The repeated question that you face every time you join a new project is the cost. It is rare to find a client who does not ask about the cost at the very beginning.
Many designers lose assignments because they cannot estimate the project cost and duration properly. Giving a wrong estimate makes the client suspicious of your professional background and experience with similar projects.
I understand that some very talented designers just cannot give a right estimate for their projects. They focus more on the process of design than on analyzing their work, so they might not see how long it takes and how much it costs to complete the project.
The importance of calculating a prior project cost
Determining a prior project cost, or creating a database with the costs of your different projects is very helpful in avoiding any mistakes or unrealistic cost estimates in future projects.
This way, every time a client asks you about project cost and duration, you can easily give an accurate estimate of the different tasks or the whole project. Meanwhile, you will have good estimate of different tasks, which will ensure that you are getting what you really deserve for each task.
Estimating the project in a wrong way puts you in a critical situation with the client, because you will have to choose between two paths. The first option is sticking with the wrong estimate and doing the job based on your incorrect estimate. If the price is higher than the realistic estimate and the client accepts it, this may look good at the beginning, but if the client gets to know that you charge their company more than the normal rates, he or she will leave you for more reasonable prices.
On the other hand, if the estimate is lower than the range, this means that you underestimated your work, time, and effort, and you are getting less than the normal cost.
The other option is asking the client to reconsider the cost if it is lower than the expected. This is a step that I would advise not to do, unless you really think it is necessary, because it can affect your reputation and professional appeal to your clients.
How to estimate the project cost?
The cost of any project depends on the following factors:
- Project duration
- Effort and previous experience
- Specific project requirements
Most designers set an hourly rate that satisfies their needs and the standard of living according to their location. However, the above factors affect the designers’ rate along with some personal factors.
The project duration usually affects the hourly rates of the designer, because long term projects ensure a good workflow, so sometimes it may be useful to give lower rates and be competitive with others when negotiating such projects.
Previous experience and the effort required for the job can increase the designer’s rates. The more experience you have, the higher rates you can charge, because of your ability to understand and accomplish the work much faster and of higher quality.
Hourly rates may also vary according to what type of client you have. For example, if the client gives a lot of feedback and comments, then you should consider increasing the rate to cover the time and efforts these modifications take. Also, new clients are always more like a new experience with higher risk than the ones you already know. So, it may be good idea to charge new clients a little higher rates, in case they are not reliable.
If the project requires special materials, setup, or server issues, you also have to calculate them in the total cost.
Also, you may check you other competitors and their rates, because this will affect you strongly. In many cases, you will need to keep your rates in the same range with other designers in the field to get hired. Rates change based on many factors, such as the competition in the field and the location of the designer.
For example, designers in North America find it hard to get online jobs, because they cannot decrease their rates due to the high cost of living in US and Canada. This affects their chances to find jobs through remote hiring sites like oDdesk and Elance.
How to estimate a project cost?
There are many ways to get a general idea about the duration of the different design projects, you can simply ask other designers about the different tasks and how long it takes to complete them. While design projects involve creative thinking and brainstorming, for which it is hard to set a time estimate, you can get a general idea about the whole task and personalize it according to how you work and the time it usually takes you to think of new ideas or creative concepts.
The previous method is a fast one that will give you rough estimates of the time that is needed to create different design tasks or projects, such as logo design, webpage design, business card design, UI design, etc.
A more accurate method is creating a table or list that contains the time and cost required for each job based on your work experience. For this method you need to have previous experience with many similar projects so that you can estimate an accurate time and cost for each task in the project.
Breaking the project into small tasks
Continuing our talk about the previous method, it is a good idea to break the project into smaller tasks. This will help you to get more insight into the project and how each task appears on the general timeline of the project. Also, it helps you to learn about the small tasks and how long it takes to complete them.
For example, if the project includes working on a corporate identity, such as a website, logo or stationeries, observing the time and cost of each task will help you with future projects that require smaller tasks, such as logo design.
Breaking the project into smaller tasks can be very handy, for example, when you are working on an animation project, you can allocate the time for storyboarding, character design, animation production, audio narration, etc.
Learning about the cost and time of different design tasks is an easy process, but it takes some time to get the full picture and more accurate estimates. The above tips will help you determine these factors and ensure that you can answer the clients’ questions about project costs.