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too many clients! how to not overbook?
do you take deposits for work in advance?
shinyblue




msg:791687
 8:39 am on Jan 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I do small website projects, usually $1-4K. I'm reaching the point where I have too much work to do in one month or two months. How far out do people accept work?

Right now I send a proposal to someone and sometimes I hear back and sometimes not - I don't want to overbook myself by sending out too many proposals, but I don't want to turn away work and then have proposals fall through.

How do people deal with this? Do you book clients in advance? How far? Do you take some kind of deposit now to secure their place? Do you find a subcontractor quick? =)

I know this is a "happy problem", but it's still very stressful!

 

netguy




msg:791688
 1:00 pm on Jan 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

shinyblue, we are usually backlogged 45-90 days. When we send out proposals, we state the delay period to start, and intentionally estimate the project time considerably longer than necessary for both web design and SEO. This provides an additional buffer.

Depending on the project, we ask for 25% to 50% of the project to get in the queue.

Virtually all our business is from referrals, so most clients are more patient than if there is no prior contact of any kind. Either way, be sure to have a section in the proposal that outlines your past performance, so they can have a comfortable feeling that the delay is certainly going to be worth the wait.

While you may lose a few, it is better to be honest up-front about the start time. Most serious clients are looking at the 'big picture' and want to meet longer-term objectives for their companies, so many are often more dubious of web firms that can start immediately anyway.

Steve

Import Export




msg:791689
 11:44 am on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)


too many clients! how to not overbook?

It's an infrustructure problem, not a time management problem. Begin to think like someone growing a business and less like an individual in need of time management advice.

shinyblue




msg:791690
 2:51 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's an infrustructure problem, not a time management problem.

I recognize this...I'm looking for a consensus or ideas on how other web design companies deal with this issue.

shinyblue




msg:791691
 2:53 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Steve, that is very helpful. Do you ask them to send the deposit with the signed proposal?

stuntdubl




msg:791692
 3:19 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

I love having this problem...funny how the best businesses want you more when you act like you don't REALLY need their business.

My solution...raise prices consistently as long as there is high value on your services, or until the phone stops ringing a bit more. It's easiest to quote new potentials the higher rate.

It's ALWAYS nice to be able to be picky about your clients.

netguy




msg:791693
 3:22 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

shinyblue, as soon as they send the deposit, the clock starts for their starting date. Obviously, if we can start sooner than the anticipated delay in the proposal, we will.

Of course ImportExport is correct as well. It's just that some people prefer maintaining a smaller firm - while others (including our firm) find it difficult to find qualified people, particularly for our SEO work.

-Bigger isn't always better.

Steve

web_india




msg:791694
 3:44 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

shinyblue, yes this is a "happy problem", but do not make it stressful.

>> Do you book clients in advance? How far? Do you take some kind of deposit now to secure their place?

While it might not be the best way to book clients in advance but yes you must take some deposit before you begin the work.

>> Do you find a subcontractor quick?
Finding a subcontractor is also a good option - reason being why turn work away - but you have to watch here so that you subcontract work to only reputed companies or individuals as your reputation can also be affected if you get low quality work done.

An additional option to look in view of the above is that you should definitely consider increasing your rates from what you are charging presently - you would find out that you will still getting work and since you can't increase the hours in a day - you can at least increase what you earn from those hours :-)

shinyblue




msg:791695
 10:50 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi all, thanks for your posts.

To be clear, yes I take a deposit before I start work of course, and I do raise my prices regularly, and I am picky about my clients. I am in the situation where I am getting many good clients that I want to take that can afford my prices, more than I can start right away or even in one month's time.

I am seeking specific strategies that businesses use in order to secure time slots for projects to be started in the future. I would like to know what the general practices are, so that I don't surprise any clients with a request that may seem unreasonable to them.

1. How far out will you book a project? Do you have a waiting list of some kind?

2. Will you ask for the normal deposit amount in order to get a spot "on your calendar"? Or a reduced amount as a kind of "placeholder deposit?"

3. Have you ever had a situation where a client signs your proposal, sends you a deposit for work to start in, say, 6 weeks, and then after three weeks changes their minds? Did you refund the deposit? Is there a "kill fee"? Is it less or the same as the normal kill fee that is in effect once work begins?

4. Have you ever had a client balk at paying in advance?

Thanks!

Automan Empire




msg:791696
 10:09 pm on Jan 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Agreed on raise your prices, now. Make hay while the sun is shining, there will come a time in the economic cycle when we are all crying for clients.

This is a decision point.
Do you want to do all the work yourself? If so, one of the best things is to develop a network of other good people in your field that you can send excess work to. It helps to know the particular skillset of each, so you can funnel different projects to the best provider. Your clients will appreciate good referrals, and send you work later that you DO specialize in, especially if you used the referral process to clarify the type of work you can best supply. If things work out right, your referral network will be sending you reciprocal work that they don't do but you do. This is a boutique business model, and since you cannot add hours to your day, to grow you can only raise prices and personal efficiency. This model has an earnings ceiling but fewer pitfalls.

