I spend a fair amount of time developing quotes for websites. Heck - I’m even travelling to the Netherlands to talk about my approach for quoting and planning ExpressionEngine based sites. One of the tougher aspects of quoting work is that initial feeling-out of the prospective client. Do they want steak on a hamburger budget or are they realistic about the costs involved for what they want?
You’ll often get the advice to ask about their budget early on. Prospective clients don’t always have one, or aren’t always willing to share one if they do, but often you can get a response with a number that does a good job of letting you know if it’s a conversation worth continuing. Put another way, you should ask potential clients: “How much are you looking to spend?”
But I find myself on the other side of that question lately.
And I’m amazed at how frustrating it can be.
Here’s the deal—after being in the basement for 7+ years I’d just really like to work above ground and I’m exploring a number of options for doing that. One of those options is building something along the lines of a 12x16 shed in the backyard and outfitting it as a cosy office, out of the house but still at home.
I’ve never had a house built. I’ve never had a pole barn built. I haven’t had so much as a custom doghouse built. I have absolutely no knowledge of what the possible costs might be for such a project.
So I found some plans on eBay for something close to what I have in mind, and size-wise what the township allows me. The plans were only $15 and my thought was I could take these plans to a local builder or two just to get a rough ballpark. Am I looking at $5K? $10K? $15K More? Because I don’t know how serious I am about this idea until I get at least some rough numbers around what it might cost. $10K might be doable. $20K? More? Maybe I should just look for another house with one more bedroom.
The problem is everyone I’ve talked to so far keeps asking that question: “How Much Are You Looking to Spend?” And the answer I keep biting back is “Nothing. I don’t want to spend a dime. I want the perfect backyard office to magically appear one morning, with flowers blooming, a rocking sound system kicking out some Stevie Ray Vaughn, the smell of a fresh pot of coffee drifting through the open french doors, and a triple-screen desktop all warmed up—all without costing me one red cent. That’s how much I want to spend”.
What I’m asking for is—just in general - how much might I have to spend for what I’m looking to do? Pick your biggest brush and draw me a number - I’m not looking for penny-pinching precision here.
Tonight I had to take a phone call from one of the local builders that I dropped the plans off to. I was put on the spot with questions that I didn’t have answers for (What quality of furnishings? 15 year or 30 year roof?) And I feel so bad - I didn’t want the guy to put that much time into his quote because I don’t know how serious I am about the work. I explained all of this when I dropped off the plans, but the quote is being done by someone else in the company and evidently my instructions didn’t go with the plans. I’m frustrated now, and he’s got a good chance of being frustrated when I look at his highly detailed bid and shake my head.
So I’m taking this as a lesson in my own work - sometimes potential clients won’t have a budget. They have an idea, a thought, a concept and just need rough numbers to help determine how seriously to take it. And while I do have some basic ranges that I’ve given out over the years, I need to be better prepared with helpful quick answers. Whether it turns into a real project for me, it will ease the conversation, require less of my time, and not frustrate those potential clients with requests for details that just don’t have any answers yet.
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