JournalJun 2014

So, what sort of budget do we have to work with, here?

Maybe 40 years ago, designer asking for a budget upfront would be considered a bit rude–but hopefully neither of us are blindly basing the way we do business upon convention that is decades out of date, and holds everybody back.

When we set up a video Hangout with each potential client in order to to get to know them and their project better, discussing their project goals and objectives simply can’t be done without also having a sensible discussion about what resources we all have available to make those ambitions happen.

So, let’s stop wasting each others’ precious time

We’re totally understanding of the fact that to many clients, a project budget still feels like a very uncomfortable figure to disclose–a card they hold close to their chest. And for sure, there are some agencies who, as soon as they know your budget, will inflate any project costs so that (how conveniently) the quoted project cost matches up perfectly with the figure you just told them. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Obviously you’ll have to trust us when we say this, but that’s not the way we aim to do things at Hanno.

We have a small team, and we don’t have any dedicated sales and marketing people to pitch and close potential projects. Maybe we’re missing a trick with that, but to us, it feels like the right way to do things. Just like you, we want to work smartly, and minimise wasted time for both ourselves, and our clients. We also want to let the quality of our work do the talking.

To me, Grey Hoy’s buying a house analogy is the perfect example of why these conversations waste time unless we have a budget to give some context:

“When you meet with a Realtor, they ask what your budget is right up front. You can want all the three car garages, swimming pools, and gourmet kitchens in the world, but if you don’t have the budget for it, the conversations you had getting there are totally moot. They waste energy.”

Knowing your budget allows us to work together to find a solution, right from the start

We believe that you can never achieve the same success and quality of result by working at arms length from an agency and treating them as an outsourcing partner. Briefing an agency, then sending them off to complete the work with minimal interaction from that point on, is a big mistake.

The clients we work with are the ones who agree that they need deep collaboration on their projects in order to make them work. If that sounds like an overused cliche, well, that’s just because there’s a ton of truth to it.

In order to get this kind of collaboration, we aim to be way more transparent than a lot of other agencies. We don’t hide information from clients when it’s relevant to the success of their project, and in exchange, we ask that they don’t hide information from us either. That transparency, which starts at the conversation we have about budget requirements and project goals, helps us all to increase the chances of making each project a successful one.

This also means that we have a very good idea of the ‘minimum budget’ you’re likely to need, to get things built. And we’ll make sure you’re aware of this.

We’ve been in this business for a while, and we like to think we’ve got a pretty good handle on how long things usually take to get done, what tools are best for the job, and how much we need to bill in order to give both value to the client, and allow us to remain profitable and in business.

We’ve also made a conscious decision to avoid certain kinds of smaller projects that a more junior freelance designer might work on, for example. We took that decision to allow us to deliver better results to the clients we do take on. We don’t want to take on a project unless we can leave the client extremely happy with the results. For those projects which aren’t well matched to what we can deliver as a team, we’d rather refer them to a freelancer, another agency, or to a product like Squarespace, than we would take on a project that’s inevitably not going to live up to our own high standards.

So we have a good idea of the minimum budget that different types of work involve. If we know we’re not the right fit for your project, we’d rather tell you that right away, and help you find a better fit elsewhere, than waste your time. If you’re a potential client, and we’re having a quick 30 minute chat, I’d much rather discover early on that we’re not going to be a fit to work together, and then be able to use the rest of that call to help you out and point you in the right direction to go next, than I would spend it talking about pointless hypotheticals that you’ve no chance of implementing.

To me, that just feels like the right way to do business.

Posted by
Jon Lay

Jon is a Partner at Hanno. He wears many hats, but his primary focus is on leading our engineering and technical operations.