He’d emailed to ask me how I could apply my Never-Charge-By-The-Hour doctrine to what he called “fuzzy projects”.
A client asks you for help on a project that is so ill-defined you have no idea what you’re getting into.
Or panic calls where the client needs help RIGHT NOW!
Here’s what I suggested.
With ill-defined projects you have a number of options.
You can ask the client to come back to you when they have defined the project. Possibly helping them out by asking some pertinent questions.
You can ask them if they can break it down and start with an element that they can define. Then further elements might become clearer in scope.
You can offer to help them define the project – for a fee. Then quote for the copywriting separately.
If they are adamant that the project has to be this way and it’s a case of suck-it-and-see, then do one of two things.
Either agree to work for an hourly rate, and explain you will keep a time-sheet and charge for every hour or part-hour you spend on it and bill them for the total at the end. Then stick to it. This is not ideal but they agree to an uncapped fee.
Or, you suggest a flat fee that would cover the worst-case scenario, which might be, for example, working full-time on the project for two-weeks.
I think panic calls are easier.
Take your normal project fee. And double it.
This is called a rush-charge. The premium is because you are putting other work back, maybe working in the evening or over the weekend, but most of all because you are helping them out of a fix. This costs extra.
Remember, in all cases, they have come to you. That is a massive buying signal. The job is yours to lose.