Talking about money is hard in every facet of life.

When it comes to talking about money, personally, we often equate how much we have in savings or how much debt we have with our own self-worth. Money has nothing to do with our worth, though society leads us to believe otherwise.

When it comes to clients and we talk budgets, there seems to be some fear that if they tell us they have $10k, means the project is then going to cost $10k. $10k can be substituted for $2k or $100k.

So clients tell you they don’t have a budget because they’re scared.

They just don’t know

Often clients simply don’t have any idea what a website costs. They have no idea that a good designer can easily cost $5k for a site design. A good developer is likely to charge at least $8 – 10k for an eCommerce site with little custom functionality.

But they still have a budget.

Even if they say they don’t.

They have a price that they feel is expensive. Where the value they believe they’ll get out of the work exceeds the cost of doing the work.

You don’t put $5k in repairs to a 20 year old Honda Civic. It’s simply a bad ROI. Now a classic car like a 1969 Dodge Charger, that would be worth $5k in work easily (name the TV show that had the Charger as it’s center piece).

When clients tell me they don’t have a budget I change the way I ask the question.

Well what range sounds expensive then? $5k, 10k, 15k, 20k?

I start with a number that is probably too low for the project if I did the work, and then work to a number that is 2x too high for the work as I see it.

But what if they go for the low number?

Just yesterday I had a client tell me the low number ($3k if I remember correctly) was ‘high’. How do you deal with that?

I just told them that $3k was too low for the project. In this case (and most of the time I’ve found), they said they actually didn’t know what the project would cost.

When I said it was probably under $10k they said that $10k wasn’t really out of their price after talking to a few other people. They had just started the whole search at $3k.

Talking about budgets is something you should be doing. Don’t let yourself feel uncomfortable about the discussion.

Wasting your time on a client that truly has a $1k budget for $10k of work is worse, because you wasted all that time just to save 2 seconds of discomfort.

It’s expensive for them

One caution I want to give to everyone is that just because the client really only has $1k doesn’t make them cheap.

Maybe they’ve scraped and saved for that $1k and it really is all the money they have to start their business idea. Taking 5 minutes and pointing them to a premium theme shop and a site where they can learn how to do some WordPress basics can bring longer term return.

2 years ago I took that $1k client and pointed them to StudioPress and Bluehost to get started. They set up a decent site that let them get some traction.

I got 2 or 3 more emails about things they wanted to do that were under my usual project budget so I pointed them to the plugins they’d need to get it done and some good resources for them to do it on their own. I also told them approximately how much it would cost to have me do the work for them (setting expectations).

Then, they came back with a running site that had revenue and they were ready to have me do some work and had a real budget.

I was the only choice since I spent time over the last 2 years helping them succeed.

Take away

When you have a call or email exchange with a client, make sure you ask about budgets.

Don’t just discount a ‘low’ budget as a cheap client.

Don’t be afraid to refer lower budget clients to resources that allow them to get the work done at their price point.

Don’t trade 2 seconds of discomfort for hours of wasted time with a proposal.

photo credit: Proudlove via photopin cc