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We’ve all been there: a client approaches us with a project, and in their mind, it is going to change the world. Unfortunately, their “world-changing” idea is attached to a budget that is too small to accomplish their vision.

You want to politely tell them they are unrealistic and need to spend more money, but you’re not sure how. Use this script and give them the options on how to proceed…

“We’ve analyzed your project, and we don’t feel like you’ve allocated enough budget to accomplish your goals. There are two ways we can proceed. We could either revise the scope to create a minimum viable product, like a phase one, and then do another phase later when you have more budget. Or we could increase the budget now to do the whole project in one go. We think you’ll need $____ more budget to do the whole project now. Which option do you prefer?”

Analyze the Project

Don’t just jump in and tell them they are too cheap. Take a few minutes to analyze their request to confirm that they have unrealistic expectations. Many clients don’t realize that they are asking too much for their budget allowance.

Option 01: Reduce the Scope

Their first option is to reduce the scope. I’ve had a lot of success helping clients retool their project scope to create a minimum viable product. Oftentimes, they come back to expand the project in the future after they have more money.

Option 02: Increase the Budget

The second option is to increase the budget and do the full scope. Usually, clients with a tight budget don’t have the funds, and increasing their initial spend is not a viable option. However, it is still valuable to offer it to the client.

Ask Them to Choose

Ask them, “Which option do you prefer?” This question gives them a call to action and helps keep the conversation going. And of course, if the client says, “Neither, I’ll just find someone else to do the work,” then you are better off letting them go than taking on an unprofitable project. Let another person suffer the consequences, and unfortunately, learn the lesson I’ve outlined for you here.

Cheap clients seem to find us, even with bigger projects. In fact, my biggest financial loss ever (and most painful project in my history) was a multi-six-figure project. Don’t be afraid to truly vet an opportunity and politely say “no” when appropriate.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.