One thing I do a lot while explaining how technology works is create analogies. People relate much better to something they are used to.
In this case I want to share with you the analogy I make when someone scoffs at me when I ask for their budget for a specific project.
The question is simply, "what is your budget for this project?" but it offends many people.
When I've asked that before, a few times I've had a reaction from my prospective client that wasn't very positive; they seemed to be surprised I asked the question.
By their reaction, I had committed a sin, how dare I ask? Usually the real reason they react like this is that they've been ripped off before, or are generally distrusting at first. Definitely both are reasonable explanations to these dramatic reactions.
What the client really really wants to ask is: Why? and they probably are wondering: do you want to take all my money? And no, our answers as web developers and webmasters is No, we don't want to take all your money.
We need to know what kind of work we can do for you. We need to know if your expectations for that work are set correctly, if you know what you need or if we need to learn more about the project.
To explain how this is similar to other businesses, I recently used the following analogy.
The analogy I used recently was that of a new paint job for a car. You could walk into a car paint shop and point to the options on the wall and say I want that one and the guy replies: Great!, that's 15,000 dollars it comes with all the bells and whistles, premium body repair, and premium paint, super polymer coatings, glitter, the whole she-bang.
Oh no, that's too expensive, I've only got $5000 to spend. could be a normal reply.
Then the guy behind the counter begins working with you to create a custom package that fits your budget and needs. Maybe they can remove some of the higher-end services and offer you different options.
At the end of the day you may walk away with a great looking pain-job that only cost you $4500 to $5000.
You see, how is it different for developers and webmasters? It isn't. The webmaster and the guy behind the counter at the paint shop want to help you make the right choice and want to advise you properly.
We're not trying to offend you or catch you off guard.
Next time you're asked about a budget, don't go postal, don't react, in fact you should have a budget. If you're doing your initial research to establish a budget, then you should disclose that early in the conversation.
Better yet, find out before you call, ask around. Ask friends, family, your boss, "how much did you pay for that website?" Ask Google, here, let me Google that for you. But have an idea of what your budget for the website is.
At the end of the day, you get your car painted --or your website finished--, and you got what you paid for. You can forgo the super expensive double-reinforced clear coat option and still have great looking results.
But your expectations and your budget should be in alignment. This is why the budget is an important topic to discuss early on.
If you are a service provider, don't feel bad for asking.
If you are a customer, don't be offended by the question.