Home Money 3 Ways to Discuss a Client's Budget Without Putting Them Off

3 Ways to Discuss a Client's Budget Without Putting Them Off

It may feel uncomfortable but with these tips you can narrow down a budget without losing a client or your nerve.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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A few months after starting my business, I had an opportunity to pitch a dream client. They were in an industry I was dying to break into, and we had an incredible introductory call. I asked them all sorts of questions about the vision they had for their brand, what they were currently challenged by, and what they thought they needed to break through to new audiences. 

I got off our phone call buzzing with ideas, and I spent the entire weekend working on a proposal I was certain would not only wow them, but would also give me the long-term income I'd been craving. 

The only thing I forgot to do? I forgot to ask them what their budget was. 

You can probably guess what happened. I received a call from the prospect immediately after I submitted the proposal. They said, "Maura, this proposal is fantastic and your ideas are spot-on. Unfortunately, your project fee is about four times more than what we can afford."

I still kick myself when I think about all the time and energy I could have saved had I just asked the prospect what their budget was before putting pen to paper. 

Money conversations are uncomfortable, especially when you first start working for yourself. I get it. You're eager to get work, you're excited to make a sale, and you just want to hear yes from someone. Often, newly self-employed folks avoid the money conversation or magically forget about it. However, you need to get comfortable talking about money if you're going to be successfully self-employed. Having the money conversation not only tells you the obvious--if the client can afford you--but also tells you the not-so-obvious: If you can afford to take on the project. 

Some prospects know what their budget is and they're happy to tell you. Others don't know because this is their first time doing a project like the one you're proposing or their first time working with someone like you. Sometimes they do have a budget and they just don't want to tell you. Either way, the first order of business when taking on a new client is to know what you're working with.

Here are three easy ways to get a sense of a prospect's budget if they can't (or won't) tell you outright.

1. Are you thinking $500, $5,000, or $50,000? 

This question will force the prospect to put themselves in a range of what they're willing to spend on your project. Remember, these are not your actual prices; these are numbers that allow the client to think about what they can afford.

2. Is your budget in the hundreds or the thousands?

This will give you a more general idea of the prospect's budget. From there, you can narrow it down even further into "thousands or tens of thousands?"

3. If I told you this project would be somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000, would that be affordable?

If a prospect is not giving you what you need, providing a hypothetical can help get them to get there. I recommend using a range that's close to the higher end of what you typically charge for that type of project. That way, you'll know what type of services will actually fit their budget, and if it's worth moving forward with this client.

There are two other strategies I always recommend when talking about money with prospects or clients. First, take the call standing up. (That's the beauty of Zoom: Thanks to blurred backgrounds, nobody knows if I'm sitting at my desk or if I have my laptop perched on my dresser.) Standing up immediately puts you in a position of power and makes you feel more confident. 

Next, say your rate and be quiet. Silence gives your prospect an opportunity to take in the information and respond, and it indicates that you believe in your prices. The worst thing you can do is state your rate and try to negotiate before a prospect has had a chance to say yes or no. Resist the urge to say, "Will that work for you?" Or "I can absolutely adjust that if it's too much!" You aren't in business to work with anyone who will pay you. You're in business to do exceptional work with clients who value what you bring to the table. 

The best lesson you can learn as a self-employed professional is that your time and your energy must come first. There's no point in wasting it on a proposal for a client who can't afford you.

Having money conversations is not an art--it just takes confidence and practice.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

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