Is There Ever a Graceful Way to Ask Clients About Their Budget?
Knowing exactly what your clients have to spend on a particular project comes in handy.
Just being able to lay out the most bang they can get for their buck is one of the easiest ways to make a client happy, provided she has realistic expectations on what she can get for her money.
But it’s often awkward to bring up the topic of budget. Some clients aren’t sure about what they actually have in terms of budget, certain freelancers may feel greedy asking for more information about money and so on. I’ve even had a client at a non-profit tell me that her organization wasn’t setting a budget for the project — that they wanted to see what I came up with — when I knew that they didn’t have a lot of operating capital to begin with.
It can seem like there’s no easy way to ask about budget.
Asking with an Easy Out
I’m one of those freelancers who feels less than comfortable with asking about budget, especially after I’ve talked about rates with a client. So I standardized the process. When I get a request for my rates and other details, I’ll send out some materials about how I do business, as well as a short questionnaire to help me get a good idea of what a prospective client really wants.
The third question on the list is ‘What budget have you set for this project?’ By making it a standard part of a questionnaire, I’ve gotten out of having to ask the question personally which, in turn, feels a lot more graceful to me.
This approach also makes it easier for me to understand what a client wants to get for his budget. It makes it easier to identify clients who might not understand that they can’t get everything for a minimal budget and — since I try to focus on clients who won’t make me crazy — send them along to someone else who might be a better fit.
Practice Asking In Person
Even with the benefits of the questionnaire tactic, it’s useful to be able to ask those awkward questions without flinching. Just like it’s important to feel comfortable always asking clients for signed contracts and deposits up front, being able to ask questions about budget is important.
Most clients understand that we need to ask about money as freelancers.
Most clients understand that we need to ask about money as freelancers. They don’t expect any of their other vendors to dance around the issue of budget. If the company that offers them inventory won’t get down to business with a price list and a discussion of how they can get the most for their budget, most of your prospective clients will move on to another supplier. A lot of the awkwardness is on our end, if only because as freelancers we don’t have the business background to handle those sorts of negotiations.
So practice asking those graceless questions about budget. Make a point of bringing up the budget with every client, even if you’ve already got the information you need in writing. If you can get used to having those discussions, you’ll see that the truly graceful way to bring up budget is just to ask.
You may even get to the point where you can take those clients who are uncertain about their budget and help them set a number that they’re comfortable with and that allows you to complete their project.