Asking for a client’s budget: an opportunity to ‘milk’ the client or not?

broken pink piggy bankIt is said to be a good businessperson’s (buyer) trait to aim to pay as low as possible for as much as they can possibly get. While the seller on the other hand, wants to sell for as much as possible for as little (of whatever they’re selling) as possible.

This is understandable to some degree, but in most cases this desire makes solving a business design challenge more difficult than it should be.

Businesses need resources to enable them to operate and to realize their customers’ needs effectively – that’s a no-brainer, I know.

Resources cost money, how much one has determines which resources one can employ to try achieve their business/project goals.
As a graphic designer, the main product of my business is ideas. I make money from selling my time, which is the foremost resource to a client’s project.

A lot of prospect clients somehow have a misconception that once you know how much they have set aside for their design project, you’ll quote just a few hundreds below their allocated budget – which sounds like you’re trying to ‘milk’ the prospect every cent they have allocated.

A typical conversation during a request for quote:

Prospect: “I’m looking for someone to design my company logo, can you help?”
Designer: “Yes, I offer logo design services and how much is your budget sir/mam?”
Prospect: “You’re the designer, you tell me what you charge”

While it’s totally understandable when a prospect client says that they have no idea how much they expect a design project to cost them because they’ve never dealt with a graphic designer before, I still believe a prospect should have an estimate of the maximum cost they can afford to pay for their project – and supply the designer with that amount.

There are two things that I believe are easily confused by prospect clients; what they want and what they afford (budget).

It’s a graphic designer’s job to try to get as close (as possible) to the client’s desired objectives/goals with the available resources.
The size of the budget is crucial in determining which possible ways of solving the client’s design challenge are ‘doable’ or not.

For example, a low budget might impel the project be printed in black and white instead of full colour, as the latter cost less than the former to print. A higher budget can also mean the designer is able to dedicate more time to the project; research, brainstorming, executing of idea etc.

The bigger the budget, the more resources a project has, and the easier it gets to achieve the client’s project objectives – that’s simple logic.

Apart from the graphic designer’s time being one of the resources that the client will be billed for, third party costs i.e. purchasing of things like fonts needs to be accounted for – so some budgets will obviously be too low to afford a designer, the choice to buy particular font/s that they believe suits the design best.

I could easily say: “ the design will cost you ‘this much’ with 3 revisions ” – but I’m not a fan of ‘design packages’, as I strongly believe every client’s design challenge differs thus it will require a design solution that is tailor-made.

Having the size of the prospect client’s budget allows the graphic designer an opportunity to weight the available resources (dictated by the budget) against what the client wants to achieve.
Size of budget = resources a project affords/will have.

So isn’t it crucial for the designer to know, before they start with a project, which/what resources are available to them?