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Guess what their budget was?

Posted by Deidre Rienzo on

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a website copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

A project came to me via word of mouth. I was “highly recommended” by a great contact. It was for a large organization, and it seemed promising. 

When I spoke to the potential client, she was lovely. She knew what she wanted, and was very professional.

When I asked, “What is the budget you have in mind?” she said, “We don’t have one. We just need to know what it costs.” 

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll put together some numbers.” 

I should have known better. I should have delved deeper. I should have thrown out some ranges (like I normally do for smaller projects) saying, “Something like this usually costs around $700-$1100. Does that feel comfortable for you?” 

But this time—the project was so big—I really had no idea what it would cost until I looked closer. I could have thrown out a very wide range, like $1000-$5000, but that seemed silly at the time.

After looking deeper, I called her back with the range I’d come up with. I like to do this before putting together an “official” estimate, just so I can make sure we’re on the same page.

“I want to see if you’re comfortable with these numbers before I put together an estimate. It looks like a project of this size will cost $3000-$5000.” 

I could hear her jaw hit the ground.

Like Ilise says in her book, The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, everyone has a budget in mind, even if they don’t say it. Once I presented a number, it was easy for me to find out the number she had in her head.  

They had a “head” budget of less than $400.

Normally, I’d be happy to tweak the scope of the project to fit inside their budget. This project was just too big, and their budget was just too low.

This showed me that it is our job to educate clients. And that education should start with numbers in the first phone call, always. Many clients have no clue what our services cost. 

I had thought it would be silly to throw out such a wide range (like $1000-$5000 dollars) on our first phone call, but I should have.

It was an excellent learning experience, and it just shows that without first determining that you—and your potential client—are on the same playing field, you can end up wasting time.

Thoughts? Any similar learning experiences? 


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