Re-reading my post about saying no got me thinking about the other reasons we've turned down work. It's hard getting work in the first place and doubly hard turning it down, but sometimes you just have to say no.
One big one that comes to mind is we quoted to do some work for a company we've had a long term working relationship with. A small company, they were unfortunately facing the loss of a key member of staff in the final few months of development of a key project already well overdue. A update to a project we'd worked with before, so we were familiar with the architecture, team and almost every aspect of the project.
We made quoted a day rate at the low end of the scale and offered to agree fixed times for each bit of development, insulating them from any estimate errors by delivering that iteration for the quoted price before undertaking the next. We agreed to put the work we were quoting on first, push our own development schedule back, not take on other work and offer any time the needed to get their project released.
I got the very distinct impression they wanted the work done cheap from a discussion with the technical lead for the project. I tried to mitigate any problems by sending an email detailing our costs and how they break down from developers salaries, equipment costs and the meagre profit margins. I also made it clear that we were uniquely qualified for the work, due to our extensive working history directly with the project.
The response was disappointing, they were willing to pay about half the rate we quoted. I had a brief discussion with the technical lead, who was as disappointed as us with the reaction, but it was clear there was going to be no middle ground. The offer was never even going to come up enough.
We gave up in the end - a shame really, like any small business we could have used the money. It was an issue of value. Despite all the positives, the experience, the fact that there was nobody else who could have hit the ground running like us and our prior working relationships they weren't willing to pay what we consider a very reasonable price. They effectively wanted work done for less cost to them than it would have cost to hire a member of staff, with none of the security or benefits. A short term contract under terms worse that a job I'd been offered months prior.
In the end they had to give the member of staff who had planned to leave a significant pay rise to entice them to stay, hired another, less experienced developer who needed more managing and training and still haven't delivered the project, months later.
For us, and for anyone else considering taking work at less than a market rate, it's a tough choice. Though we could afford to survive without the work, it would have been nice to have the money in the bank. There is also always the potential that work can lead to more work, however do you want cut rate work leading to more of the same? It's all too easy for it to set the tone of a working relationship and an expectation that you will continue to work for the low rate. Also the whole time you're servicing the contract you're not getting new clients or doing other more lucrative work. As a consultant if you're not saving for a raining day you're taking a huge risk, especially if things get a bit lean for a few weeks or months.