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As a Client, I posted a project I needed done on a freelancing site (Upwork, Freelancer, etc). I have had a few bids that go over the listed budget (30% over). I did mention in the description that certain things are more required for the project than others.

How do I handle overbids? Do I tell them that their bid is too high and negotiate what can be done in the budget? Or do I accept them and only have milestones that cover the budget?

I have a little bit of a time-crunch so I want to hire them and have the most needed portions of the project completed.

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(DISCLAIMER: I do not use sites for finding Freelance jobs)

If you can contact them before accepting, I would start a discussion about what is required, and what's in the budget. If the Freelancer misunderstood what was being asked, you should be able to clear it up for them at this stage.

As a Freelancer, I do not like to spend more than 15 minutes of meeting time without payment. If I can't determine what needs to be done and how within the 15 minutes, then I consider the problem either too difficult, or too large and requiring a real sit-down with the requirements.

Obviously, you would not want to pay every Freelancer who replies for the same job just to find out if they can do the job. I would stick to those who have read your project correctly, including budget restraints. Remember to check their references as well (if they have any).

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  • mmm...we have been somewhat chatting for 5 days though there is a time difference and somewhat of a language barrier. This person came recommended on the site we are using too (from one of the site's staff). This is a bit of a complex job, but I used a different site for the simpler ones and getting the work done wasn't an issue then. – ConductedForce Jul 22 at 2:19
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This is a common problem in business - when a contractor sees what is really being asked for, they want more money than you budgeted. This happens in home remodeling, building a restaurant, and nearly every other business. This is not a "freelancer site" only issue. I've had that problem on both sides (for example, a subcontractor finding out the details and tripling their price).

The only thing to do is to review the business needs, find out what is most important, and see either if the money can be found to do that or reduce the project to the amount of money available. We cannot tell you which to do. That is dependent on your business situation. When the project is large enough, it can pay to bring in a consultant to review both sides and make a recommendation.

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I used to freelance using a lot of those sites, I'd often overbid, and here are the reasons why:

1 - Bad project description

If I don't see a precise project description and scope, that means I'd have to get that information from you, which is added time that I'm going to charge you for. For example, the client asks to create a simple one-pager site and doesn't mention hosting services, domain, or support. That means I'll have to ask and guide the client through all those steps.

2 - Most clients have no clue of what a project actually cost

For example, a client asks for a clothing e-commerce. It says it will need a product page, cart page, home page, and checkout page. But I know there are many extra hidden pages, e.g., admin page to add products, payment control page to issue refunds, force approve payments, include discounts, taxonomy, payment gateway integration, etc.

3 - Clients haggle, and budgets are usually ignored

A client assumes that if he says he only has 300$ for said job, it will be done for that price. I tend to bid for what I'd do for that project and break down the price if the client asks; sometimes, they aren't aware of the actual costs. Sometimes they forget to fill in the proper budget. And sometimes they can get a few more hundred dollars in if I show that I've got a good service to deliver. As a freelancer, I have no way of differentiating between those people, so I bid what it would cost for me to execute the project, regardless.

4 - The project seemed like the back and forth kind

Any project that involves client input on style is a nightmare for me; some clients are unrealistic with their expectations, some other clients want to fine-tune every corner of the page so that they can say that it was their idea. Hey, no problem, but you gotta pay for it. Hence, overbidding.

5 - The project was boring/uninteresting, but I'd still do it if well paid

As a technologist, I'm not a big fan of doing the same project over and over again as it doesn't really add much to my skills, so if it's a project I've done multiple times, I tend to charge more. One, because I'd be doing it for the money. Two, I did it before, and I already know the pitfalls, so I'll deliver a better product faster.

6 - It's a clone of x / client clearly didn't think it through It's not unusual to see clients asking for 'I want a clone of Uber, but for classic cars.' I then bid a huge amount; one is to discourage clones, and two because people have no clue of the amount of technology and work involved in any of those projects. I had to explain once for a guy that wanted a uber for taxis that it wasn't just one app; it was two apps (driver, client) and a full fledge dashboard for the crew operating the business. Sometimes the client didn't think it through enough. As a developer, it's my job to deliver code that will solve your problem, not just code what you asked me for.

So, here's what you do, ask the overbidders why they overbid. Freelancers are very frisky about getting locked into a bad deal, and if you can show them some common sense, that you're aware of what you're asking for and that they are not going to be enslaved by a poorly written project description, you will see the prices drop.

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  • This answer is very insightful. My takeaway is having the freelancer give a breakdown of their services. The contractor I went with didn't make one, despite my asking for a write-up. They didn't seem to want to do it or didn't understand. They had questions but didn't ask them. In hindsight, I shouldn't have chosen them as I was rushing for the project. – ConductedForce Jul 24 at 9:10
  • I'm a bit guilty on point 1 as well. I provided some documentation and a description but I could have put more into it. Had an extra item which was more of a "if we have time and budget" that I could have left for a later job. – ConductedForce Jul 24 at 9:15
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    @ConductedForce Rushing for a project is a very good way to have a project failure. It often leads to overlooking needed parts, skipping on the quality control, and/or production being rushed. I've had to toss out stuff that was done in those situations and had to start over. It is far better to start with what are your quality goals and see what can be done with the budget you have but meet those goals. That is a process that can get you something you can use instead of junk. – David R Jul 24 at 13:46
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    Yup, the bulk of the work surrounding a project never changes. You need a business analyst, a project manager, and the actual project workers. You're paying for all the roles you're not executing. If I have to talk to you and gather the requisites, that's work, if I have to organize and breakdown the tasks, that's also more work. Most people want freelancer professionalism but they either don't post the full scope of work and don't want to pay someone to do it. I've had problems with clients that would always ask for a quote, then get my project breakdown and use it as a description for others – Magus Jul 25 at 15:08

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