Ping. You’ve got mail.
It’s a prospective client. They found you online, or were referred by a former client of yours, or discovered you in some other weird and wonderful way.
And – awesome news – they need a shiny new website. With eCommerce. And a membership. And directories. And lots of pages.
You are desperate for a new project (or 10) so you reply that you’d love to learn more and schedule a time to see them in person or have a phone conversation.
So far so good, right?
On the day of the meeting, you dress nicely (if the meeting is in person) or just change into a clean shirt (if the meeting is online). You conduct a nice long meeting with this prospective client, finding out what they’re looking for. You tell them exactly what they need to get done in order to grow their business. You talk about themes, page builders, code, plugins, seo, google analytics – all of the shiny tech stuff you know so well. You let loose with so much knowledge, no one could ever doubt you aren’t an expert.
The client is super excited and asks you to write a proposal.
“FAB!” you think, “I’ve got this!!”
You sit at your computer and spend 4, 5, even 6 hours writing a fantastic proposal. Outline every step of the process. Describe every little detail. In the corner of your eye you can see the stack of bills waiting to be paid. You really want this project so you want to make it super affordable.
You hit – send.
A day. A week. 2 weeks. Not a word from the prospect.
You send a followup. Then a followup to the followup.
The prospective client finally writes back.
“Your fee is too high. We were expecting to pay $300 for the project. We found someone on Fiverr that said they could do it at that price.”
You’re in shock.
How could this happen?
You see, you did everything right.
Except… except for one thing.
You didn’t ask them about their budget.
I know, I know. Talking about money is just distasteful. And scary.
I mean, they might think you’re money hungry or desperate. And I understand that feeling completely.
But…. think about this.
You’re only finding out NOW that their budget is unrealistic or non existent.
NOW. After spending HOURS upon HOURS in meetings, giving away your knowledge and expertise, writing proposals, following up. After putting a lot of expectation around what you would do once they sign up. After wasting a LOT of time.
If you’d asked earlier, you would have saved yourself a whole lot of time and heartache. Or potentially been able to educate them on what sort of a budget they really need.
Why discuss budgets?
Discussing the budget with a prospective client early in the process is not only okay, it is absolutely essential.
It is essential to the health of your business, and to lay the foundation of great communication between you and the client.
From my personal experience, and based on many conversations I’ve had with business owners, wasting precious time creating proposals and engaging in long calls and discussions with prospects who do not, or will not, have sufficient budget for their project is a surefire way to drive your own business into the ground.
Time is the most precious commodity we have as business owners.
Don’t waste it on tire-kickers, lookie-loos, and wantrepreneurs who are not willing or able to invest in their own business. Because they will absolutely not be able to invest in yours.
You don’t have to contort yourself and your business to accept every project that comes your way.
Remember: We are not obligated tho help EVERYONE.
Some clients are simply not a good fit, and that is perfectly okay! Be nice and courteous, but start setting firm boundaries and charging what you’re worth – not according to the client’s budget, but according to the value you bring with your experience and expertise.
Whether you decide to post exact prices for your services or just a range, be clear and firm about your process and your conviction in your awesomeness. Don’t start discounting and devaluing your own services, just so you can book every project that comes your way.
Remember, people are lucky if they can get you to help them become more successful.
Respect your own processes, and make your clients respect them too, because let me tell you – prospects who will not respect your boundaries and processes before you take them on as clients, will absolutely not respect them after they have engaged you to work on their project.
On the other hand, being absolutely upfront about your fees is all about projecting confidence and demonstrating to prospective clients that you DO know what you’re doing and that you will not compromise the level of your services. Being confident (not arrogant) is a great sales tool and you’ll be amazed at how willing prospective clients will be to engage your services when you are secure in your ability and experience.
I was recently on the “Live In The Feast” podcast with Jason Resnick, where we spoke on this topic in great detail. I think you might find it useful, so feel free to check it out here.