“Brilliant, but…”

Recently, I received a second-hand compliment: “Matthew is brilliant, but expensive.”

I was talking to a fellow who runs a company that is working on a project that I also worked on earlier this year. The compliment was from the client’s project lead. I laughed a little because I know the project lead well enough to hear it in her voice.

When I lose out on a project, I ask what the winning bid came in at. When I do get an answer (which is rare) the winning price-point tends to be lower than mine. By a lot. I’m also able to gather that the scope of work (the activities and deliverables) is less and that the project length is 2-to-4 times as long.

As an example, last year I bid $72,000 for a 4 month project for research, design, testing, and UI specifications for a project. In the statement of work there was language around “working with developers” to ensure they could start as soon as possible, noting I would be there to answer questions as they went. The idea being the dev team would be half-way through development of the app by the time the 4 months was up.

My bid was received by the person who gave me the “brilliant, but expensive” compliment. I didn’t get the project. Too expensive!

The bid was delivered in July of 2016. The project will enter a beta run sometime in April 2018. Right now, it’s a year past when I would have been done with the design work. Right now, they, the client and the company that won the work, are still figuring out what to launch with.

The fellow I was talking with who relayed the compliment owns the company that’s doing this work, a year later, and getting paid well for it. I would wager, given the length of time, the number of their employees working on the project, plus a couple other comments he made, that they have invoiced more than $72,000.

It makes me wonder: what is expensive?

Someone who looks at their budget and says, for example, “I only have $50,000 for Research and Design.” $72K is going to blow that budget. The same person hires a company that will do the work for $35K, then ends up spending $100K because they are locked in and are on the hook to launch something great.

What is expensive?