Quoting a project isn’t easy – and quoting it well is even tougher.
Part estimation, part research, and part historical evidence, a good design quote creates a fair proposal for both the designer and the client where each feels he will receive as much as he will give. (Cue butterflies, rainbows, and birds chirping.)
Easier said than done. (Cue giant sledgehammer.)
Regardless of how much you charge or whether you quote by the hour or by the project, today let’s examine what information we need to quote a design project, and how we as designers can improve our quoting skills.
Obviously it’s hard to quote a project when you don’t know what the project entails.
Ask as many questions as you can. You need to know about the audience, the intended uses, the type of output, the client’s budget, their expectations, what the client does/does not like in design, fonts, colors, logos, existing branding, etc.
As Preston so wisely put it: “you need a box.”
Design Hours Needed
If you don’t know how long the project will take, it’s extremely difficult to quote a price.
This is where keeping a time sheet comes in VERY handy – after a few similar projects, you can start to gauge how long the average website, poster, or logo takes you…and therefore how much to charge.
If you’re quoting something you’ve never done before, you’ll have to do some guesswork. How long do you think the project will take, both initial design and throughout the proofing process? Add 2 hours (more if it’s a big project) – you’ll inevitably run into something you didn’t initially think of and be glad you have a cushion.
DON’T FORGET YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TIME! I’ve never worked on a project that didn’t include at least 1 hour of project management: emailing proofs, setting up the file structure, talking with the client, saving different file formats, etc. Usually it’s more like 1.5 to 2 hours.
This time isn’t free – you get a bill when you call your lawyer or accountant with a question, don’t you? So whether you build this into your hourly rate or add an hour or two to the project price estimation, make sure you account for it!
Most designers require an initial deposit (myself included); make sure you stipulate that work will not begin until you receive it. You’d be surprised how quickly that check arrives in your mailbox!
Add the clause “non-refundable.” A client shouldn’t ask for money back if they bow out of a project.
Overall Time Frame
When does your client need the finished project? Is it part of a larger marketing scheme launching on a specific date? Is time of the essence? (I think there’s a joke here somewhere about yesterday!)
Many designers charge extra for a rush project, especially if the rush is going to require work hours above and beyond their normal schedule or result in a renegotiated deadline for another project.
Talking about the time frame with your client also allows you to remind them that all work stops if they should fail to respond with meaningful input or necessary information.
Did I miss anything? A good quote shouldn’t cheat either your client or yourself. Be realistic about your price and your time, and always remember to under-promise and over-deliver.
Have any helpful tips you use to quote your projects? Share your thoughts in the comments on this post!