But when should you throw out the initial price?

piled stones

In yesterday’s letter, I shared that, ‘hey, you shouldn’t throw the initial price out for a project until you’ve asked questions and thought the project through.’

I mentioned that there were occasional exceptions to this approach. Y’all wrote in to ask about those exceptions.

So, let’s talk about those exceptions. When can (or, should), you throw out the first price on a call? And what risks do you accept by doing so?

Exception One: Productized Services

Productized services are services with a fixed scope, fixed price, fixed timeline, and fixed deliverables. By standardizing your offering (and shrinking the range of options), you make it easier to quote a price immediately. There’s less uncertainty for you or the client.

There are fewer ways the scope can unexpectedly shift with a productized offering, so you’re safe throwing out that initial (standardized) price.

Here’s an example:

<them> We need help with our website. Our marketing is terrible, and our homepage is out of date. Can you help us refresh our homepage to tell our story better?

<you> I’d be happy to help. I have a ‘Homepage Refresh’ offering. I meet with your executive team, talk through where the homepage is lacking, interview you about your brand and upcoming marketing focus, and then draft an updated version of your homepage to address the issues (with one revision included). The project will take six weeks from kickoff to delivery, and you’ll get the final copy (and layout suggestions) in a Google doc. The price is $3,500. Would you like to move forward?

Because you’ve standardized your process (and turned your offering into an off-the-shelf product), there’s less risk on the project. There are fewer bits you’ll need to figure out, you already know the steps you’ll take, and you’ve optimized the process the client will be moving through.

All of that adds up to it being less risky for you to throw out the first number. So go ahead!

After all, instead of quoting them a price on a squishy service offering (where the scope is made up customized to the client’s needs), you’re quoting them on the price for a standardized product you’ve delivered before.

Exception Two: You’re Selling Roadmapping

Roadmaps are strategy- and discovery-focused initial projects, typically sold as a productized service.

The goal of a roadmapping project (or as I like to call it, a roadmapping session – https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/) are to:

  • Discuss the project with the client
  • Identify unknowns or potential sources of risk
  • Get on the same page in terms of goals, target outcomes, budget, and timeline
  • Define a plan outlining the next steps to take to move the client towards their desired outcome

Roadmaps are excellent at reducing risk for you and your client. When you meet, talk through the client’s goals, and define a plan to follow, you’re getting on the same page and identifying (and eliminating!) sources of risk.

I love roadmaps. I recommend them to nearly every client. (In fact, Double Your Ecommerce’s Website X-Ray is a strategy- and discovery-focused SEO roadmap, focused on identifying the top ~5-8 SEO opportunities and issues facing a Shopify store and defining a plan for what high-impact optimizations to tackle first.)

When you’re facing down a project with a squishy scope where the client wants a price, and you need more information before you can share a price, you should recommend that they start with a roadmap.

Here’s an example:

<them> We need help. Our competitors are outranking us in Google. We don’t know why that is, and we’ve tried EVERYTHING. How much will it cost to fix our SEO and get us ranking #1?

<you> I’d be happy to help, but, alas, I don’t know enough yet to quote you a price that’s more than a wild guess. To help you move forward, I recommend we start with a discovery- and strategy-focused project to build a roadmap on how to get you moving towards #1. My roadmaps are $1,000, and at the end of our work together, you’ll receive a strategy document from me outlining the recommended path forward, a list of recommended high-priority projects, and a price quote for the next project we should work on together.

Because you need more information, it makes sense to start with a roadmap. And because you can sell roadmaps as fixed-price productized services (learn more here: https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/), it’s very easy to quote a price for this discovery work.

Bottom-Line Recommendations

  • Don’t throw out the first price until you’ve asked questions and thought the project through
  • If you’re selling a productized service, it’s easier to quote a price because your process, deliverables, timeline, and price are all standardized. (The client is buying an off-the-shelf product from you, like a can of soup at the grocery store.)
  • If your client doesn’t have the information you need (or you have many questions to ask and think through), you should start by recommending a roadmapping session. That will make it easy for you to determine what steps to take and share accurate and realistic estimates and prices with the client.

And if you’re looking to learn more about selling and delivering roadmapping sessions (and how to sell them as a productized service), I recommend you check out Quick Start Roadmapping.

Inside, you’ll learn:

  • What goes into selling and delivering a roadmapping session
  • How you can get started selling strategy and discovery to your clients
  • The process to take a client through from ‘you have a new lead’ to ‘how to deliver your roadmapping project.’

Plus, templates. Glorious templates to help you sell, perform, and deliver roadmapping sessions, including:

  • Project Questionnaire Questions Swipe File (learn what questions to ask in your roadmapping sessions)
  • Roadmapping Meeting Agenda (get a battle-tested agenda as a starting point for your roadmapping meetings)
  • And the advisory sheet, “Top Mistakes To Avoid With Roadmapping Sessions” (avoid the common pitfalls as you get started selling roadmapping)

Learn more about how you can get started selling roadmapping right here: https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/



I write a high-quality, daily newsletter about marketing, growth, and lead generation for indie consultants, freelancers, and service professionals.

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