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I'm a web developer and I'm about to start my web design agency with a couple of friends, I've asked for advice on how to get started and also looked online on how to start a business.

I've seen this question a couple of times in different tutorials or guides in which you ask your client: "What is your budget for this project?". Is it me, or this might come off a little sketchy?

Is this a normal question to ask my new clients? Or could this potentially ruin the deal for me?

I've been asked this before when looking for services/products and it always seems to me like wanting to know your budget just makes you vulnerable to higher prices. And certainly I wouldn't want my clients to feel that way.

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    According to Game Theory, it is more probable that the one telling a price first is the one that gets less benefits. However, budget is something really important in any project and is something that should be mentioned to avoid unnecessary demos or project cancellations. Check this great question – DarkCygnus Aug 29 '17 at 20:56
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    Also, not all projects are "what is your budget?... ok, then we can do...". Some of them are the way arround: "Hey, I want to do this and that ... oh, ok, for that you will need X budget, is that ok?". This is something you should have in mind – DarkCygnus Aug 29 '17 at 21:01
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    I would probably give them a few different options and then say "depending on your budget, we could do x,y, or z..." I don't think anyone wants to get the impression that the cost of your services is dependent on what they're willing to pay. – AffableAmbler Aug 29 '17 at 22:15
  • Keep in mind that asking questions for no reason is rude. You need to be able to answer the obvious counter question of "Why do you ask?". Ken's answer gives one reason, another could be to figure out whether the client's expectations are realistic.But if you can't tell me why you want to know then I'm going to wonder if you know what you're doing. – Lilienthal Aug 30 '17 at 15:00
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If a client comes to you asking for an undefined project I would ask the budget.

If they want some thing specific like a logo, I would say: "I can do that logo for x €".

In any case asking for budget is not rude for business.

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    exactly, without budgets there will be no actual business just free work – DarkCygnus Aug 29 '17 at 21:03
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    Not to mention wasted time when you reached the end of the discussion and find out about his "budget" – Vylix Aug 29 '17 at 22:53
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Asking for your budget is just like asking how much money you want to make in an interview. It's something people frequently do ask, but don't be surprised if they are averse to answering, because it's dumb to answer it from the client point of view.

When a supplier asks me "what your budget is" I just ask them "what is your best offer for the work we're talking about?" Because strangely, if I say our budget is $100k, somehow I magically always get a proposal for $100k, which means they're either possibly trimming stuff I need to hit that number or just overcharging me and there's no way to know which. That may be effective for e.g. US government that has use-it-or-lose-it budget, but not for normal companies.

So yes, asking is a standard sales tactic that I consider mildly rude, but not enough to lose a deal over (many salespeople use a variety of pushy and rude tactics, you have to put up with a modest amount of it). Now, continuously insisting you need that number can put you on my bad side, but once just gets you a briefly furrowed brow and a redirection to you deciding on a fair price for your work.

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You gain a lot of important information by knowing the financial perspective of the customer. If your rates are variable it's something you need to know as early as possible. Not only for financial reasons, but level of knowledge of the customer. If they are asking for work that is normally worth 100K but in their mind they expect to spend 20K you know there are potential issues. The risk with how you come off is in how you ask. "How much can you spend?", can sound a little suspicious. I prefer to start with, "Do you have a budget"? Not too intrusive, but it breaks the money subject. With an experienced customer you probably don't even need to ask - they will often give you their budget when they tell what they want.

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