81

I am a software development freelancer who often gets a lot of quite similar requests from different customers. To make sure that a new customer-to-be feels reassured that I can handle his request, I wrote something like

"While we will have to discuss the details, what you told me so far is quite common for an xyz module. xyz as usual, so to speak."

Now I wonder if that might seem arrogant or negatively convey that I will not create something "absolutely individual" for him. (which I probably won't, since there are only so many ways to get a task done.)

Should I rather go with an "oh, interesting, I look forward to that challenge" attitude next time?

The task is about invisible-to-customer backend data processing.

  • 33
    What's a "customer-in-spe"? – That Brazilian Guy Sep 25 '17 at 22:48
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    @ThatBrazilianGuy Soon-to-be-customer – AlexR Sep 25 '17 at 22:58
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    Making a customer feel he is requesting something "standard" and "common" is the perfect way to be talking about "discount" the next minute. Do not! – Caterpillaraoz Sep 26 '17 at 7:23
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    @ThatBrazilianGuy: "in spe" is latinism often heard in Germany, as an add-on to words to mean "in future". E.g., the "Schwiegermutter in spe" means the "future mother in law"; "Ehemann in spe" --> "future husband". See also: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_spe – phresnel Sep 26 '17 at 9:17
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    So the corresponding English idiom could be customer-to-be (or prospective customer). – Ernest Friedman-Hill Sep 26 '17 at 12:20
223

I would take a small step back and just say something like:

Given what you have said so far I think this is well within my area of expertise. I should be able to get that done for you.

That conveys that you know what you are doing and are the right person for the job without trivialising the request and risk offending the client.

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    Thanks. The "trivialising" part was something I completely missed. – Sven Sep 25 '17 at 15:51
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    @Sven You also don't want to give the client the idea it's not worth paying as much for! – chrylis -on strike- Sep 25 '17 at 18:54
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    @corsiKa I charge for value. If, due to my experience, a particular tricky problem is something I can solve quickly, that doesn't mean I'm "overcharging". – chrylis -on strike- Sep 25 '17 at 21:07
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    I would say "I can get that done for you" instead of "I should be able to get that done for you". "Should be able to" is technically casting some level of doubt over whether you can do it instead of being sure of your abilities. – rooby Sep 25 '17 at 22:22
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    @rooby The OP makes it clear that the details haven't been fully flushed out yet. The devil is often in them, so there's little harm in being less definitive before you have all the requirements finalized. – jpmc26 Sep 25 '17 at 23:49
34

You can just keep a little bit of wiggle room in there while still letting them know that it's not an unusual request. You don't want to give them the impression that there is a turnkey solution just lying around (unless of course there really is) as they may resent paying for the work The word "similar" is your friend here, something like:

I've had similar requests from other clients before so xyz shouldn't be a problem.

8

"I believe I have had similar requests before. I assume you want to do also A, B, and C as my other customers wanted? Your answer is not necessary now, we can talk about the details later."

It shows:

  • you had similar request before, so you are confident you can handle this one
  • shortcuts next steps of the debate
  • if your assumption is wrong, will give you early warning, which is good to know.
7

If I were a customer and I would get that response to my list of requirements, I would wonder if I made a mistake when I hired a software developer. When my requirements are that common, I should have spent more time looking for an existing software solution which fulfills my needs. I would also wonder if I am overpaying you. When it's that common then you might just reuse most of the code from some software you already developed for someone else, but charge me full price.

Software development is a service industry. In a service industry, every customer is special (even when they are not). Don't downplay their problems. When you downplay their problems, you are also downplaying your solution to them.

  • the best answer – Fattie Sep 26 '17 at 20:51
  • Most apps are standard CRUD apps. Facebook is a big huge CRUD app. Writing a CRUD app is standard stuff - doesn't mean every client needs the same schema, or that there's a one-size-fits-all solution out there. – Mathieu Guindon Sep 26 '17 at 23:56
  • "I would also wonder if I am overpaying you. When it's that common then you might just reuse most of the code from some software you already developed for someone else, but charge me full price." Is it fair to charge you less than another client, just because they requested it first? What if the first client hears about this and asks "Why are you charging so much less for this service now?" You can avoid the whole situation by never mentioning it; but I don't see how experience with a particular service makes it less valuable. A smart client should consider quality, not uniqueness. – JMac Sep 27 '17 at 11:28
  • Though I do agree that you don't necessarily need a unique solution, and questioning the need to hire a developer is a good point. There may be pre-packed solutions for far cheaper if it is a common request that doesn't require a decent level of client personalization. – JMac Sep 27 '17 at 11:29
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    "you might just reuse most of the code from some software you already developed for someone else, but charge me full price." Which is entirely standard practice for custom software. It's called specialization, and it's how software businesses are built. When a solution becomes common, an "off-the-shelf" version might be developed for release at a lower price. Custom versions of that product will still come at a premium. If you don't like that, request a cost-plus-fee or similar contract, accepting more of the risk for yourself and a possible reduction in outlay. – Bloodgain Sep 27 '17 at 21:09
1

Here's what we use (in our contracts, anyways):

We have the experience and ability to perform the services you need from us and we will carry them out in a professional and timely manner.

This verbiage is pulled directly from a contract template by Andy Clarke found at http://24ways.org/2008/contract-killer where it is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-a-like license.

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