How to decline an inquiry with a budget too low

Hello everyone,

I recently created a questionnaire sheet we use for new potential clients who call in to inquire on our web development services. One question is their budget range. Recently, I had a very nice lady call to inquire on my services and wanted me to visit her shop to see her work and tell her more about web development. When I asked her what her project budget was, she replied she had no clue, so I gave her some options, which she replied was out of her price range but she still wants me to come visit her shop (which is quite far away) and see what I can offer.

My question is how do I turn down inquiries politely if I know their budget is too low?

Thanks for any suggestions!

You tell her, as nicely as you can, that since her shop is so far away for you, you can’t really do that if she has no intention of becoming a client, but that you’d be happy to have her send you some materials and photos via email…

I would be perfectly honest, and explain why you charge what you do and the results you deliver. This may up her willingness to pay more. Otherwise, you need to just explain you can’t invest time in this project.

There’s no point in visiting people who has no intention of buying your product. If you called a carpenter, asked him about the price for a certain type of work and told him the price was out of range, there’s no way he would go to your house to talk about the work anyway.

Simply tell the lady, nicely, that while you appreciate her invitation, you do not believe that you will be able to make a deal to her satisfaction. If you know another designer who does low-budget work, refer her to him in stead (if you don’t know such a designer, it might be a good idea to find one in your area, who can then in turn refer customers too large for him to you - after all, there is no point in wasting a good lead).

Tell her, "I’d love to pop in and see your shop sometime after work or during lunch some day. However, if you want to make an appointment to discuss web development, our consultation fee is “$XXX”.

I don’t think you want to blow her off completely. She has friends and maybe some of them have more money and are better equipped to develop a web site than she is.

I also wouldn’t ask her to send you materials. What would you do with them? File them in the “circular file”? Moreover, if she goes to the trouble of sending materials, you can bet she will expect a follow-up on what she has sent, which will further obligate you to spend time on her business pro bono.

Thanks for all the great advice! This has happened several times in the past month where inquiries call in with a budget of a couple hundred dollars and great expectations. I’ve been at a loss as to how to handle such inquiries, but these suggestions will definitely help me be more prepared with an answer I’m satisfied with. Thanks!

As an update, I called the potential back and ask her more about her budget range. When she replied with a budget less than $1000, I explained why I couldn’t build her an e-commerce website with 200 products for this price, then referred her to another local freelancer. The conversion ended so well that she promised to call me back with updates on her project and would contact me if she needed more advanced development and marketing services.

Thanks for the suggestions, they worked wonderful!!! :slight_smile:

Good to hear it worked out! :slight_smile:

$1000 for an ecommerce site? It never ceases to amaze me how people completely undervalue these things. I can see how someone looking for a bog-standard info site may have a low budget, but not someone looking to sell online.

I personally never ask a client what their budget is. Most clients do not want to tell you anyway since they are trying to get the best deal they can or for that matter have already priced around for services.

What I do in every situation such as this is I tell the prospect that I will be glad to meet with them but I have to go over things by phone and email to determine if they are a fit for my services. If they are a fit for my services, then I tell them I will send them a general estimate with just the basics we discussed and if they are on board with my estimate, then I will proceed with them on completing a formal estimate.

In my area (Dallas Texas) it takes forever to drive anywhere to see a client or even have them visit your office due to traffic conditions. This is why it is so important to discuss these conditions and job requirements first by phone and email to determine what is best for your business.

Like in the post forum “C. Ankerstjerne”, you should let your prospect know of alternatives, that way they might consider their friends for future work to you, just don’t go overboard, it would be a waist of time then.

Keep in mind though, the cheap clients are a total waist of time. If they only have a budget of $1,000 for an ecommerce site, they are not serious about building their business. Those are the same folks that use Kinkos to design their business cards.

Jason V.

I was going to quote “creativepublic” but the entire post is so true. I quote the whole post!

  1. Most clients have no idea what web stuff should cost so of course they would tell you their budget is lower than what you would expect. So, don’t ask…educate.

  2. Never offer to “go” someplace to meet a prospect. Make yourself appear popular even if you’re not. You have way too many projects going on to just randomly take off half a day to go meet with someone, don’t you? If they want to come to your neck of the woods for coffee, that’s maybe possible. Always make them come to you unless they’re willing to pay you a block of time first.

  3. Show them your professionalism instead of deferring them to someone else. Set the standard for what they’d better expect from anyone they talk with beyond you. For example, I have what I call a website pre-flight and I actually sell it on my website. But, for prospects thinking of hiring me (or worse want me to come to them to meet for free), I’ll suggest that I send to them “free of charge” my website pre-flight. That way they see how I’m differentiated from most web-dudes and they get something of value even if they don’t use me for the services.

I completely agree with this in theory - an accountant or solicitor would expect you to make the effort visit them for a pre-sales chat, so why should an internet consultant be any different?

The problem is that while you are refusing to meet with a prospect, all your competitors are happily jumping in their car ready to lay out their sales presentation in person at the prospect’s office. While accountants and solicitors all play by the same rules, web developers simply do not have this solidarity.

And at the same time, prospects simply do not perceive web developers in the same light as more established professionals like accountants. It does appear that many prospects place web designers in the same category as tradesmen rather than professional consultants. And it’s not hard to work out why IMO.

We have this happen to us all the time. People call wanting an for $1500 or a 15-page static website for $500.

They have no idea what they need, and even if we convinced them to spend what we would normally charge, they would never actually feel that they had gotten the value out of it, because they already had a “value” in mind for the service. So we just politely tell them we can’t help them on that kind of budget.

I kindly explain that we can’t produce a quality website on the kind of budget that they have, and that they’d be better off either looking for a company who could (if their budget was even slightly reasonable for an independent contractor or small firm) or that they should investigate other options that fit in their budget, like one of those website builder programs.

Honestly, if they REALLY have a budget of a couple hundred dollars they’re not going to get a great website. They need to just sign up for a decent hosting account and use a site builder and put that $200 in the bank.

As long as you are professional and polite, they will usually be fine with it. We have even had people thank us for not wasting their time. We certainly wouldn’t meet with someone after finding out they had a really low budget… that’s just throwing money away. That’s time you could be spending working on a project, meeting with another potential client or managing your business.

I agree with everyone out there that potential clients rarely have a firm grasp on what quality development costs, but they see ads out there all the time for “websites starting at $125” so I figure it’s just part of my job to educate them. I explain to them just what I can do for them and how it will grow their business. When you can give them a solid grasp of what kind of Return On Investment they can see, then they’re more likely to raise their budget.