Thanks for sharing this! I always feel awful when I give out a ballpark estimate on virtually no info. There's definitely a better way, hence the article.
I noticed some vitriol over on HN. I get that it's not one way or the other; there's always a balance based on the situation.
All things equal though, it seems like this comes from a good place. Hope this got you some good attention too!
As a general rule I never give estimates, ballpark or otherwise. It is up to the client to tell me what budget they have, and then I'll present them with the options for that budget.
I like that strategy too.
In that situation though, I’ve found the amount clients are willingly spend is often a lot higher than the figure they share as their budget… and it’s important to present compelling options at, above and far above whatever figure they share.
That is common, sure...however I always inform them that their budget is my only indication of scope, so it needs to be accurate and not used as a negotiating tactic. I'm not going to spend time trying to find out whether they're lowballing me or not, I'm not interesting in negotiating prices.
I always explain that their budget is like a tank of gas: if you tell me I have enough to go 30 miles, that is the distance I will drive and plan for. If you tell me at the 25 mile marker that there was actually enough gas to go 50 miles, I would have planned the trip better. We all benefit from not playing games.
I’m not suggesting being inauthentic.
While the average individual may have smaller and more firm budgets—to take budgets at face value out of principal is a missed opportunity, especially with small/medium sized businesses.
Budgets are often numbers rooted in client expectations. If one is reading between the lines and presenting unexpected solutions, it’s quite common to find more money on the table.
I usually just give them cost of building an actual ball park which, I believe now, is about 300 million.
Discovery phase is such a useful thing to do. It's an opportunity to really find out the aims and needs of a project and if both parties are singing from the same page from the offset (well, post discovery phase) it's only a good thing.
Doesn't work with all projects, especially smaller ones, but in my mind it's money and time well spent.