In over 30 years I never asked a client what their budget for a project is, but it does make sense to know the amount so we can design to that. Recently a potential client contacted me about a project. Immediately, budget constraints came up. I sent a few pictures of similar projects, and they liked what they saw. I was only given a verbal description of the job and room it goes in with no dimensions. I was asked to submit my pricing for their review; I told them I needed more info to give a real price.
I realized how important the budget was to the clients and they wanted me to meet at the site to go over what they want. There is no plan, no layout, no appliance schedule at this point, so I asked what the budget for this part of the job is, to design with the budget in mind. I got no answer so I would bet there is no dollar amount, they just want to spend as little as possible. I guess trying to stay within an invisible and hidden budget is tricky. In retrospect, this was not my customer.
What do you all do about that age old budget question?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor R:
Why would anyone give you a budget number if you aren't willing to give them a cost number? It's really not that hard to put down some basic pricing structure that says this is what our cabinets cost, with this upgrade costing this. Will it cover everything? No, but it will give you the advantage of having your customers feel you are being as above the board as you are asking them to be. Break it down however you price your cabinets. It tells them if you do this the cost will be this, you do that your cost will be that. Puts the customer at ease.
I don't have a good answer for this question. I've been tiptoeing around this problem for a bit over ten years now and am still uncomfortable asking about budgets. I think one thing that has helped me is most of my work comes from word of mouth, so they usually have some concept of what custom work costs in relation to off-the-shelf. Even still, I lose jobs because I'm too expensive for some. But from what I've read here over the years, that seems to be the norm.
The problem is that no one knows what this stuff - custom woodwork - costs; or even if they need it.
If the customer is still in front of me, I will offer to spec the job and do a quick design or use an existing one and quote a price - and establish a budget. This way it is to my apples and someone else's oranges, and I have shown ability and willingness to help them construct a budget.
If you are fair and honest with them there is an opportunity to become a partner where you provide product at a cost that is designed to meet their budget.
Quality at a price you can afford should leave you with three different prices to give your customer. High, medium and low. You sell what type of woodworking you want to build, plenty of choices.
At that point they'll show their cards - "shop X said it would be $" or "but we only want to spend $". Remember they don't want a Kitchen or A/V center, they want a lifestyle. Marketing 101 - you don't buy sandpaper because you want sandpaper, you buy sandpaper because you want smooth wood.
Even if I listed my formula with prices attached, it would not give these folks a price for the job in question - it would only show what we have charged for other jobs. It may make sense to us, but the clients have no clue what is what and still would want an exact price, which they deserve.
These folks had not gotten a bid, only looked at Ikea online or something.
Not that long ago a guy came in with a layout for me to bid on. I spent a half hour or so going over it with him and bid it up and contacted him to talk about the price. I bid it tight, rather on the low side. I came up with like $8500 and slashed it to get there. His comment was, we can get it for $4000 for big box - we want to try to get it down some. I thanked him for his time and wished him well.
I do like the idea of showing pictures with the costs for those projects. It shows them what you charged for those jobs, but unless they are the same size it still leaves them wondering and will not give them an exact price, which I would rather do.
I come from a general contracting approach and I simply will not invest hours and hours in a sit down with a customer or a site visit if there isn't some serious feeling that the project has a substantial chance of moving forward. I can't count the times individuals have approached me on a whim asking for a price on a major project that may involve ten to twelve hours of estimating or more. I simply can't do it. Nor can I go to a job and do a measured takeoff for someone who is never even going to have a chance of moving forward.
This is why I do as many here have mentioned. In the early stages I present them with some options and examples of the ranges of fit and finish available and follow that up with giving them a ballpark high end and low end range of pricing. In this quick exchange I am able to let them know where I honestly feel the project will land based on my experience. This almost instantly culls out the people who are not even going to entertain your number and are in fact looking for pricing cheaper than the home center. Better to find out before you've invested the first dollar in an estimate.
I would simply be broke if I sat down and did an estimate with even a preliminary sketch for every customer that asked me for one. The time lost would be too much to bear.
1) Clients who think big and dream bigger, they just don't have the means to make it happen.
2) Clients who want to whittle you down.
3) Clients who have but don't want to spend their money.
4) Clients who don't have a clue about prices.
5) And of course everyone's favorite, the divided couple.
There are other types but I think you're facing the "don't have a clue" category. I should mention there are also many types of positive clients as well.
In the end all you can do is (after careful telephone screening) meet with the client to get a feel for them and the project. Give them a quote, hope and follow up with them. Sometimes it's just a matter of scheduling, timing or they forgot or were too embarrassed to call in order to eliminate items that they can't afford.
I had a quote I gave to a potential client and they actually e-mailed me to let me know they were going to use another cabinetmaker. I thanked them for taking their time to let me know what they had decided. If nothing else it was a good practice of what civil communication should be.
These smell like time wasters to me, but I'm just going by what you said. No, I don't fault them for not giving you a budget - some people just bargain that way. I usually try to get them collaborating with me, a) because that's my style and b) because collaboration is more likely to get us both what we want.
If you have a sense they are just looking for the cheapest, say that you can't beat Home Depot and their installers, and you would not want to. Your type of work takes better materials and more time, but will look and last better. Always thank them for their interest; when their trust fund is released they may remember you. Especially if you have impressed them with how willing you are to work with them.
I told them to make sure they get prices on all wood cabinets from Home Depot. They did, and with about $2000 for install and cabinets close to the same price as mine, they realized custom was a better value for less money this time.
If they get prices on the best grade of cabinets, this will work every time. If it is the lowest cost cabinets they want, the deal is off. Also, I will make a layout the box store cannot duplicate. Get your client to fall in love with your layout and you got them usually.