Taking Control of the Process
Tell me if this sounds familiar: "Hi! Can you tell me how much a website costs? [red flag #1] I'm looking for something really basic." [red flag #2] From there, it will only get worse. The client then starts to spout features and functionality that are anything but basic. Clearly, they have a different definition. As a designer, you get a queasy feeling in your stomach, because you know the project will balloon, there will be constant veering off track, the time line will go out the window, you'll be underpaid, and the client will be upset every time you try to say that the new "basic" feature they request half way through the project will cost them a little bit more.
You need to take control. And you need to do it the first time you open your mouth, not half way through the project. As soon as the prospect asks me the question and starts rattling off specifications, I let him finish, and then I re-target the conversation: "Oh, sure, that sounds great. Let's just take a step back, though, for a minute. I'll tell you how my process works. First, I identify your website's goals and objectives, and then, based on a budget you give me, I'll give you a proposal of my top recommendations. I'd love to have a conversation with you about what you want from your website; how it can help your business. What is it you do?"
Back on track. No back-peddling, no scope creep, guaranteed. You have just officially become the expert, and you've taken control.