Blog: Design Musings and Other Nonsense

We discuss design, business, web products and other miscellany.

On Quoting High


The other day I was having a conversation with a fellow web designer, and the topic of current work came up. This designer mentioned to me that he had just written a quote for a web app project, but he did not really want it, so he quoted it high. This struck me as funny, and I have been thinking about it a lot since then.

In a nutshell, this is a strange behavior. I will admit, I have done this too, but I still have to wonder why it is not acceptable to just say no thank you to a quote we don’t want to write. After all, that would be the honest thing to do. But, as I am somewhat loathe to admit, this is not what I have always done.

What is funny to me about this is how we are valuing our own discomfort, our acknowledgement that there is (probably) something very wrong with this project. To me, money is a funny tradeoff to make for suffering. By doing this, it is almost like we are saying, at my normal price, I will not tolerate abuse. If you pay XX% more, though, you can abuse me all you want. It sort of reminds me of that game kids play where they quiz each other how much money it would take for one of the other kids to do something disgusting. My answer was usually that I would not engage in any of it, for any amount of money.

Again, I am not saying I have never been guilty of this. In my rookie days of doing web design work (especially when I was just getting started, lo so many years ago), I wrote lots of quotes I secretly wished would turn me down. I did not feel like I could say no, especially when I needed the money, and I did not feel it was ever OK to disappoint someone coming to me for help.

And, maybe that is what this all is. Maybe we are afraid of not offering the kind of service we should (although, I would argue, that service should never mean suffering) if we dare tell someone “no”. However, I would argue that maintaining your integrity is the only way to offer great service. Just as the customer should not have to lose for you to win, the inverse is true as well.

Or, maybe this is just the easy way out. Maybe by secretly hoping the client will turn us down saves us from having to set the boundary ourselves. Maybe this move isn’t service masquerading as self-sacrifice, maybe is it just a passive-aggressive move to get people to do what we are unwilling to.

Whatever it is, I look back on doing this sort of thing and I just sort of scratch my head. To me, now anyway, my own sanity and integrity are far more valuable than some percentage multiplier on a nightmare project.

But, maybe this attitude is simply what comes with maturity. I am usually happy to just say no thank you (followed up by some referrals if I think someone else could help them), and be glad that I did not inject myself into a situation where misery seemed imminent.

I also think that saying no is one of the most important things any designer can learn how to say. Of course, tact and timing matter, but as a designer, you will have all sorts of forces trying to convince you away from your (often expert) opinions. And, money puts enough pressure on us anyway, why add to it by selling your integrity, or at the very least, your peace of mind? To me, this is always a bad deal, and by not being honest, you are not doing the client, or yourself, any favors.

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