03 Jul

What to do When You Realize Your Project is Over Budget?

It happens to the best of us. At some point or another, I’m sure even Google and Apple miss a deadline or spend a little more than they wanted to on a project.

I’m not talking about them though. They’re setting their own targets and they’re the only ones who will be disappointed if they spend too much. You’re a service company and you have clients setting your budgets and timelines. When you run out of money, you don’t have many choices.

But just for fun, let’s talk about those choices!


This one’s my go-to. It should be yours too. A good cry can help stimulate the part of your brain responsible for complex reasoning and problem solving. No, but seriously…

Most people will panic at this point or start blaming one another. The fact is that it wasn’t any one person’s fault. A lack of planning was probably part of the problem, but it’s not the whole story. Anything can happen. People get sick, bugs can take longer than expected to stomp, etc.

So, don’t panic, and don’t cry. Okay?

Eat into your profits

Yup, sometimes you have to. But not always. You have to consider your relationship with the client. We all want to be client-friendly and it’s sometimes hard to admit that we’ve had an unsatisfied customer or two.

Once, I promised a customer that we’d build camera support into their app and I had no idea how to do it. Half way through the project, I confronted them and convinced them to remove the feature. They weren’t happy, and you can imagine how enraged they were going to be if a month later I told them I still needed more money from them (and I did need more).

Needless to say, we ate almost all of our profits for that project. But that’s not to say that we hid anything from the client. In fact, letting the client know that you went over budget, but didn’t charge them any more can be a way to find a silver lining in a bad situation. If you word it right, they’ll see that you care and they’ll be more likely to engage your services in the future.

Don’t go over budget in the first place

Like I said earlier, you can’t always plan for everything. What you can do, is detect the catastrophe early. Use a tool like Sheldon do show you how quickly you’re burning through your budget.
Look at spikes and trends. Talk to your customer well before you run out of money. They’ll be more forgiving that way and you can discuss what features to remove instead of how much more money you need.

Comment with one of your horror stories and how you mended your relationship with that client, I’d love to hear how things turned out.

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