Why A Website Budget is a Good Idea

I receive a lot of enquiries from people wanting a website. Unfortunately in many instances the prospect has no idea of their budget, or they don’t want to tell me what it is. I understand that they feel that if they give out a budget that’s what they will be quoted but they are so off the mark.

Giving the web designer an idea of how much you want to spend helps us suggest a solution that fits your requirements and your budget. I always use the car analogy – if I’m looking at buying a new car I give the car salesman an idea of what I am looking for and my price range. That way he knows whether to direct me to the Mercedes or the used car lot down the road. Without giving him that information he’s not able to make any professional recommendations He’s just flying around in the dark.

You don’t have to give an absolute figure, consider a ballpark or a price range. And remember the web designer you choose must be within your budget but it is just as important, if not more, to make sure the web designer you work with is one that has a good understanding of your requirements, can deliver a successful solution and is someone you’d want to work with.

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Pricing Web Design Projects

There’s a great post over at Blue Favor on Pricing Web Design Projects. The post is excellent and definitely deserves a read. A couple of points I really like:

A crucial problem to accurately pricing projects is that proposals happen so early in the process, as the vendor we only have a couple of meetings, phone calls or a document to understand the project. We do our best to come up with a fair and accurate price, but it often feels like a shot in the dark.

This is something I have grappled with for years. To be able to give an accurate idea of price you need a clear idea of what the client is after. And to know this you need to spend time working with them to determine their goals, requirements and strategy. Which brings me to the next point in the post:

Though every book I’ve read on the topic of pricing says to never ever ballpark, I have a tendency to do so. If they can’t disclose the budget I typically try to start throwing a few numbers from previous projects to help gage the scope of what we are talking about, call it a good faith effort to start the discussion.

I too often do this, partially for the reasons above. Ideally I like to get a budget but that is not always possible. If not I try to do a rough scope of the project and give the client an idea of costs. If we’re on the same wavelength we take it from there.

The post also goes on to talk about determining hourly rates, quoting by the hour or project and tips for clients when pricing a web design project. Definitely worth a read, and an addition to my feed reader.

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Web Design Proposals: Fixed Price or Estimate?

This is probably one of the most asked questions by web designers. Do you provide fixed price quotes or estimates?

Many choose to go down the estimate route as often jobs can expand or go over budget significantly and leave the designer out of pocket. An estimate stops this by allowing you to add a clause such as the following:

These figures are an estimate, not a quote. They are based on information provided, and may be inappropriate if additional information is forthcoming, or job specifications change. It is valid for XX days.

This gives the designer a way to ensure that all work not covered, or for extra time spent changing a photo/colour/insert-element-here 20, times is compensated for. But is it the best approach?
For a long time in my web design career I used estimates. Last year I moved to fixed price quotes. Why?

  • It’s simpler for both me and my clients. We both know where we stand and what we’re getting.
  • It’s much easier to covert a prospect if they know exactly what they’re going to be paying for their site.

But how do you manage continual changes, additions of new features and so forth I hear you ask? Simple.

  1. Define what your quotes do and don’t include.
  2. Define how many updates, changes, re-designs etc you will do within that figure.
  3. Communicate with your client. If they want something outside the scope of the quote explain it to them. Most clients are fine with this as long as you communicate with them clearlybefore you do any additional work.

It’s up to us to manage the design project and our client’s expectations. I always use the “is it reasonable” test. I’m happy to be flexible, if a client decides the photo they wanted to use looks no good and would like it changed I’ll change it. If they ask me to change it 10 more times it’s no longer reasonable and outside of the scope of the quote. 99% of the clients I have dealt with would find that reasonable too. And those that don’t aren’t clients any more. ;)

This way is not for everyone, I’ve been designing websites for long enough to be able to quote accurately, but I definitely think it’s the best approach.

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