How to Ask for a Client's Budget

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hi I'm Michael janda author of the book

burn your portfolio and I'm Michael

janda I also wrote earn your portfolio

today we're gonna talk about how hi my

name is Michael janda in this video

we're gonna talk about how to extract

the clients budget how do you ask the

client for their budget number I founded

the agency Reiser in 2002 we did work

for Google and Disney and ABC NBC Fox

Warner Brothers and everybody in between

and I have literally sat in thousands of

client meetings we talked about the

project scope I ask a lot of questions I

get all the details and then I have

experience asking the budget and I know

what that's like when you're sitting

there at the table and you're thinking

to yourself is the clients discussing

what they want to build you're thinking

to yourself while this is gonna cost X

amount of dollars and then you ask the

question hey how much budget do you have

set aside for this project and the

client comes back and their number is

way too small

I've also been on the other side you're

sitting with the client and you're

thinking okay I think we'd probably bid

this project around X amount of dollars

and they come back and they say hey our

budget is whatever and it's a lot larger

than what you were thinking it was going

to be those are the exciting ones it is

so critical at the start of the project

in that first discovery meeting that you

ask the client what their budget is in

this video I'm going to give you five

techniques that you can use to ask the

client their budget and get the answer

I'm also going to walk you through step

by step the conversation you can have

with the client so that you can get the

budget number from even the most

tight-lipped client out there okay let's

start with technique number one it's not

rocket science

ask a client their budget way too many

designers are afraid to do this

and when you don't know the budget

you're just bidding blind you're just

throwing a number out there hoping that

it fits within with what the client

wants to spend you have to have the

confidence to ask the budget otherwise

you're gonna spend time working on a

proposal crafting the scope getting your

numbers in order sending it or

presenting it to the client only to find

out that it is a waste of time because

you're way over budget they don't have

enough budget you have to know the

budget the other reason you have to know

the budget is because you don't want to

leave money on the table if the client

has a budget of $5,000 to do something

you want to bid it near their budget

even if the cost to you to produce that

work is $1,500 you have to know the

clients budget for either of those two

reasons so don't be afraid to ask

now the process in asking for the

clients budget goes like this you sit in

the discovery meeting and you ask a ton

of questions about the project you want

to know the scope you want to know about

their business you want to dig into what

their goals are what they're hoping to

accomplish with this project ask

questions questions questions and then

at the end of that conversation you say

okay great thank you for all this

information about the project I think we

have everything we need one final

question is there a budget range that

you're trying to work within for this

project now the client is going to

respond one of two different ways the

first way they might respond is by

saying well we're not really sure what

our budget is we're getting bids and

we're just gonna see where the agencies

come back and then we're gonna attach

the budget based on where the bids come

in now my belief is that everybody has a

number when they come to the table they

may not be a budget number but they have

a number that they're hoping to spend so

you can dig in don't just blow past the

question if the client doesn't

give it up and they say that they just

want to get the bids don't blow past the

question you're gonna work harder to get

that number from them using the other

techniques that I'll show you in a


so that's the first way that they might

respond the second way that they might

respond is to give you a range they'll

probably say something like well we're

hoping to be under $3,000 or yeah we

have a budget it's about 2,500 to 3,000

they'll give you a range and they'll

kind of throw that number out on the

table just to see how you respond now

something critical here is that no

matter what they say big or small you

have a poker face you don't want to give

them an idea of whether you think their

number is big or whether you think their

numbers too small so just write it down

on your piece of paper and say okay

we're gonna go back to our office we're

gonna crunch our numbers and see where

this project comes in on our side but

knowing your budget number is going to

be super helpful to us so that we can

craft a proposal that fits within what

you're hoping to spend now after you

have this budget number you may go back

to your office and decide that the

project is way too big for the budget

that they have to spend you can either

reduce the scope to fit within their

budget or tell the client that you're

gonna pass on the opportunity that the

budgets too small and you can't produce

the work within what they're hoping to

spend I've done both one thing that's

super important is you never want to

take on a project that is going to be

unprofitable so if the clients budgets

too small don't take on the project okay

let's move on to technique number two

this technique is to ask about past

projects the client didn't want to give

up their budget when you ask for it

directly so you just follow up by saying

