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You know, just stuff like this. I'm just trying to get an idea of what other webmasters are using as their protocol
"i'm about to be fixin' to go up there and start about working on a degree so i can be a brain surgeon one day."
usually, the whole 'start up' process is split into sections for me. first speak: ideas thrown around, get a feel for the potential client. second speak: offer a proposal and more solid ideas, close the deal on second or third speak (or even later, depending on the circumstances).
at the end, if there is ANY question as to whether i will get paid or not, i will provide the website as a program (similar to an ebook) and take it with me.
there are tons of variables, as each situation can be very different from what you've ever dealt with before no matter how long you are in the business.
When I talk to client that is a startup, I try to get a copy of a written business plan so I have a good idea where the website fits in (part of the marketing plan? e-commerce? both?)
If it's existing business, I ask similar questions as to why they want a website and how they expect it to boost business. I also try to get a handle on the image they want to portray and who they are trying to sell to. Obviously a site that sells Harley Davidson parts would have a completely different look and feel than one selling sewing machines.
Once you have an idea what the client wants and have a clear view of his expectations, you then have to tell him if you can help him and whether those expectations are real. After you have a meeting of the minds, then you can start discussing price.
To me, one of the most important things in meeting with a client is to be completely honest and to make absolutely certain that you are on the same sheet of music about the website's design/layout/content, deadlines, prices, and post production maintenance. I wouldn't take the job unless these things are clearly articulated. Otherwise, there will be disappointments on both sides and that makes for a lousy business relationship.
If you tell the client that you would charge $500 for 5 pages and they say that is too much, ask them what their budget is. If they say, $400, then figure out what you can give them for $400.
Most clients don't want to talk about price first, so focus on what they need. Then give them a price.
If they start talking about prices first, then I would ask them their budget.
When I talk to a client for the first time, I usually find out what they need first. I always send them a proposal after our conversation. I almost never tell them a price over the phone on our first conversation unless I have talked to that client through email on what they need. It's quite an odd feeling of talking to a client, them asking for a price, and you are on your calculator figuring out the price while they are waiting on the other end. I stopped doing that after 2 weeks in business for myself.
many people are uncomfortable with disclosing what their budget is but i find that if you explain that you want to give them an appropriate quote which is realistic to both their needs and their budget then most will relent.
any site is succesful because of content and promotion, the more of each that you do the more succesful a site will be. each takes time and each therefore costs money; a direct correlation between the price of a job and its likely success emerges.
its not a question i ask, but would if i were to do a project say for a school or government agency.
What I like to do is talk with the client to find out what they want. I then estimate how much time it will take and multiply that times the hourly rate. I make it clear that anything that causes delays (such as the client changing their minds half way thru development) will cost them more money. By the same token, if it takes less time, I pass the savings to the client. I think they appreciate the honesty and are more willing to recommend you to others. I found out the hard way that charging by the page can cost you time and therefore money.
as a client i would not care to be asked about my budget. for one, its confidential. secondly, as a client i may feel you will attempt to adjust your pricing according to my responses.
say i have $150k to spend and i want a sports car then i'm unlikely to be impressed when some lousy salesman who obviously hasn't figured me out (not even asked what my budget is!) suggests a mazda, or equally if I have $15,000 and he suggests an Aston Martin.
what lies at the core of my suggestion is my belief that there is a huge gulf between "a Web site that sells widgets" and "five pages of html with 4 images on each". both the number of pages and the amount of time spent on promotion is variable and more time, in most cases, will deliver better results. you can pitch in a quote for a site which will do a 1) bad job, 2) average job or 3) great job but is it up to you to artificially limit the success of their Web site?
I also think it's how you ask it. You don't answer the phone that is a potential client and automatically ask what their budget is. Create a list of questions on what they need and ask what their budget is based on what they need.
When someone goes into a dealership, they look at certain cars on the lot that already has the price tag on it. The salespeople pounce on you and know right off the bat on what your budget is because of the cars you were looking at previously.
If the person does not look at the cars and goes right to a salesperson, the salesperson will ask what cars are they interested in. Most people know what they want and have researched on prices of the cars.
If you have 150k to spend on a car, you will not be in a mazda dealership and vice versa if you only have $15k in a more expensive dealership. <grin>