Let me start off by apologizing on the lack of new articles. This year has been hectic, but great in so many ways. I’m still doing my best to figure out time management and unfortunately that meant less writing in recent months. Nonetheless, the site lives on and with my lack of self-written posts I’ve made it a point to update the Notebook (almost) daily with great resources and articles. Have a peak if you haven’t in awhile.
On budgets and advising
With the year coming to an end in three months, it’s that time when any business should be reflecting on the good, bad and mediocre of past months in effort to change for the good the following year. Lately I’ve been reflecting my pricing methods and communication between myself and clients and clients and myself.
The majority of my clients I’ve never met in person (40% of my conversations never extend beyond email; mostly those of overseas clients), so I make it a point to build as much trust as possible given the circumstances – one is sharing my thoughts and processes on this blog. However the dreaded question of ‘pricing’ always tend to weaken the knees of everyone. Again, in a trust building effort I try to explain, in much detail, on what their project needs to accomplish, how we are going to do it and whats needed to accomplish it – one of which is a typical project”starting” price.
I also break the ice first by asking their budget. Before letting them respond, I quickly explain that sharing their budget allows myself to determine how much time I’m able to invest (since my estimates are based on my hourly rate and a projected amount of time). At the very least, I explain that determining their budget allows advising on how to best use their budget to accomplish their needs and wants (don’t confuse the two). For example, there are many instances when a client has a slightly lower budget than necessary to pave a truly successful outcome, but knocking off a few “wanted” (a.k.a. not necessary for launch but a cool feature) parts of their website to implement at a later time when they have additional investments is more beneficial than simply slapping something together.
Secrets, secrets, are no fun…
The reason I explain the above to all my clients before letting them interject with an actual budget is to help them understand how I work so they understand that I’m just not trying to get the highest price out of them. The more time I can invest the better the outcome. The more time I can research, prepare, try, scrap, try again, etc. Simple and fair, no? Still many conversations about budgets proceed like this:
Client: *pause* “Ummm… *pause* We don’t have a budget.” *awkward silence that awaits my next move*
Me: “Based on my explanation (above) on how I charge and my hourly rate of $XXX.XX, a starting price for a project you outlined will be $X,XXX.XX. Obviously the goals and outline of the project can change throughout the the course of your project so this is only an estimate, but for the most part they are quite accurate. This prevents the project from getting out of hand and beyond the scope of the contract.”
Client: *pause* “Ummm, well… that is substantially higher than we would like to spend.”
Ok, let’s stop there. Does the above situation sound familiar?
Within the first few minutes of contact — in my effort to be as open and detailed on how I work as possible — the client counteracted by lying about not having a budget to clearly having a budget. How does the relationship change? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to work for someone that lies and keeps secrets? Setting the tone and the relationship from the get-go is extremely important – not only from a client-designer standpoint but from a project standpoint. Honest work is good work and this goes both ways.