I grabbed a few minutes with PhotoShelter's Vice President of Marketing, Andrew Fingerman, to talk about a particularly sticky issue - when and how to directly ask your clients about their budget while pitching for new business.
Here's an excerpt:
Are we a good fit?
The primary reason to bring up the budget issue is to identify early on if the pitch is even worth making. Many photographers waste a lot of time talking to prospects who can't afford them. You'll find out sooner or later if the client can afford your services, so being straightforward and talking budget can help save both parties some time. But how early is too early? Ilise suggests if you suspect the prospect likely can't afford you, broach the budget question sooner. If you think they likely can afford you, it is ok to wait until later on in your pitch. Recognize the conversation itself won't be a dealbreaker
Avoid building up assumptions in your head that can make having the conversation more uncomfortable than it needs to be. Often, photographers will be afraid to start talking money because it may lead to losing the project. Talking about money isn't going to prevent you from getting the job - the client not being able to afford to pay you fairly will. (But, we're assuming that's a job you don't want anyway.)
See the entire blog post here: http://blog.photoshelter.com/2011/08/talking-budget-with-your-clients.html