Among the many challenges faced by web designers is dealing with clients' fluctuating budgets, particularly when they don't know what they want and have demands inconsistent with their budget. It is not always easy to decide what to charge for a job. Consider the time needed to complete the project, deadlines, and copyright use, balanced with the client's expected budget to estimate a quote that's not too low that it devalues your skills and not too high that it loses the job. The importance of fact-finding before starting any project can't be underestimated.
Many designers make use of long questionnaires to identify client requests but shorter surveys with more in-depth questions are likely better to focus intentions. These can help determine what it is clients want their websites to achieve, considering realistic benefits rather than superfluous bells and whistles. You'll also want a clear idea about what the organization is, their core differentiation features, prospective visitors and what desired action will come from interacting with the site. Identify short-term and long-term expectations for both the company and its website, with a realistic completion date. It may be easier for them to describe what it is they do not want on their website. This will help in dealing with infamous lines like "I'll know what I want when I see it", as it can rule out many possibilities while potentially comparing unwanted features with preferred alternatives.
As for determining the all important budget, the most simple and straightforward approach is to ask the client what they plan to spend. Asking this early in the negotiation process will ensure you don't waste time and effort. Some business owners have never taken computer courses and have no idea how much a website generally costs so may need to be guided with examples, but it is best if they can talk directly about money as this will establish effective communication for other matters as well. You may present the client with budget options and the various pros, cons and outcomes of each, while explaining why disclosing the budget can benefit both parties. Know the lowest you can go before suggesting a price range. If necessary, negotiate by dropping parts of the project and explaining why these are the prices but don't be afraid to lose a client if their request is unreasonable.
Provide details to explain your pricing, breaking the work down into chunks to describe necessary tasks with accompanying time and money required. Be ready to justify this cost with a rational explanation and consider offering pricing options to spread out payments for price-sensitive clients. Get an agreement in writing with the scope of the project, deadlines and deliverables, a detailed description of your services, revisions and fees for additional work and terms of payment. Consider which skills you are most comfortable with from your web design courses and if the project doesn't feel right for you it is OK to say no.
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Patrick Quinn is a Copywriter at Higher Education Marketing, a leading web marketing firm specializing in Google Analytics, Education Lead Generation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing, and Pay Per Click Marketing, among other web marketing services and tools.