okay I understand you don't want to have

an allocated budget quite yet because

you're waiting for the bids to come in

that makes sense what have you spent on

projects like this in the past that

question can open up a door of


to them sharing some similar projects or

related projects that they've spent

money on in the past which can give you

some insight into what they might want

to spend on this project now if the

client says oh well we we haven't really

done any projects like this in the past

we're really just trying to get these

bids together so that we can determine

what our budget should be then you know

that they're being tight-lipped and

they're really not one to give you any

numbers and you're gonna move on to

technique number three I use this one

all the time client doesn't want to give

you their budget number and you float a

price range and it goes like this

now you just ask them using technique

number two about past projects that they

might have spent money on and they

didn't give you any number so you're

gonna tell them about past projects that

you've done you're gonna say something

like well the last three projects that

we've done that are similar in scope to

what you're doing here ranged in price

between three and four thousand dollars

is that a price range that you'd be

comfortable with and here you want to

pause for a minute you want to gauge

their reaction if you see them squirm a

little bit or if they kind of look down

or if they react in kind of a negative

way then you know that your budget your

proposed budget exceeds what they're

comfortable spending but if they're

comfortable with the numbers you just

threw across the table they're gonna

respond with something like yeah that

seems right in line with what we were

expecting and then you're gonna know

that you have there their range that

you're gonna be comfortable with and

they're going to be comfortable with and

then you can move on past there if they

still don't give it up you're gonna move

on to technique number four this

technique is to use a comparison of

other products I like to use cars and

hotels they seem to work the best and

let me show you how this is done the

client has been reluctant to give you

their budget so in this strategy you're

really just looking to determine whether

the client is looking for something high

end or low end and it goes something

like this I understand your aren't sure

exactly what you want to spend but just

so that we can make sure that we're

bidding in the ballpark of what you're

looking for

let's compare your project to cars stay

with me here for a second

we'll use this just as a metaphor now an

Aston Martin Vantage which is a car I

love will get you from point A to point

B but so will a Chevy Malibu they're

both gonna get you there

now the Aston Martin has all kinds of

bells and whistles and features and it's

going to be a different experience than

the Chevy Malibu which is a lower-end

car obviously but it's still gonna be a

nice car and it's still gonna get you

two from A to B so if you are gonna

compare your project to an Aston Martin

or a Chevy Malibu or any other car are

you looking to put in some high-end

features right out of the gate or are

you looking for more of an entry-level

car that's gonna get you on the road and

then you can spend money in the future

to add bells and whistles to it in a

phase two or phase three now this is a

really important technique right here

nobody wants to tell you that their

budget is low-end they don't want to say

oh yeah sorry we don't want that


we just want a Ford Focus nobody wants

to tell you that they all want to act

like they have gobs of money so if you

give them the ability to add features

later it helps them feel better about

saying that they have a low-end budget

now so you say something like are you

looking just to get something started

here and then we could do a phase 2 or

phase 3 to add all kinds of bells and

whistles to this project that helps the

client feel more comfortable saying yeah

yeah yeah that's what we want to do we

want to just do something just to get

started and then we want to add features

later they feel better about it now

sometimes the client is going to come to

you and say no way we

we want a high-end product right out of

the gate we're trying to launch this in

a big way and we want to come out with a

big product right out of the gate so

this technique can help you gauge

whether they have a high-end budget or a

low-end budget which will help you

understand where you should be scoping

and pricing the project now if they

still don't want to give it up we're

gonna move on to technique number five

now the client hasn't wanted to share

their budget with you up until now

they've been very reluctant to give you

any kind of idea of what they really

want to spend on this project this is a

risky situation you don't want to go and

spend all kinds of time crafting a

proposal just to find out that the

clients budget is too small for you to

be able to produce the work that they

want so in this situation if you get to

here and the client has been reluctant

all along the way you're gonna tell them

that you're gonna send them a rough

estimate before you go and craft a whole

full-blown proposal so you're gonna say

to them okay great thank you for all the

information on this project and we've

talked a little bit about numbers before

we go and craft a whole big proposal

because it takes a lot of time for us to

do that we're gonna talk it over with

our team and get some rough numbers

together and then we'll send you just a

rough estimate it's just a one-page

document that has a description of the

project as we understand it from this

