I've received requirements for a project, from a possible new client. Thing is, he expects it all wouldn't take more than 2 weeks.

After spending some hours doing an estimate, I know there's no way a single senior developer would be able to do it all in less than 10 weeks.

How can I communicate this to the client without losing him? Wouldn't he think I'm trying to scam him since the estimation is way over what he expected?

I really don't want to lose this client since it looks like an excellent long term opportunity.

5 Answers 5


While the answers provided effectively address the bulk of your question, I wanted to address your last statement:

"I really don't want to lose this client since it looks like an excellent long term opportunity."

Be very careful with this thought process. While it may sound logical to take on a project in the hopes for a 'long term opportunity,' remember that your present situation is also very important. As a freelancer, your ultimate goal is to be in a position wherein all of your clients are great for your present situation, as well as for your future. Don't waste time with bad clients and opportunities hoping they will benefit you in the future. I've been down this road before, and it isn't a fun one. As a freelancer, it is very important you get comfortable saying 'no.'


Here's the thing.... can you do the work in 2 weeks?

If you can't then what possible benefit is there to trying to retain a client with such unrealistic expectations? Or in other words, if someone asks you to do the impossible and they'll pay you.... no matter how much you may want to do it... it is impossible so you can't.

Be aware that many clients, even some savvy clients, aren't fully aware of what is involved in projects they may want completed. In my experience they will estimate based upon their timeframes in the past. However, many are aware that their estimate is just that - their estimate - and not real-world expectations from someone aware of all the details which will need completed.

It is also common for clients to negotiate timeframes from an unrealistic starting point. "2 weeks" is a common ballpark figure used. The client may be fully expecting you to return and state you need much more time.

In the end, the time you need is the time you need. I don't know about you but I can't make my brain work faster than it does. I can't make my body go without sleep and food for days on end. I can't make applications save faster than they do. I can't make servers load well constructed web pages faster than their processor allows. I can't make time move slower. I can't make gravity less invasive... I can't do the impossible. So I can't worry about retaining a client during estimations by trying to meet impossible goals.

When it comes to time frames..... Estimate what you need... not what the client expects. Then if you feel you may be able to shave a week or so off while working, do that. But it is generally good practice to ask for more time than you think you'll need, not less.

If you lose a project because of your realistic timeframes, and the client isn't open to seeing realistic figures, then it's not a good client to begin with. Remember your the expert when it comes to your work, not the client. Just because they want the impossible, it doesn't mean you should feel obligated to provide the impossible.

  • Why the down vote? Does someone feel you should quote and deliver the impossible?
    – Scott
    Oct 20, 2016 at 17:21

It seems you have two choices:

1) Accept an impossible deadline and thus disappoint the client 2) Risk pricing yourself out of getting the client

This could be a case of right client, wrong time. Unless you are desperate for money, I would lay out an honest plan, knowing they probably will reject it. Generally, it is easier to be honest about the project if you believe no-one could complete the project on the client's expected time and price. Perhaps they will revisit your plan three months later when their project is still unfinished.

Two weeks is very little for virtually any task at a completely new client. Taking on the work could lead to more work at the client - but it will very probably be under the same unrealistic terms which you just accepted. If the client has signaled that more work could be forthcoming and they insist on an unrealistic fixed price, I would see that as a red flag and avoid altogether.

If possible, split the project into meaningful stages/milestones billed hourly. This will not lower the time or price, but give the client a sense of control - since they can follow the process more closely (if they wish) and potentially take the half-finished work elsewhere.


As you have mentioned "After spending some hours doing an estimate" I guess you would have created a detailed task list and hours for each task for estimating the final duration.

My suggestion would be to polish that file and send it to the clients with all details and breakdowns. After reading that file if he understand and agrees to it, you've got a good client and that project.

If he still sticks to the 2 week deadline, ending the conversation there would be a better option as it will not take you anywhere.


If a client comes to me with such request (do in 2 weeks what it takes 10 weeks) I think:

  1. The client is completely unaware of the work to do and what it takes in terms of time and effort.
  2. The client is aware of point 1 but tries to take advantage on me.

Case 1: I make my best to make him understand the work that needs to be done and we agree on milestones, times, deposit and billing.

Case 2: This is offensive to my dignity as a worker and person, I decline the client with no other chance because if a client starts like that, it will be a worse future.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.