Why good communication is key to profitable project delivery

Provide cost breakdowns
Use fee estimators
Keep clients happy
Increase profitability
written by
Dave Graham
May 10, 2018
minutes read

Communication, communication, communication

I'll be honest, when I set up this business over 15 years ago, we didn't have that many clients.

Though we were fortunate enough to have a couple of large clients who kept us busy.  

Like any other service-based business, these big clients would brief us on a project and ask for a quote.

You could always tell when they expected the project to be quick and simple, when in fact, it never was.

Negotiating with a client you can't afford to lose

I remember one particular project where the client expected us to come in at around £8000 to complete it.

In actual fact, I knew that this project would end up being closer to £20,000 because - as with most projects - there were certain elements that were complicated and required a considerable amount of resource to be invested in to it.

So I found myself wondering: right, well how are we going to get past this?

They were one of our biggest clients at the time, so I certainly didn't want to risk rubbing them up the wrong way.

But equally, I understood the importance of making a profit on the project.

So instead of caving, quoting the £8,000 that the client was expecting and making a whacking great loss; I opened up the Fee Estimator in CMap.

Cost breakdowns

I've always used the Fee Estimator's Costing Breakdown feature in this type of situation because I need the client to see everything that's involved in completing the project.

So I use CMap to generate my cost breakdown and then offer to sit down with clients to talk them through the fee.

9 times out of 10, this works.

Because when the client can actually visualise all of the things you need to do, the amount of time & resource you're investing in to the project and so forth, they understand how you've reached the figure you're presenting to them.

So, going back to my £8,000 vs £20,000 dilemma; I visited the client, sat down with them and talked them through the fee, providing them with a detailed cost breakdown for the project.

Straight away, they realised there was a lot more to the project than they'd originally thought. And guess what?

The project went ahead at £20,000; over double what they were expecting, without a grumble.

By communicating clearly with the client and offering some clarity in to how the numbers added up on my end, I managed to keep one of my largest clients happy and get the fee I needed to ensure that project made a profit.

So, the moral of the story is this:

Just sending across a number and it isn’t a good idea.

The client needs to know how you've arrived at that figure.

If you're quoting a steep (but justified) fee, and you know your client is expecting a cheaper rate, you don't need to crumble at the first hurdle.


  1. Be clear about what they're getting
  2. Communicate what you’re doing to deliver that service and
  3. Explain how you've arrived at the figure you're quoting via a detailed breakdown.

You'll be amazed at the difference this simple change can make.

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