Should designers include a budget option in their contact form?

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In this guest article, Behzad Jamshidi explains the pros and cons of using a budget selector in a freelance designer’s contact form.

First things first, what is a budget selector?

A budget selector is usually a pull down menu located in a designer’s contact form or project request form. It contains various price options for the potential buyer to select from.

Budget selector vs. No budget selector

I have always wondered if having a budget selector could be of benefit to freelance designers. Some designers have this option in their questionnaires and claim that having this available when the prospect fills out the initial contact form can be very beneficial. The feedback I have received from people who have not implemented the budget selector proves that many designers are skeptical of the idea, yet the ones that do use it, say they love it.

Some have expressed that a prospect does not know what a web site should cost and we, as designers, are the experts for recommending a price. Others, conversely, believe that everyone knows how much they can spend and have compared it to buying a car. When buying a car, you don’t walk into a dealer and ask for a car discussing budget. I have also been told that as a freelancer, I should be the one to educate the prospect on the value of my services and persuade them to go with the better more expensive option.

Some designers say they are too busy to educate price-shoppers and occupied with working for well-paying clients, which is very understandable. Others say a cheap prospect will always search for a price cut and will not change their shopping habit based on price.

Feedback from the community

Below is some feedback I have compiled on this topic from other freelance designers.

Cons:

  • the prospect feels like your all about the money and not the service
  • the prospect ignores the budget selector by not selecting any option
  • the prospect refuses to proceed with contacting you and leaves your site
  • the prospect will always choose the lowest amount
  • starting at a low budget range may lure cheaper clients
  • a wide price range may cause confusion for potential clients
  • a narrow price range may limit wiggle room for quoting the project
  • it over-complicates the contact form
  • not knowing the budget can run the risk of a bad initial estimate because of a bad initial scope
  • not knowing the prospects budget can waste valuable time putting a quote together
  • prospects assume you will charge them the max of their budget regardless

Pros

  • helps the designer avoid the dreaded question in person “what is your budget”
  • it adds a sense of professionalism, gives the prospect an idea of the quality of work to be expected
  • gives the prospect some idea up front of the range of prices they should consider
  • cuts down price-guessing and helps conversion rate
  • allows for educating and presenting various design/price solutions
  • clients that do not fit your pricing plan will not waste your time haggling
  • designer can focus and spend more time putting together a proposal than guessing about budget
  • sets the expectations from the start

What do you think?

Have you seen any success or problems by implementing a budget selector in your freelance design contact form or project request form? Should all designers add this to their site? Add your comments to the conversation.

Comments

  1. This issue is very interesting, in deed. But I think we can talk much more about this. This subject offers much more than pros and cons. We could, for example, talk about the ethical implications of this, and also if it would give us any benefit when it comes to our image as designers. I think that we must consider a very important fact: when meeting up or talking to a client, part of the encounter is determining the pricing, this is a great opportunity to show that we’re professionals, and that we’re only asking to be paid for our skills and knowledge. Wouldn’t adding this sort of information to our contact form, shorten the initial contact with the client? Wouldn’t it also trap our fares inside a somewhat fragile frame that the client might not agree to comply with?

    Just my two cents. Hope to see some interesting replies.

  2. While i can see the practicality of it, I just don’t like the idea of such a crucial part of the process being a simple form.

    As much as it is a dreaded question, I personally think the budget should always been discussed openly. It can help avoid a lot of headaches later.

    And from a clients perspective, why would you not always pick the cheapest option?

  3. I always thought about doing this but thought cons outweighed the pros.

    The main ‘con’ was that visitors would leave without even contacting.
    The main ‘pro’ was that it eliminates those clients that want your service at very unreasonable prices.

    Great post.

  4. Interesting article, thanks!
    I had never considered a budget option…and to be honest, I still wouldn’t.
    Many clients, I’ve found, simply have no idea how much things actually cost, so for them a budget option will just be confusing.
    Going through the process of a detailed quote can definitely be a waste of time when the client doesn’t have anywhere near the budget that their project requires, though I’ve found that a simple ‘ball park figure’ at the start of proceedings (which really doesn’t take that long) has helped to weed out those clients with unrealistic expectations.
    A potential client might also baulk at revealing their actual budget too soon, in case the designer quotes the job based on the budget, rather than quoting based on the scope.

  5. Great feedback. One thing that I forgot to mention in my article was that, for the ones that are hesitant to provide a budget, the “Not Sure” can be selected as an option. This way your accommodating an answer for both types of prospects.

  6. Personally I do not favour using this option in contact form. Every site differs from other in functioning and even a simple informative site can have different parameters. How can we treat different sites on same scale. If you fix a budget in the beginning and after brainstorming with client the works comes up to be much higher it is practically impossible to pacify the client and ask him to agree on higher budget. My experience shows client add so many things once the site work starts. That is why I quote minumum but with a condition that for every small additions he will have to pay extra.

    It is always easy to ask and get 300+50+75+75 rather than asking full 500 in the very beginning.

    If you mean business, break it down for best results :)

  7. Yes, i think its needed mostly. Atleast we can get rid of some clients who come and ask complete 7 page wordpress design for just 50$ :p

    Nice post :)

  8. Great post!

    I personally think the budget should be defined while having direct contact to the client. If you’re afraid of clients with wrong expectations (e.g. logo design for $50) than you could mention a minimum budget or something.

