It Shouldn't Just Be the Cost of Doing Business
Planning a Joomla project requires considerable work whether it is extension programming, template development, or full on site construction. It takes hours of careful planning as well as research into what already exists for the platform and whether any of it can be leveraged to meet your potential client's goals.
If you want to target projects that cost around $5000 and up, you can't expect to convert every prospect that approaches you because you're going to close only a fraction of the projects that cross your desk. However, wasting your time on prospects that are only looking for a free consultation or don't have the budget needed to execute shouldn't just be the cost of doing business.
Flip the Order
The problem is that premium projects require lots of selling and you don't feel comfortable talking about money until you have established interest in your prospect. So you sell before establishing price fit and hope that it will work out, but it rarely does.
The solution is to flip the process on its head. Instead of selling and then presenting prices, present prices and then sell.
I know what you're thinking: how can I give someone a price when I don't know what the project will cost until I've done the research?
You don't need to be exact. You just need to establish a probable range. You can couch this as a ballpark figure or talk about a minimum budget. The language I use is this:
"We stay very busy at Blue Bridge and it often takes days to come up with an accurate price for a project. In order to save us both time, before we begin digging into your requirements we provide a recommended minimum budget. This is based on your project synopisis and is not an actual estimate, but rather a ballpark figure from our previous experience completing similar Joomla projects and will quickly give you an idea of whether or not we would be a good fit for your budget."
Seems scary doesn't it? You're putting the entire project on the line without building any rapport or interest in your prospective client.
What you need to keep in mind is that the kind of clients that invest in premium projects are more concerned with getting effective help than getting lots of cheap help. This approach signals to them experience and respect for your time- both of which are consistent with what they're looking for.
Similarly, when I first met my wife, she told me on our second date that she was not interested in being friends. She said, "I'm not looking for another guy friend; I have plenty of those. I want a boyfriend." It was a bold statement to make! She was setting expectations at the risk that I would vanish rather than trying to work her feminine wiles on me while hoping that I would also be looking for a girlfriend. Not only did I respect her for this, I found it charming.
Not Every Project Has Your Name On It
When you qualify projects with a ballpark estimate, you're going to turn away lots of people. That's the point. At the top end of the market very few people are your ideal client. When you spend time on the people who don't fit that profile you waste their time and yours. Though this approach won't make every client that surmounts this hurdle a sure thing, what it will do is give you confidence that when you are developing a proposal you're working on something that actually has a chance of materializing into a valuable project.