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How to quote your design clients

Igor Ovsyannykov's Layout avatar

Every new creative experiences that familiar wall that sometimes keeps them from moving forward with a project – coming up with a decent quote for the client. And it’s not just in terms of money; this also includes the amount of time that it will take to complete the project, something that a lot of freelance creatives hesitate about.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s normal. Everybody who’s just starting out has encountered this stumbling block every so often. All it takes is a little trial and error to find that sweet spot where both you and your clients are happy with the quote.

Things to consider before giving a quote

You can’t just pluck a random amount or timeframe out of thin air. There are three major things to consider every time you try to prepare a quote for your client, both in terms of cost and time.

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What’s fair for you?

You can’t always think about hooking the client by dropping your prices. You can’t smile and think that a huge discount is okay, since you’re just starting out. Remember that the amount of hours and effort that you put into the project will be the same regardless of the price. With that being said, do you think it’s fair for you to go all out and be paid only a fraction of what should cover all that hard work?

Think about the costs that come with the project – the materials you’ll be using, your chosen tools, as well as any other costs that you might incur while working on the project. Consider all these when you work on your quote so that you can at least make sure you won’t be left spending more on the project than what you’re earning.

What’s fair to the client?

Of course, you can’t just think about your own time, effort, and resources – you have to think about your client’s as well. Think about what kind of service your client is asking for and what kind of results they’re expecting.

Also, will you consider some tools and resources as “shared” among different clients? If that’s the case, it would be unfair for your client to add the whole amount onto your quote. After all, why should they pay for something that you will also be using to serve your other customers?

These are just some of the considerations that you have to think about to see if you’re being fair to the client or not. The bottom line here is this – if you were in their shoes, would you feel that you’re being treated fairly?

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What are the current standards?

The creative industry is huge, and because of this, a few standards have also been set to keep everybody aligned. Always use these standards as a basis when you figure out a proper quote for your client.

You have to start by finding out what kind of services the client requires. For example, do they need a brand new web design, a simple refresh, or help branding their entire company? Each specific service often has a specific price range, although there are creatives who package a bunch of services together to make their clients feel that they’re getting a good deal. It’s all up to you – as long as you stay within the right range.

The same thing goes for your timeframe. Always ask around to other designers in your network see how long it usually takes them to work on a certain project. The moment you notice that it’s taking you too long to complete a project, take a moment to figure out why. Assess each part of your workflow process to see what’s causing the delay. Remember that clients are also under a schedule, so any delays on your part might make them decide to go somewhere else.

To ensure that you give the most appropriate quote possible, always assess these three perspectives.

Tips for giving quotes to clients

It’s not an easy task, but it has to be done. Remember that the initial quote you give can make or break the deal – and for beginner creatives, you can’t afford to break deals just yet. You have to make sure you start building your name with a bang, and being known around the industry as someone who gives the fairest possible quotes is always a good start.

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Here are a few tips for those who are still struggling to figure out how to give their clients the right quotes, whether in terms of overall cost or in terms of timelines.

Always do your homework

Do research – a lot of it – before diving into a project. Remember that each detail that comes with the project affects its completion time and the costs that come with it. As early as possible, find out as much as you can about it.

Check online and see what others have to say about similar projects. How long did it take them to complete the project? How much did the project cost? What challenges did they encounter? Look at all these from both the perspective of the client and the freelancer. This way, you can see what’s fair for both parties.

Always give allowances

Just because the timeline you have plotted says that you can complete a specific project in a few days does not mean that this is the same timeline that you’ll be giving your client. Always expect a few roadblocks along the way. Anticipate delays. Remember that you can’t control everything that happens while you’re working on the project, and a single delay on your part can smear your reputation for good.

Add some extra time for good measure. This way, you already have some time allotted in case some problems show up. If anything, this could actually be a good thing on your part, because in the event that everything goes smoothly, you could actually end up delivering the final results to the client way ahead of time, earning you a few brownie points.

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The same thing goes for your costs. Never put the exact minimal amount on your pricing because you never know when prices are going to change. You might also need some extra supplies along the way, increasing your overhead costs. If you add an allowance to your pricing, you’ll at least have all your bases covered.

Always be honest about possible issues

It’s always better to keep your client aligned with the possible problems you’re foreseeing and surprise them with excellent results than it is to give them a whole lot of positivity and end up disappointing them.

Let your client know if there are additional costs that might be incurred along the way, and if there are possible delays that you might encounter. It’s better to give your client a heads up as early as possible so that they can also adjust their budget and their timelines accordingly.

Of course, assurance should also come with every concern that you share. Always let the client know that you know what you’re doing and explain why things may have gotten a little derailed. Did some crucial technology have an update you weren’t expecting, was there a family emergency you had to tend to, or was the scope just not realistic? Explain that no project goes perfectly, and there will always be a few bumps along the way. It’s all a matter of getting ready for all possibilities and knowing how to handle them, something that you can do.

Always explore all other options

Just because everyone else you know charges a fixed amount for an entire project does not mean that you’ll have to follow the same trend. You can consider a per-hour deal as well, especially if your client still isn’t sure about the specifics of the project. This way, the client can just send you tasks that need to be done and you can accomplish things on a per-task basis.

The same thing goes for the amount of manpower you’ll be using for the project. Think about it – your client may be demanding for the project to be over within an unrealistic timeframe. But if you add another person to the team instead of doing it on your own, then the client’s demands might be a little bit more realistic.

Other things to consider here are the tools you’ll be using and the processes you’ll be following. Remember that sticking to a single way of doing things will mean that you will also be limited to a few projects. If you really want to branch out and grow as a creative, being flexible will always be the best way to do things.

Always make clients understand that they get what they pay for

Eventually, you will meet a client who will try to drag your price down, sometimes telling you that they have been talking to other designers who have promised them a better deal. It’s as simple as this – they wouldn’t be talking to you right now if they’re completely sold on the other deal they’re talking about (if there is such a deal).

Explain that the cost always matches the service. The other party may have promised them something cheaper, but what kind of tools will they be using? How wide is their timeframe?

Always be vocal about your specialization

Some clients will approach you asking for a quote for a project that would require you to work on a number of different things, some of them not within your area of expertise. When this happens, always tell the client that you only specialize in one part of the project, but have not really spent a lot of time working on all the others.

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Once the client understands this, offer alternative solutions so as not to lose the opportunity to work on the project. You can offer your services to the client only for specific parts of the project, then ask them to leave the other areas to other creatives. You can also try assembling a team of your own and offer the entire thing as a package.

The point here is that you can’t just say yes to everything the client asks for just for the sake of closing the deal. The submission of a quote is easy – but when it comes to the actual execution of the project, you may end up saying yes to more than you can handle.

Always have every single detail written down before giving a final quote

The last thing you want is for a client to convince you to work on a project where you’ll be doing more than what their payment will cover. From the first meeting alone, don’t settle for the usual “I need a logo and a website” response. Dig deep and ask every possible question to squeeze out every detail you need to fully prepare for the project.

What kind of logo do they need? How elaborate do they want it to be? What kind of website are they looking at? How many pages will be included? What kind of images do they require? As long as you feel that there are a few vague areas, never stop asking questions. This way, you can be sure that you consider all possible aspects of the project before issuing a final quote. Fail to get down to the specifics, and you’ll end up with a few unwanted surprises once you start.

Coming up with a quote may be challenging, but it’s part of being a creative. It’s daunting now, but don’t worry, things will get easier the more clients you get. Eventually, coming up with a decent quote will be just as automatic to you as working on the project.

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