Design Estimates

Hi, wondering how other designers go anout writing their design proposals and estimates. Was finding myself today getting annoyed because I was writing almost a page of words related to an estimate for some lower level work but for a new client so I felt more words were needed but then I am taking up the entire day with this while I have actual paying work to deal with. Guess I am wondering what other people do. Tired of estimating work I guess.

Find yourself a Graphic Artist Guild handbook.


What kind of “low-level” work are you doing that requires such complicated estimates?

Unless it’s a bigger job with lots of independent parts, my estmates are typically a quick email saying, "I’ve thought through what we discussed. I can do it for $XXXX and an additional $XXX, if you also decide to do that other thing.

If they respond with OK, I write the details into the contract. I try to spend as little time as possible on the non-billable stuff since it’s less frustration for me and saves both me and my clients money.

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For me, I suppose it depends. If I am responding to a formal RFP, I might put a little more work into the process. For the typical new client, I try to let my work speak for itself and keep an estimate pretty minimal — typing out enough to outline what I’ll do without feeling like I need to embellish. Honestly, I think trying to say too much or trying to justify my rate has come back to bite me more than once.

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I copied the terms from the guild handbook, then edited them down a bit, then included a section with my prices and turnaround times.

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If you’re doing client work you should be writing a lot. You want to outline the entire project, be explicit in the deliverables, who owns what, and the deadlines. I would look in the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook as well as the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services. No matter what forms you use, remember to edit them for your project. If you need to add additional bullets or delete something, go ahead and edit them.

When you work with new clients, a long contract could appear that you’re being difficult, but I like to inform clients that this is about protecting both parties. Best of luck!

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I agree that contracts should straddle the line of being comprehensive without making clients feel as though they need to consult their attorney. Even then, they should usually be a straightforward matter of cut, paste, and fill in the blanks unless lots of money or unique/unusual requirements are involved.

However, unless I’m misinterpreting something, the proposals and estimates that @wyclef asked about are different from a contract?

I agree with @Steve_O; RFPs require more thought since they usually come with tighter requirements and probable competition from others trying to make their RFPs more attractive to whatever committee is evaluating them.

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We have a dollar amount cut off where an email agreement will no longer do, and we have to use a contract. But we have a boilerplate where the top page is a summary of the schedules that follow. All done in Excel so it’s update-able. There are even schedule pages for change orders that appear on the summary when added. It’s only minutes to fill one out. Got better things to do.

Of course larger contracts and RFPs have a LOT more time put into them. It’s not uncommon for a very large proposal to have more than 40 man-hours of time put into it with 3 or 4 people providing input.

But “low level” stuff? No. Billable time and all.

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Do any of you ever ask for blanked purchase orders?

I do work for a few government agencies and mid-sized businesses that insist on dollar-specific or, more rarely, blanket purchase orders up to whatever dollar amount their organizations allow before RFPs or a more elaborate contract is required. They’re great. I complete the work. I send an invoice to the person I worked with. That person delivers the invoice to their accounting department, which sends me a check. It works great.

However, the agencies and businesses I mentioned aren’t places that would benefit from not paying their contractors. For a more iffy client, I still insist on partial payment in advance and a written and signed contract.

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I’ve never asked for one, but I’ve been assigned PO numbers by some clients, usually government agencies. Sometimes they tell me the PO number so I can include it on the invoice, and sometimes they don’t, because it’s for their own use, and then my contact will add it before forwarding the invoice on to the accounts payable department. If they assign a PO number it means they have pre-approved payments to me up to a certain dollar amount, and theoretically I’ll get paid faster. There are fewer internal approvals and delays since it was pre-approved.

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Yes, estimation is annoying! I tried to help others with estimation, so I wrote an article on Medium

it’s about how to deal with it. Maybe it can help you, too

Thanks for the reply but this is an old thread. :wink:

Closing this up.