If you DON'T necessarily want to do all the work yourself, and DO want to grow a larger scale business enterprise, the first thing to do is change from a mindset of working IN your business, to working ON your business. Start spending your time communicating with clients, then communicating with the subcontractors/employees who do the actual work. You will also need to do quality control on each worker, search for/evaluate new workers/clients, deal with the myriad things that businesses bring like fees, permits, accountants, etc. I hope it is obvious by now that there will be little if any time for you to be doing what you are doing now, that is, actually building websites. If you try to be a businessman and a production worker in your business too, usually both roles suffer, along with your very sanity. This model has far more pitfalls but theoretically no ceiling on your possible earnings.

chameleon




msg:791697
 11:41 pm on Feb 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

Right now I send a proposal to someone and sometimes I hear back and sometimes not - I don't want to overbook myself by sending out too many proposals, but I don't want to turn away work and then have proposals fall through.

Never stop sending out proposals. If you get over-booked, sub-contract me to complete your overflow! ;)

I'm only half kidding here. Having too much work is an envyable problem. If you're serious about the business, hire an employeed to pick up the slack. Done properly, you'll pay them only a fraction of what you bill, so you'll be making 2x the income and a heft profit margin as well.

If you don't want the burdon of being an employer, work out an arrangement with another firm to handle your overflow. You won't make quite as much profit on the overflow jobs, but you won't have to turn anyone away either. Unless you are very lucky (and/or very good), you will experience dry spells, and you'll wish you had that extra traffic coming your way!

Too much business isn't a problem. It's an opportunity. Look at it that way, and you'll be very successful.

Fortune Hunter




msg:791698
 1:59 am on Mar 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

In my own business I only use sub contractors and unless the business was completely unstoppable like some runaway train I would never hire an employee.

First, employees are expensive and complicated to have no matter how much you are billing. Sub contractors can accomplish the same thing, but at far less cost and headache.

I meet with and build relationships with all of my sub contractors at all times. I try and maintain a great relationship with them so I can call on them in a pinch and have them their to bail by butt out.

I also do this with a whole list of people so I can move from one to another pretty rapidly if one or more is too busy to take on any more work.

I like the idea of taking a deposit to put people in a queue, I have never done that, but I think I will start.

Fortune Hunter

Fortune Hunter




msg:791699
 2:01 am on Mar 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

In my own business I only use sub contractors and unless the business was completely unstoppable like some runaway train I would never hire an employee.

First, employees are expensive and complicated to have no matter how much you are billing. Sub contractors can accomplish the same thing, but at far less cost and headache.

I meet with and build relationships with all of my sub contractors at all times. I try and maintain a great relationship with them so I can call on them in a pinch and have them there to bail my butt out.

I also do this with a whole list of people so I can move from one to another pretty rapidly if one or more is too busy to take on any more work.

I like the idea of taking a deposit to put people in a queue, I have never done that, but I think I will start.

Fortune Hunter

mcguffin




msg:791700
 2:55 am on Mar 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

My company is not in the web-design business, but we do professional services consulting.

If we take a small project, we often ask for 1/3 to 1/2 at inception. We work with the client to determine project milestones where the remainder will be due.

If clients ask, in the proposal, for bios of people who might work on the project, we happily provide those bios. However, we're not committing to provide that team until a contract's signed. In some ways, it's similar to your situation where you're overbooking your time by putting out multiple proposals.

Normally, if we defer a project start date, it's because the client isn't ready for us. It's rare that we're not ready when the client's ready to go. We wouldn't ask clients to wait several months for us to be ready for them. We'd lose sales and they'd move on.

If you want to build a business, find the contractors who can help you execute the work. If you want to build a solo-shop, start passing along leads to colleagues. They'll earn some $, and you'll build some great networking ties for yourself.

You could easily go either way. So, it's up to you.

[edit]pesky grammar[/edit]

shinyblue




msg:791701
 3:07 am on Mar 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, I don't really want to build the business to be bigger - I've done the subcontracting thing and I'd rather not. I have found that it adds a lot to the project management which is not the part I like anyway.

I have a web hosting business too that is growing and I want to devote more time to working on that and growing it, given that it's a business that isn't dependent on me working hourly the way custom web design is. I'd like to move away from that model. So for now I'm just referring people if my queue is more than a few months. Some people are willing to wait, some aren't and that's fine.

I was originally asking more for specific tactics than general business advice - things like putting a time limit on proposals, having a clear closing procedure, that sort of thing. =) But I appreciate everyone's responses.

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