When you ask the budget question from a potential client, the usual answer is “I don’t know.” But if you accept that answer and stop there then you haven’t done your job properly. Discovering your client’s project budget is one the most important programming facts you need to produce a good design. Otherwise you’re stuck guessing when you design without a clear budget in mind.
And the result of this uninformed beginning?
You find yourself spending days creating a fabulous design that turns out to be way above the clients’ money comfort zone. Thus making it a huge waste of time since you have to now go back and rebuild the design for the client on your nickel. Yet an even bigger tragedy is when your design quality/pricing guestimate is too low for the client and you’re not delivering what they want. You’ve now unintentionally deprived yourself of a great job that could be photographed.
Educating clients on how much a project will cost helps them understand what’s included in their requests and what they need to be prepared to pay. It also positions you as an expert and gets them to agree to a budget right off the bat! It’s also one of the most important things you can do as a design professional business owner.
If you’re not already, start comfortably talking with clients about money and budgets by using these tips:
Keep notes about the pricing of products on jobs that you’ve done and refer to them so you know how much the finishes, furniture, millwork (or whatever you are specifying) costs.
Don’t presume to tell a prospective client what something SHOULD cost. You haven’t been hired yet and are not in the position of trusted consultant. Make suggestions and ask if they are comfortable with that number.
Refrain from commenting, correcting or editing any of the information that comes your way when collecting pricing information for the potential client. Your job is to make the client feel comfortable and “listened to” when talking about this sensitive subject.