    • @DesignLovr, I don’t think we are afraid of the client but some prospects are afraid of sale tactics. Some prefer to only be contacted via email, some do provide their phone number. As you can see these are optional choices, so is the selection of a budget which should be optional. To mention a minimum budget for every service we provide can be next to impossible specially if one does both print and design work. Also they would want that product for the bare minimum.

  9. Behzad,

    Here is what I have found useful: use a normal contact page with NO budget on it. This will allow you to avoid all the headaches from above.

    Then create a “New Client Form” with step-by-step process for some of the information you need anyway about their project. This will include budget, along with other information that will speed up the entire proposal process. For 180 – we linked to this from contact page (http://www.180bydesign.com/contact) and in a special paragraph on thank you confirmation after someone contacts you (If you’d like faster response for a new projects… please go ahead and fill out this form … )

    This has worked super super well us.

    • @Chuck Norton,
      I like the way you have gone about doing this, Chuck. It seems like a reasonable alternative. Thanks for sharing.

    • @Chuck Norton, I have tried this before. What happens is eventually clients that do not like to show their budget or get totally turned off will leave. However I noticed you have yours spread your questionnaire over a few pages. Conversion rate or not, eventually this method will not be any different than asking it in the initial contact page.

      • @Behzad, No – you’re totally right about conversions being low. But that longer form is not meant to get lots of conversions.. but the opposite.

        In fact, I get a lot of leads as it is (as I’ve heard many web companies do these days). So in order to prequalify actual serious leads, we created the longer form that we actually require most clients to fill out. If someone fills it out: we know their a serious client (along w/ their budget). If they can’t spend 5 minutes filling out an easy online form, we are probably in for a painful website project.

        But – again – if someone just wants to say ‘hello’ or network with us, lets make it as easy as possible, right!?

        • @Chuck Norton, Makes sense. Thanks for the tip. I guess we will never know until we try it for a while.

        • @Chuck Norton, I think you’re right on. If you’re getting lots of leads, this form will help you filter out the tire kickers and clients just looking for low ball pricing.

          On the other hand, if someone were in the opposite situation and was just starting out, a simpler contact form (w/o budget info) might be in order just to get leads in the door.

  10. charmdeyes says:

    The budget drop down menu gives a more professional feel, however
    it should be an option for visitors/clients to use.
    Some persons may have complex questions, and are undecided, until they
    speak to you; and you gain their trust!

  11. I would say that its vital for people to give you an estimated budget for the project. This way it gives you an idea of what they are looking for.

    I have an enquiry recently from a Jeweller who wanted an e-shop for less than £600, which is just ridiculous, when i worked for BT you were talking a minimum of £1700.

    Too many people are scared off by large figures when they enquire, so i think i will incorporate a rough estimate of costs on my contact page so that people get an idea of potential costs before contacting me.

    • @Alan, LOL… 600. Yeah – I think some people don’t even think about a budget before calling designers. It’s ridiculous actually. I get the feeling many times that all of our time is actually being spent helping them think through their budget.

      PS In fact – this is basically what RFP’s do many times too… use designer bids to help them think through their budget… but that’s a different subject.

  12. I personally like the idea because it weeds out the low-paying clients, but I can understand why a budget option can be bad. I currently just made a budget option on my website’s contact form and I’m hoping it will go well. I did, though, include a Not Sure option to accommodate for those who don’t know the value of a website. If you include that option, I think less people will think twice before hiring you.

  13. Having a budget range selector makes you seem like you will pull a budget out of nowhere by loosely balancing the effort and what you can get out of your client. Your work should be based purely on your time and effort. This is most easily achieved by setting an hourly rate, estimating the man hours per the atomically specified project, and doing basic math. If you under estimate your time, lose the money and take the learning experience. If your client under estimates what they need and try to add things in, direct them to the agreed upon specs, charge them more and make it a learning experience for them. There is too much mysticism in freelance design.

    • @rgrwkmn, I look at it this way. By having a knowledge of what the client can afford, I will put together the best possible solution to meet their design needs, budget and time-line. Clients that think we are pulling a budget out of nowhere by loosely balancing the effort and what you can get out of the client are not the clients you would want to work with.

      • I’m changing my second person verbiage above to a third person so it doesn’t sound so confrontational ;)

        @behzad, I think that the budget selector itself suggests that one doesn’t have a consistent process for charging clients. One could suggest the ballpark budget after one finds out what the potential client wants. If it is too high, the potential client will adjust their requirements or look for cheaper work elsewhere. If the opposite happens, and the client would have selected $15,000+ when they needed $1,500 worth of work, what is one to charge them? Depends on one’s own ethics I guess, but surely makes anyone pause.

  14. Great input guys. It seems more of you agree that the budget selector should include a “Not Sure” option. I would like you all to ask your friends who are using the budget selector to participate here and give us some feedback.

  15. Nice topic. I toyed with the idea of having a budget option on my site but I found the idea a little too blunt and final. I think it gives both the designer and client some much needed flexibility if you don’t include it. I find that the client’s expectations and even the size and depth of any given project is liable to change at any time, so setting a definite budget from the off can sometimes be slightly inhibiting.

    That said, I wrote a post a little while back on why I decided to display my pricing on my site. I preferred to give a general indication rather than pigeon hole people in to specific price bands. But this is also open to problems. As with everything in web design and freelancing, I don’t there is a correct answer. Really depends on what you feel most comfortable with.

  16. If there are more cons than pros, why using it? I always do something if it has more advantage…Anyway, if you use a budget selector and the client choose the lowest price than you should make his design for the respective price. I mean, the more complex a design is, the more money the client needs to spend…

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