My small-scale tech business has been in business for 18 years now, and one of the most difficult challenges we still face is properly pricing the services we offer. Many of our clients are small in nature themselves, and I haven’t met any that have a bottomless technology budget. Every time we pursue a new client, draw up an estimate for a project, or dive into the latest and greatest rabbit hole, we ask our clients to pay the price for the work we perform.

Years ago, before we built a team and when we took any computer-related business that came our way, we kept it all rather simple. The basic pitch was, “We can solve your problem. We work for ‘X’ dollars per hour, and we think this project may take ‘Y’ hours. However, if complications arise or the tasks come in simpler than expected, that could all change.” This worked for many years for us. We have always felt a loyal partnership with our clients was foundational to a good relationship, and that made working through pricing challenges a two way street that we have almost always worked out. As time passed, our team grew, and our clients grew more successful and larger in size, we discovered that we needed to get much more focused, both for our sake and that of those we serve.

I haven’t found a client yet that wants to write a blank check for a technology solution. Nor do I and my team have the ability to spend far more hours than planned on a fixed-bid project. Technology remains a very fluid endeavor for many businesses, and we’re constantly finding ways to balance the commitments of dollars, hours, and scope.

Some of the best steps forward we’ve made in serving our clients have also brought success to our clients as we teach them to think in similar manners. Sometimes it’s early prototyping to ensure we know what it will take for the full solution. In another situation, where we may be looking at a long-running project or relationship, it may be worth it for all parties to set a budget, stick with it over time, and maintain a shared understanding that from time to time, we may have to push pause on priorities or receive the ability to fast-track others.

Pricing the tech solutions we offer has brought plenty of stress into my own life. Economic Value is one of our core values, and it’s our goal to have every client experience be one of a sound investment to achieve a meaningful result. As you continue to make investments in your own technology systems, I’d encourage you to carefully consider both your financial budgets and your long term goals. Find a balance between these two, work with your provider to ensure you’re on the same page, and move forward at a pace you can manage, track, and afford.

Written By Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader