This post is for clients/potential clients, and I’m going to cut to the chase (a.k.a. tl;dr:): unless you have exceptionally well detailed technical specs for what you want, we need to know your website budget, at least at a ballpark level, before responding to an RFP.

We don’t love RFPs for a number of reasons, but sometimes the bureaucracy of an organization requires it. Many RFPs will contain an estimated or maximum budget. This is very good because it lets us quickly evaluate whether it’s worth our time (and yours) for us to respond to the RFP. If the project scope is wildly out of balance with the budget, we can flag that early and start a conversation.

Some clients have the idea that not revealing their budget will produce better proposals because firms will offer their best price, or because they don’t want to risk overpaying. This is flawed thinking. By revealing your budget you allow for a couple of possibilities: if you have more money to spend than your proposal actually requires, a smart proponent will expand the services they’re offering to fill out the budget, as that will strengthen their proposal. In that case, you can either get more for your money than you were expecting, or reduce the scope to save money. If you have less money than your proposal requires, a studio that is interested in taking on the project can work with you to refine your scope of work to meet your budget.

By not revealing your budget, you risk wasting the time of the very professionals you want responding to your RFP, who will then be less interested in working with you in the future. Then when you DO get the money together, the first question will be “how much money do you have to work with this time?” So you’ll end up answering the question anyway, while simultaneously getting the relationship off to a bad start.

The worst case is when a client really doesn’t know their budget at all, yet submits an RFP as if it were a shovel-ready project in order to gauge the market and establish a budget. This is a huge waste of everyone’s time, and is unethical to boot. Design/Development shops have to account for their hours to stay afloat. The prices a studio charges account for both work completed and making up non-billable hours. If they must invest time into full proposals for projects that aren’t actually ready to go, someone else is going to have to pay for that. How would you feel knowing that part of your bill for your site goes to paying for someone who wasted your developer’s time by not doing their own homework?

A good firm that is interested in a project will try meet your budget goals so that everyone wins. Coming to the table with transparency is the best policy for getting good work done.