Budgets are something that most beginning consultants/freelancers have a hard time talking about. When you’re first starting you just need work so you don’t want to scare any client away. I totally get that, priority #1 is feeding your family (or your dog) and there is no shame in doing a good job of that ever.
The truth is that no matter the budget you quote some projects are going to slip away because the client had no clue what a project would be worth. So now you’ve wasted a bunch of time courting a client and have nothing but lost time to show for it. You could have been billing someone for that time.
For almost all projects I get the budget out of the way really quick. We at least talk about the order of magnitude a project needs to operate on.
Me: So you realize this is a $5k – $8k project right not a $2k project?
Yes I’m going to scare customers off quick in some cases, but I’m not wasting time getting estimates together for a client that simply doesn’t have the budget for the project.
Even if you’re starting, make sure that the client has the finances to work the project as early as possible. Many clients won’t want to say their budget which is why I use phrasing above. I gives a range and doesn’t make you say a specific number. You at least know that the client is in your ballpark.
You’re still going to get clients that say ‘Yes’ to your range and then not really have the budget, but it’s going to clear out a bunch of people you would have wasted your time on before.