Why Do We Ask: What’s Your Budget?

I didn’t ask this question a lot. But recently a client linked to an article, possibly to make sure I didn’t ask for their estimate budget for the project (which is fine):

The Worst Question To Ask Your Clients: “What’s Your Budget?”

The article covers some valid points. Asking budget question might be a sign for:

  1. Lack of knowledge
  2. Signal of deception
  3. No value
  4. No due diligence, etc.

But I don’t always agree. In some case asking for budget is totally fine.

The $500 Facebook Clone

As a freelancer/web developer, we get this request quite often:

  • I want to create a social media, just like facebook, with user status and friend request features. And I also want a forum.
  • I want to build a news site just like “The New York Times”
  • I want to create a market place where user can sell on my website and I get commission for each sales.
  • etc..

And after we discuss the feature, we found out that they only have less than $500 budget. Which is (in this case) not possible to build website they want properly.

I think having this budget information as soon as possible is a valid way to set the expectation and feature limitation for the whole project.

Of course, if needed, we can share our rough estimate cost first before asking of their budget. Example:

To build a fully featured website as you described could cost at least $5000, but a simpler website could cost significantly lower. May I ask for your expected cost and planned budget for this website so I can determine how best to help you?

Find out how much I need to build

This is just an example:

If two different clients ask me to build a similar WordPress plugin, e.g “Google Maps” Plugin. One have $200 budget, and the other have $1000 budget. And they have similar requirements:

  • Embed Google Maps in the about page.
  • Settings page to set the map location.

The two “Google Maps” plugin might have totally different features.

$200 Google Maps Plugin:

  • Maybe in settings page they only have Latitude and Longitude input to set marker location
  • Need to add shortcode manually in about page.

$1000 Google Maps Plugin:

  • Ability to detect current location with geolocation.
  • Search for location in settings page and move marker to get precise location.
  • Integrate with WordPress media modal box/media button, so user don’t have to manually type/remember the shortcode.
  • etc…

Why the difference? Because I can have more time to build the features, testing the UX and build a better UI.

In software/web development we can always iterate and push the development further. Because there are no “final” version.

Of course, If a client want to add a *simple logo uploader feature in their WordPress theme and they said their budget is $1000, I’d probably say:

No. That’s way to much. WordPress already have this feature in place. A theme simply need to activate it and set the sizes. The cost to add this feature is less than $100. I just need a couple of hours to do that.

(because I’m a good guy)