How To Effectively Write an Estimate

Preston Bailey, Giving Estimates, Office, Luxury Office

Dear Readers:


One of the most difficult lessons I had to learn was to accept that all clients are not right for me. I used to think that turning away a potential client was a crass display of arrogance, but that changed when I began to recognize patterns of behavior that led me into difficult situations. For instance, clients who shop around for the best price as opposed to the best value. Other red flags? Clients who push to pick my brain only to share those ideas–and sign- with someone else.

In the beginning of this series, I discussed the importance of handling the first phone call with care and the ways to make the first meeting a special and productive one. Now, we are ready to take the next step in the process and discuss estimates of your services. Today, I would like to share a few things to keep in mind when putting together a written estimate.

Understand That Estimates Are a Client’s Right: There is no denying that every client deserves to know what to expect in terms of cost; the key is sharing this information honestly and clearly.

Be General When Discussing Design in Print: I used to be so excited about impressing my potential clients that I would provide them with a very detailed explanation of my vision and designs. This often resulted in my seeing those ideas implemented by another designer.

Give a Range: Remember when I said to be honest and clear in your estimates? Well, there is no way anyone can give an accurate and exact number for a job they have not yet performed. Think about it: If your client changes his or her mind, they demand more time than anticipated initially or you face a slew of other issues, you now risk being labeled irresponsible or deceitful when you were simply trying to do the right thing. It’s best to give ranges (from lowest to highest) in your written estimate. Make sure the low figure is not too low as this is the only figure some client’s remember.

Remember That Your Time Is Money: This is not arrogance or greed. We only have so many hours in a day, and it is essential that we spend them earning our living and working for the clients who value our work. Regardless of your business, please remember to include your time in your estimate. If you don’t have an hourly rate, I suggest you establish one or you might very well wind up working for free.

Insist On Explaining Your Estimate In Person: It is much easier to explain the value of your work in person. You’ll be able to answer questions and address concerns in real time. It also allows answering any questions your potential client might have. As a designer, I rely heavily on visual support, which allows me to show them what a $100,000 event looks like vs one with a budget of $200,000.


Before we move on, I would like to open the discussion and ask you to please post any questions you have on the subjects we have covered. Please put the questions in the comment section below as that is where I will be looking for them. I will answer some on Friday and others in email.





Monday: The challenges of bringing a client’s vision to life.


(Photo Courtesy of Lux Homes)