meeting and then a budget range that we

expect it to hit and if you're okay with

the number that we put into the rough

estimate we'll go in and craft a full

proposal for you based on that does that

sound okay with you and at this point

they're gonna say yeah that sounds great

just we just want some rough numbers

that's all we want the people who are

reluctant with their budget number

usually are open to whatever you're

wanting to give them they're not very

seasoned most of the time in working

with agencies or freelancers and they're

just gonna want like a rough numb

so you're gonna send them that in this

rough estimate so this method is gonna

help you save hours of time crafting a

full-blown proposal for a client who may

not have enough budget to work with you

okay those are the five techniques now

I'm going to walk you through a full

conversation with a client who is

reluctant to give up the number and

we're going to use all five techniques

in one smooth flowing conversation and

for this I'm gonna bring in my friend

the uber good-looking michael janda hey

don't take this the wrong way but you're

pretty good-looking yourself gosh thanks

a lot it means a lot coming from you

now here's the scene we're just wrapping

up the discovery meeting I've asked you

a ton of questions about the project

you've given me all the scope

information and now I'm gonna ask you

about the budget and I want you to be

one of those clients that doesn't want

to give up that budget number okay that

sounds great I'll be the client and I

know what it's like to have a client who

doesn't want to give up their budget so

I get it

alright great thank you for all this

great information this has been a fun

meeting we really love your project and

we really hope that we can work on it

with you when know we're a good fit to

help you with this project

now just one final question is there a

budget number that you're trying to work

within on this project well we're not

exactly sure what we want to spend quite

yet so we're just getting bids from a

bunch of different agencies and kind of

you know we're going to determine our

budget from there

I see I get it you want to get all the

proposals in before you determine what

your budgets exactly gonna be well just

so we can make sure that we're crafting

the scope to fit inside a range that

you're hoping for what have you spent on

projects like this in the past well we

really haven't done any projects like

this in the past so we're not really

sure that's fine we're probably going to

be a great fit for you on this project

cuz we've done a ton of projects like

this in the past and some of the past

projects I think like the last three

that we've been that are very similar to

the scope that you're doing here came in

around three to four thousand dollars

does that sound like a price range that

you'd be comfortable with still we're

not really sure it's just gonna be

dependent upon where the other bids come

in okay that makes sense getting bids is

always a good idea you want to compare

apples to apples across a bunch of

different agencies so that makes a lot

of sense let's talk about whether you

want to come in with a high end product

right out of the gate or if you want to

come in with a more entry-level product

out of the gate if you were gonna

compare your project to a car would you

be looking for a Ferrari or a Kia Optima

now a Ferrari and a Kia Optima are gonna

both get you from point A to point B but

obviously the Ferrari is gonna have all

kinds of bells and whistles that the Kia

Optima doesn't have so which would you

be in kind of the spectrum of cars

you're looking for something high-end

right at the start or entry level and we

can always do phases after this initial

launch to add features and enhance the

product I guess we want a few high-end

features now but we probably are going

to add phases to the project in the

future so we definitely want to have

that ability so I probably say we're not

really a Ferrari and we're not really a

Kia Optima maybe more more like a Toyota

Camry or something like that

perfect that makes a lot of sense before

we give you a full proposal why don't we

go back to our office we'll talk it over

with our team and get some numbers for

from all of our developers and designers

on what it's going to take to execute on

this project and then we'll send you a

rough estimate that rough estimates just

going to be a one page that has a brief

description of the project and then a

price range that we think that it would

cost for us to produce the work and then

if you're comfortable with the price

range we'll go back and we'll craft the

full proposal that become our contract

for the work does that sound okay for

you yeah that sounds great

we'll look forward to getting the rough

estimate and we'll go from there awesome

well thank you we should have that rough

estimate to you by the end of business

tomorrow and we'll look forward to

talking it over with you and and

hopefully we can work together on this

project thank you okay there you have it

five techniques that you can use to

extract the clients budget you should

not be bidding on a project if you

haven't made every effort you can to try

and get the client's budget number each

of the techniques that I shared in this

video are found in my book the

psychology of graphic design pricing I

put a link in the description if you're

interested check it out hit the

subscribe button my name is Michael

janda I share systems and strategies to

help creative freelancers and agencies

make more money and run their businesses

more successfully if you have any

questions comment below and we'll see

you in the next video