I'll admit this subject is a hard practice to build, but hear me out. Budgeting is a foundational skill worth building. Budgeting accurately requires taking the time to think the project through. As creatives, it's easy to think about vision and creativity and forget the time required, people needed, and associated costs. Budgeting better creates new problems. Mostly, pitching higher prices but understanding where you are short-changing yourself leads to long-term growth and fewer frustrations.
So let's dive in.
I'll admit every time a new project comes up, I get excited, but it's crucial to remember the importance of budgeting and not be blinded but excitement or crippled by negotiations. A budget sets the foundation for a successful project and helps ensure you have the resources and finances needed to bring your client's vision to life. Without a budget, it's easy to overspend and get stuck with unplanned expenses, which can jeopardize your project's success. This has short and long-term ripple effects in business.
Let's address a common misstep I hear time and time again. It's price anchoring or feeling the pressure to give a price. Now you can 100% have set prices or a custom quote. Whatever works for you and enables you to feel confident talking numbers and land more work. We do a mixture of both and use each as a tool to secure more work and nurture relationships. Anyway, in early calls, clients want a price. I get it but know you aren't using your time together to give a price. Those early calls are about doing three things; understanding needs (collecting information), building the relationship (earning trust), and setting expectations (educating).
When someone asks for a price, you can let them know you need to collect the info, and you can build them a quote or, in our case, 2-3 options for investment. Another way to word this is with a range. For several years our projects have landed between $4k-$40k, so we will let them know a broad range and let them know why that range is there. This ends up being more educational, and to get a feel for what they are comfortable spending. Budget is critical to understand before you quote. The bottom line is that you don't want to give a price until you have time to process the information, and in the exercise below, you will see how we build three options for our clients, so we are competing with ourselves vs. an all or nothing approach of one price. This works well for our clients and us. Think good, better, best.
When I budget, I first like to enter a big-thinking mindset and taper down deliverables and experience. This can be tedious, but once you do this about a dozen times, it becomes automatic and fun. Taking the time to think through every aspect of your project and understand the costs involved helps you avoid costly mistakes down the road. By having a clear and comprehensive budget, you can focus on what truly matters – creating great work. With the proper funding in place, you'll have the peace of mind to focus on bringing your creative vision to life, knowing that you have the resources and support you need to succeed.
Additionally, most creatives have heard of value-based pricing. This isn't just to get higher budgets for creatives, but it also benefits clients. What helped me support higher prices was understanding the experience I could create. Knowing we have the budget to deliver a great experience, be accurate, and feel empowered rather than cutting corners has made our companies significantly more efficient and a happier place to work. Happy crews do good work and deliver excellent experiences. There's something to being scrappy and doing a good job, but it's a whole other thing when you need to add an extra day of filming and have quoted for deliverables instead of days. Being able to gift a day of production and not invoice more builds tons of trust equity, and doing all this while not taking a loss is even better. This is what better budgeting will do for your projects.
Ultimately, well-crafted budgets give you the confidence to accurately present your proposal, helping you win over clients and secure new opportunities. Every project is an opportunity to gain credibility and shows that you're a professional who takes your work seriously. I encourage putting effort into budgeting; you'll avoid setbacks and make the most of your resources, leading to long-term success as a creative.
Need a headstart on budgeting your next project? Grab our video budgeting tool