It’s an age-old question for services companies: should we publish our prices, at least some of them, or should we wait until we’ve had a conversation with a potential client before discussing price? Recently at Terralien we’ve changed our answer to that question and decided to start publishing some of our prices, and I thought I’d write a bit about the thought process that went in to the decision.

Actually this process started at least a year ago when I added a little drop-down box to our contact form that had general budget information in it. The options started at $10k and went up from there, and the reasoning was simple: I was getting at least one request a week from people looking to get their huge projects done for $2k (more or less). Talking to people with such unrealistic expectations was a complete waste of time: no, we’re not going to do your 400+ hour design/development project for $5/hour. Really. And just putting that little $10,000 budget as the lowest option immediately cut these requests out almost completely.

Now we’ve taken it a step further: on our Product Outlining and Launch Cycle pages you’ll find a published price for each of those services. These prices, and a price for our Background Work, also show up on our updated contact page as well. Of course, all prices are negotiable – we’d love to customize a project for you that fits your budget and your timeline. That said, we think that providing at least a starting point for negotiations helps potential clients to envision and plan what it would take to get their idea live, and that’s important for an entrepreneur.

We had some interesting internal discussions about publishing prices, and I’m not 100% sure it’s something we’ll do long-term – for now it’s very much on probation. There are concerns that it makes us appear as a commodity instead of the custom software shop we are. On the other hand, there was a lot of internal excitement about being so transparent. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we know how useful it can be to get an initial peek at what it might take to launch our ideas before diving in to details negotiations.

So what are your thoughts? Should services companies publish at least some of their prices? Should Terralien? Does it help or hurt?

Posted by Nathaniel on Jun 4th, 2008

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