This article is a part of the Upwork proposal series where we dive deeper into how to write proposals that win clients.
Today, we’ll look at the question “which part of this project do you think will take the most time?” and how to answer it effectively.
This question can function to check if we as freelancers point out the same part of the project as the client.
If we don’t, they might be skeptical and feel as if we’ve misunderstood the project unless they are looking to hire an expert. That opens up for us to show them how a different part of the project will take the most time.
Let’s begin by looking at how to approach answering this question and an example script you can tweak and use to answer the question.
What the client wants to know
If you’ve looked at any other entry in this Upwork-series, you might know that on this blog I like to take a slightly different approach than the typical generic copy-paste type answers.
Clients can often see right through them, especially if they have a lot of proposals to go through since many use the same answers.
That’s why we sometimes see job descriptions saying that we have to start with a certain keyword, so they know we read the whole job description.
Clients that are not experienced with the task they are looking for help with usually assume that the tangibles take the most work. For example, if you work with photos, it might be photoshop editing whereas if you are building an ad campaign on Facebook it’s the final setup in the ads manager.
As an expert at what you do, you’ve probably noticed that often coming up with the right idea, backing it with data and research, or collecting the ingredients tend to take the most time. For clients, those elements often feel like minor pointless details.
For example for direct response copywriters, it often takes longer to gather testimonials and prepare other sections of the sales page in the outline, than it takes to do the writing itself.
The problem is that unless we have already built trust with the client, it’s hard to convince them against their own view.
Instead, I learned that we can bill them the most by the portion of the project they find the most important but spend the time where we know they will get the results.
This can come across as rogue and be misunderstood, so if you choose this option be careful and make sure you know what you are doing or it could backfire. It is only ethical if we are aligned with the client’s goals and we know from experience that this will drive better results for them.
For example, once a client kept persuading me to run Facebook ads for them. I knew that the results would be mediocre but that running ads on Google search would be great for them.
After failing to convince them, I took a tiny portion of the budget and ran a small campaign that I knew would drive better results. When I got the results I showed them and they immediately wanted to move in that direction instead.
What the client is thinking
To answer the question it can sometimes be helpful to consider what the client is thinking about this question and why they might ask in the first place. That way we can cover their concerns and make them feel at ease.
Why do you think they would ask “which part of this project do you think will take the most time?”
When I ask myself, I assume they might be concerned if any parts of the project are going to drag out and take forever.
They might be afraid of an open-ended project without deliverables and getting stuck with a large invoice without results. Vague idea generation or research projects are a good example of those.
If we assume that is true, we can begin by pointing out their concern and mitigate it by setting specific deadlines or give examples of how to make it clear, specific, and with tangible deliverables. That way, they will feel like they are actually getting something instead of just fluff.
The key is being specific because that makes the client feel like they can get specific too and that we won’t be afraid of it.
So what is the client thinking?
Either they want to test our expertise and understanding of the project, they want to learn something new or they didn’t know what to ask and defaulted to the standard Upwork example questions.
Here’s an example of how we might respond:
“I’m cautious to go open-ended into a project like that because it is so easy for it to become a time-waster with no real results for us.
I could drive that project with the lowest priority while focusing on the other projects first as tasks like scheduling 1-on-1 interviews with customers can take a bit of time (I like to knock this out in a few days but it is just not always possible because the customers aren’t available).”
This example is for a customer research project. It works especially if you are helping a client with multiple projects at the same time because we can show them that we are considering the impact of each project compared to each other.
What works here is that instead of steering away from their concern, we attack it head-on and agree with it followed by suggesting an approach to solving it. At the same time we leave things open so if they have another idea we can go in that direction too.
Next, let’s look at a more generic script that we can tweak and tailor to any project, not just research-specific projects.
Example script for which part of this project do you think will take the most time?
Let’s jump right in into the script:
“Based on the project description, it appears as if we can divide the project up into three stages:
[stage 1, stage 2, stage 3]
As a basic overview, we can divide stages up into these overarching tasks:
[Stage 1: task 1, task 2, etc…]
[Stage 2: task 1, task 2, etc…]
[Stage 3: task 1, task 2, etc…]
We’ll need to talk further to clarify the specifics but based on that assumption stage 2 will likely take the most time because of ABC.
To avoid it taking forever, I can mitigate it by doing XYZ.”
What’s going on here?
This is a good approach because we show an understanding of the overall project and each of the parts. Contrary to copy-paste proposals from other freelancers, we show that we took the time to understand and consider the client’s situation.
Copy-paste answers often work as filler more than anything else and the client feels as if we would say yes to anything and that we just randomly applied for this project.
Compare that to someone who took the time to understand the project and their needs. They feel special and catered to, even if we don’t have all the information we need to give a complete answer.
Other links in the series you might like:
- Upwork questions and answers
- What questions do you have about the project? (Upwork proposal series)
- Tired of sending Upwork proposals and not hearing back? This is for you
- Which of the required job skills do you feel you are strongest at? (Upwork)
- So, you want to create winning cover letters on Upwork? Read this
- What challenging part of this job are you most experienced in? (Upwork)
- How to make money on Upwork with the Hollywood Superhero-technique
- What past project or job have you had that is most like this one and why?