Common Mistakes: Spending Way Too Much Time on an Estimate

(Ticking time image via Kaylan02)

Say that a new client comes to you and you had a great meeting.

She might also be seeing other vendors but you like your new client and she asks you to prepare an estimate of your cost before she can make a decision.

This is a scary request.

At times, this can be very easy if your cost is just a fee.

However, we all know that preparing a comprehensive estimate that later the client is going to hold you to, can be incredibly time consuming.

In some cases, it my even involve designing a job you do not have before being able to offer a comprehensive estimate.

These are my suggestions for preparing an estimate:

  • If possible, give ranges. Of course, in most cases clients only read your lowest number, but this stills give you some wiggle room.
  • Do not commit to a bottom line final cost. Give a range of costs, but feel free to provide a section for add-on options so your client can reach her own bottom line.
  • It’s not easy giving an estimate before completely designing the job–which I don’t recommend before actually getting the job. I suggest using costs for similar work and design you’ve done previously to create your range of costs for your estimate.
  • I have been guilty about doing the following: I get so excited about the new job that clients tie me into a figure before I really understand exactly what they want. This is always a lose/lose situation. Even if your clients are pressing you to commit to a number, never say yes.

This part of doing business is always about sales. I find that the best way to give a client an estimate is to do it in person and explain each and every item with pictures of similar designs, if available. Clients respond better to this, and appreciate understanding your pricing system instead of just hitting them with a bottom line number.

How do you prepare your estimates? Do you give your clients the flexibility of bargaining costs? Have you said no to a client if you felt their range was too low?

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