Why does your web designer want to know how much money you have?

Behind the Numbers: The Budget Conversation in Web Design

Blog Audio: Read/listen time: 10 minutes

I’m sure you have experienced it, you approach a bunch of web designers or design agencies for quotes for a website and they want to know every detail. Then the question comes where they ask you about how much money you have. You, stall, avoid the question and just ask for their best price.

My name is Paul Edwards, I am a web consultant and frontend developer based in Worthing, West Sussex. If you feel that you have any unanswered questions I would be happy to have a chat to you about your specific situation. Call me on 01903 527927.

Today I answer the question:

Why does my web designer want to know my budget?

The most difficult conversation to have with a new client is often about money. To make matters more difficult, if your chosen web designer is doing her/his job, it is a conversation that happens early on in the relationship. There are practical reasons for discussing money so early on but also it allows your new designer to test the water. What do I mean by test the water? Asking a client “what budget is available to this project” allows us to get a very quick idea of how much thought has been put into the project by the client before we started our conversation.

Sometimes budgets are allocated, goals are documented and all decisions have been based upon solid statistics and research. Sometimes, the opposite is true and asking about budget gives a very brief insight into how much extra work will fall onto the designer on this contract in terms of client education and potential consultancy requirements. The outcome of that simple question could even be that the project should be paused until the proper pre-requisite research and strategy has been completed.

Every web design project costs money. It doesn’t matter if you are starting the project internally or using an external agency or freelance web designer to complete the works. Their time costs money. Not only that, there will be costs and expenses that don’t relate to time expenditure too.

Do you have a budget?

So how much should your new website cost?

Ah, that old chestnut. Whenever I am asked that by a prospective client I answer with one of a few analogies, firstly:

If you were my architect, and I asked you to build me a house, how much would it cost?

The response is always the same, either a look of enlightenment, which is difficult to see on the phone, but which I swear still has its own unique sound or silence perhaps.

At that point, it becomes very clear to the client, what they have to pay is going to largely depend upon what is needed. What is needed is dependent upon the client’s goals, the needs of their users and of course, the available budget for the project.

You can see that the question about the budget really is important. The solution that is to be delivered by your web designer is entirely dependent upon budget. If you want a reliable estimate for a project that is based around a solution that you can afford to actually implement, you have to reveal your budget.

But if you reveal your budget won’t I just spend it all?

Short answer, yes. Unless your budget is so large that the best possible solution can be picked every time and leave surplus funds.

New clients, in particular, smaller companies or sole traders, are always worried that if they reveal their budget for a web design project that they will be ripped off by the people that they contact for estimates.

Some of the issue here is one of perspective and I try and address this early on by being very upfront and clear to my clients. I tell them this. “I will spend every penny that you allow me to”. I also then explain that my motivation is to provide the best possible solution that helps my clients achieve their goals as quickly as possible. To do this I have to implement the best possible solution available within their budget. If your budget is £500 or £50k please let me know.

But isn’t that taking advantage of clients’ honesty about the budget?
Absolutely not. Working to a budget is the height of responsibility. You, as a client, should reveal your budget freely, quickly and honestly.

Why should you reveal your budget when seeking estimates for web design?

It allows freelancers and companies to quickly ascertain if they are a good fit for your needs. Budget quickly gives rise to an idea of potential manpower requirements and the likelihood for specialist skills. This reduces the chance of being picked up by a designer who ends up feeling undervalued and unmotivated to do their best work.

Revealing your budget allows those returning estimates to price in solutions which are achievable within your budget. There is no point getting widely different estimates which provide very different solutions to your project, some of which may not be possible within the budget you have in your mind. By hiding your budget you don’t pick the best firm to carry out your work, you simply end up picking the one that made the right ‘guess’ about your financial capacity when you spoke initially. This doesn’t allow for proper differentiation between contractors when making your choice.

Revealing budget allows a more accurate estimate to be formed, with much more detail about how a project will be delivered. More information reduces the ‘unknowns’ and therefore reduces stress levels and anxiety about a project on both sides of the contract.

I will provide the right solution based upon your declared budget and if your budget is insufficient to allow us to reach your goals in one step it allows me to then suggest a phased approach or prioritisation of your project delivery get you as far as you can go for your money.

Revealing your budget shows trust and starting a relationship in a way that demonstrates this trust will cement the relationship quickly and build more of a partnership approach and the sharing of goals rather than an adversarial relationship where both sides compete to reduce either delivery of funds or labour.

Want to work out a budget but not sure where to start?

I wouldn’t be fair of me to say that working out a budget is simple. There are so many factors that come into play when setting a budget but to get a really quick and simple starting point lets assume that whatever the projected yearly turnover created by your new website is, take 10% of that as a starting figure.

Projected annual income generated by new website * 0.1 = starting figure for website budget

Let’s assume that your new project is projected to turnover £500k in its first year. Using the formula above, we end up with a starting budget of £50k.

Now, 50k may sound like a huge amount of money, and let us be honest here, depending upon your project, how it generates its turnover and lots of other factors that figure may be either too high or too low. But let’s also try and remember that your investment should be split out over the useful life of your new website, which in most cases is about 4 years. (see this blog post about website life spans)

For the sake of the argument, it gives us a starting figure and teh very fact that it will either offend you or seem quite cheap is very revealing and useful. It gives you your first gut feeling about the project and allows the sum to be divided up between the cost centres. For example, not all this cost may go to your web designer, it may be split between your internal content team, IT department and your chosen web professional.

Some projects have very low costs, others much higher. Some of the things that you will need to consider when amending this budget figure may include the following:

  • domain and hosting fees
  • web consultancy
  • research costs
  • web design and build
  • ongoing website management
  • ongoing website maintenance
  • content generation
  • software license fees
  • cost of integration with internal sales and stock management systems
  • legal fees for terms and conditions, GDPR etc.
  • community management
  • marketing
  • user testing
  • % margin of error for extra unforeseen expenses
  • translation into multiple languages
  • search engine optimisation

Once you consider all of the above items you may find that your new amended budget will be quite different. However, you now have a figure that you can present to those that you wish to receive estimates from. A figure which your chosen web designer or agency can look at and use to ascertain whether you have sufficient or insufficient funds to reach your goals.

What if your website isnt going to generate income directly?

Your new website may not be an ecommerce site and as such may not directly generate revenue, however, there are other ways to take a good guess at a starting figure for a budget.

  • Will your new website provide a function or service that is currently costing you money to provide by another route?
  • If your site is going to be a lead generation site, do you have projected figures for how many leads you require it to generate? Do you currently have an average cost per lead that you can use in your assumptions?
  • Will your new website be saving you costs elsewhere?

By using the approach above, you can start to get an idea of the financial value of your website which will then allow you to substitute the turnover figure with a figure generated by cost savings and added value. This will help you get started in calculating your budget figure.

Assuming you have enough budget to reach your goals, the provision of a budget figure will allow your chosen web team to start to work out exactly what kind of solutions to offer you.

the provision of a budget figure will allow your chosen web team to start to work out exactly what kind of solutions to offer you.

By being upfront and honest about your budget you will make better appointments, stand a better chance of reaching your goals and cultivate a better and more effective relationship with your internal and external web teams.

Still need more help?

If you feel that you need more detailed guidance to work out a budget for your web design project please get in touch with me on 01903 527927. I am very happy to offer advice and guidance that will help you in your particular situation and get you on the road to achieving your goals.