Pricing your freelance work—the Triple Constraint

Have you ever thought about discounting your price because you’re new?

Pricing is one aspect of marketing that can be very mysterious—and emotional. But there’s a framework you can use to take the emotion out of it, and it’s called the Triple Constraint.

But first let me tell you about the first freelance indexing job I was invited to bid on. I was so excited! And then terror set in and I wondered what do I do now? I reached out to an experienced colleague and she advised me to reply promptly, be sure to include my qualifications, and then she suggested that I discount my fixed price quote because I’m new.

What do you think you would do?

Well, here’s where the Triple Constraint comes in.

The Triple Constraint framework

The framework comes from the discipline of project management, and quite simply, it says this:

Fast, Cheap, or Good—pick two.

If you have experience with projects, you know the kind of problems you can run into: the scope can change or new scope is added, there can be cost overruns or pressures to cut costs, and there’s time pressures, like falling behind schedule or deadlines squeezed. Project managers juggle and balance these pressures and they use the Triple Constraint framework to guide them.

Project managers also use it to set clients’ expectations.

And you can use it with your clients:

If a client wants the job done Good and Fast, they should understand that it won’t be Cheap.

If the job is Good and Cheap it won’t be Fast.

And if the job is Fast and Cheap, it won’t be Good, or at least not as good what they would normally get.

Fast, Cheap, or Good in real life

So how did this work in my situation—the idea of reducing my price because I’m new?

I’ll mention again that this was a fixed-price quote, not an hourly rate.

First, it was going to be a Good index. I had enough training to know what a good index looked like, and I was going to do what it takes to get it that way.

Second, the timeframe to deliver the index was reasonable, even for me. I knew I would not need an extension.

Third, it was going to cost me many hours as a new indexer. I was going to make less per hour on this project than if I had more experience. So the idea of reducing my price further would simply be backwards.

The situation was the flip side of Fast, Cheap, and Good. It was going to meet the standard of Good and the standard of Fast. So there was no reason to make it Cheap.

It’s INtuitive

The Triple Constraint framework is intuitively understood by most clients, even if they never heard of it. As freelancers trying to price jobs, our emotions can get us sidetracked, especially when we really really want the job, or we’re experiencing impostor syndrome.

I hope you find this helpful the next time you’re bidding on a job and you’re tempted to make an exception by discounting.