need to remember that saying no to something today enables you to say yes to something later.
So you need to set a project minimum and stick to it. You will be so much happier as you work with better clients. You will be more profitable as you kill context switching.