There is always a budget even if they don’t tell you so
In my experience as a consultant and freelancer—trying out different ways of handling new client inquiries—asking for the budget is one of the ways to weed out those who aren’t serious yet about hiring you. I make the intake question required, though people have filled it out before without actually putting in a number. I don’t ask for an exact amount; a range is fine. What I really want to know is whether you put a little thought into what a project might cost you.
It’s possible that a client really doesn’t know how much a service could cost, so they’re doing their research. These clients tend to write that down in the notes area1. But there is a number, whether they know it or not, that when said, it’s a no.
To put it in a different perspective: let’s say you’re shopping for coats. You don’t quite know how much a coat costs these days, but you’re thinking maybe $100 could work. There are certain features you know you want—like the length, color, and usage—and others you’d like but don’t need (you could settle for a cheaper fabric). So you start your research, looking in your usual clothing stores for prices. It turns out that coats are more expensive than you think, so you increase your budget to $150. There are coats that are $500, and you don’t even consider them because they’re incredibly far out of your range. At $150, you get more choices with the features you want. Add more to the budget, and you get the features you’d like but don’t need.
Shopping for services is the same as shopping for products, except that people seem to think it’s okay to ask for steep discounts or propose exchanges2.
You don’t hire a photographer because you think you can take photos just as well on your smartphone. Phone photos can be great! There is nothing wrong with using those if you have the eye and that’s the tool you have on hand. If you think writing marketing copy is easy, why not do it yourself? When you make a decision to hire someone for a service, you hire them for their expertise, the equipment they have access to, and/or their ability to do something better than you. It confounds me that people still devalue creative work as much as they do.
Everyone has a budget. I wrote about a monetary budget here but time and energy are also part of the budget. For all my time writing, I am still bad at conclusions, so I will leave you with a question. Do you have the budget to learn a new skill, or is it cheaper to outsource it?
- If you are one of these clients, I recommend writing very specifically about what you’re looking for so you can get an accurate quote.
- I have nothing against the barter system. But if you don’t have a prior, positive relationship and then you ask for favors? Good luck.