How to Negotiate When a Quote Doesn’t Match Your Expectations

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When looking to hire a designer for your project it’s important to understand the relationship between your scope, timescales and budget. If you can prioritise between these three constraints and identify the one you’re most willing to compromise on, it can allow you to better negotiate. This is best explained through a worked example. So let’s take Mary who has written a children’s book and is looking for an illustrator to bring her writing to life.

Scope – Mary wants a 32-page book with x double-page spreads, x single-page spreads and x vignettes in full colour.

Budget – Mary can only spend a maximum of £3000 on the illustrations as she’s needs to ensure she has enough left over for a website, self-publishing and promotion.

Timescales – Mary wants to get the book on the shelves before Christmas which only leaves her 3 months in which she can get the illustrations done.

Similar to Mary, when reaching out to a designer for a quote on a project, you’ll usually have an idea of what your expectations are of those 3 constraints. After discussing her requirements with a few illustrators Mary learns that her requirements aren’t feasible. If she is able to relax one of the three key constraints then she may have better luck with her search. To do this she needs to make a call about what is important to her.

The general rule of thumb is, only two out of three of the constraints (Scope, Budget & Timescales) can be non-negotiables.

Non-negotiable Scope & Budget
Let’s say Mary is set on how much of the book she wants illustrated, to what level of detail and her budget is fixed given what she can afford. If she’s flexible on timescales she may find a designer that freelances in their spare time or someone who can take on a non-urgent side project and meet her needs within her budget.

Non-negotiable Budget & Timescales
If Mary had a fixed budget and isn’t prepared to move on on her due dates, then being flexible on the scope of her project could help. These could mean reducing the number of illustrated pages that she’s asked for or reducing the fidelity of her designs. By doing so she will be reducing the level of effort for the designer which should bring her closer to her budget and timescales.

Non-negotiable Timescales & Scope
If Mary isn’t prepared to budge on the timescales and the scope of her project is fixed, if she can be flexible on her budget then she should get closer to finding what she needs. This usually means a designer re-prioritising their workload to ensure the client’s work gets done, which can come at a premium.

So if you find yourself in a position where a quote doesn’t match what you expected and you are keen to negotiate, consider which one of the three constraints you’re most willing to relax on, this should help you get closer to what you are after.