Quote and Estimate??

Hey guys,

I am giving my first quote/estimate on a design project. I am going to break down each part into how many hours I think it will take me.

Now is it already a given that what I am quoting is not set in stone? As my hours may fluctuate and I am estimating?
Or when I quote does that mean that is exactly what they are going to pay regardless of how many hours I actually spend on it?


Depends how you structure/present your proposal. A quote is normally fixed. An estimate may vary. If your proposal is by a fixed fee, it is normally firm barring changes to scope outside of what you specify. It is an estimate and you bill by hours it is normally understood that it will vary. Your proposal should have some language accordingly.


I always quote assuming that it is a fixed price. It is really in your benefit. That way you will know exactly what you are going to make. Make sure to ask for half up front. This way it will show a comment on there part and if they flake out you will still have made something.

It will probably take some practice to get good at quoting or estimating so expect to learn from this experience. Also over estimate and stick to it. If the customer pushes back and says it is to experience explain how it will hurt your process aka there product if you don’t have the hours you quoted. As of yet I have never had a really client that has dealt with designers push back but it can happen.

You could also consider providing a proposal that contains both quotes and estimates.

Often I will provide a quote for the 1st couple of phases - For arguments sake lets call them Design Strategy, and Exploration. With some experience it is reasonably simple to assign a fixed number of hours for these endeavors that you should be able to stick to.
I will then provide an estimate for the later phases such as concept development phase, prototyping etc.
It is fairly easy to justify this as the hours required for concept development are going to be a direct result of the design concept selected in the early part of the process. If a simple concept is selected, the lower end of the estimate will apply - if a complex design is chosen…then the high side of the estimate.
Don’t be afraid to us wording like “I would be happy to provide a quotation for these later phases once Phases 1 and 2 are complete”.
Lots of clients will want a ballpark of project costs for budgeting purposes however it is pretty difficult to estimate prototype testing before you’ve even done some initial research.
Hope this helps,

I’ve found the following to be very useful if you are required to produce a fixed proposal:

There’s an interesting risk management concept, in which you base your final estimate on two preliminary estimates: the typical case and the worst case. It goes like this:

  1. Never estimate your best case to do anything. For instance, if you think you can generate a solution and present it in 40 hours, but that 40 hours is contingent on every possible thing going as right as possible, 40 hours isn’t a useful number. Experience tells us something in that 40 hours will take a lot longer than we think.

  2. The typical case. Estimate what you think it will take to arrive at a solution under normal conditions most of the time. Maybe you come up with 60 hours.

  3. The worst case. Estimate how long it could take to arrive at that solution if the things you could foresee causing problems do occur. Maybe this means the client gets indecisive, or changes evaluation criteria, or part of the problem is more vexing than you expected it to be. This number might be 150 hours.

  4. Take 1/3 of the difference between worst case and typical case, and add it to typical case. The idea is that 2/3 of the time everything will go off as expected, but 1/3 of the time you will hit the worst case - you just don’t know when exactly. So in our example, [(150-60)/3]+60 = 90 hours. That is what you should quote.

If you consistently quote this way, some projects will go over and some will be under. Over time, your realization will improve, as you are no longer eating your client’s risk.

Also refer to the thread “F*ck you pay me.” You need a solid legal contract that protects you from liability, transfers IP upon full payment, and has kill fees built in - plus no work until a down payment has been received.