how and when to estimate time and price for a Goal-Directed project

25 Oct 2007 - 3:38am
7 years ago
2 replies
660 reads
Rafa
2007

Hi,

I'm a MSc student with a focus in UCD, IxD, and usability. I have got
the opportunity to work in a web development project as a freelance.
In summary, they just want something new and better.

We have had one meeting and exchanged a few emails. I have spent some
time "auditing" their actual website and looking at potential
problems and what changes would probably be needed in order for them
to better promote their site, entity and services. Obviously, before
agreeing in working with me, I am required to send in a proposal with
an estimate of time and cost for this project.

My problem is, I cannot tell how long it will take to do "something"
when I still don't know what that "something" is. From my mini audit
I have come up with the conclusion that their initial "specs" (or
wish list) are just taking the wrong problem with the wrong approach.
I can see things that would require changes, but specially I see
things that require more research to really know what to do about them.

So, let's say we have to completely refocus what they have at the
moment and split it in two different sites. The high-level goals for
each site are quite clear, however, exactly what "features" and
qualities each site will have depend on what insights come from the
initial research, and without knowing what features are needed, I
can't tell how long it would take to implement them. You see my problem?

I really can't find any info about this. Whatever advise I find about
estimating fits in one of these 2 categories:

1. they don't do any design, so the "requirement analysis" is done
almost during a couple of preliminary interviews;
2. they explain the process that occurs *after* the client has
already signed the contract agreeing to work with you.

For all of you freelancers and employees at companies, at what point
do you tell a potential customer how long/much will a project cost?
and, how can you tell before doing the research? (which won't happen
until they have agreed to work with you).

Thank you!

/Rafa

PS: I have some historical data from previous work so I can tell, for
example, how long it would take me to develop a database for mailing
list subscribers and the forms for subscription and such. However,
without the research I cannot tell if this new website would have a
newsletter at all---it probably will, but this is just an example.

PPS: this is my very first message to the list! this is so exciting! :)

Comments

25 Oct 2007 - 8:41am
Fred Leise
2006

Consider breaking the project into several distinct phases. An initial
strategy/research phase would include stakeholder interviews, content
analysis, competitive analysis and user research. Then, based on what
that information tells you, you can get a better estimate for design and
then implementation phases.

Fred

Fred Leise
Chief Operating Officer
Intuitect
fred.leise at intuitect.com
o: 303.247.9000
c: 773.791.2849
www.intuitect.com

NoticiasVarias wrote:
> For all of you freelancers and employees at companies, at what point
> do you tell a potential customer how long/much will a project cost?
> and, how can you tell before doing the research? (which won't happen
> until they have agreed to work with you).
>
> Thank you!
>
> /Rafa
>

25 Oct 2007 - 9:24am
Joseph Selbie
2007

Rafa,

Welcome to one of the most challenging aspects of being a freelancer,
contractor or independent agency.

"For all of you freelancers and employees at companies, at what point
do you tell a potential customer how long/much will a project cost?
and, how can you tell before doing the research? (which won't happen
until they have agreed to work with you)."

Unless your client is open to an estimate (as opposed to a fixed bid price
--and few clients are) you need to give them a cost so they can decide
whether to go ahead with their project, or compare your cost to other
bidders. Sometimes you can phase the project so that Phase 1 has a price but
phase 2 is to be determined, but most clients can't work that way. They need
to know all costs before they can green light the project.

There are two factors that influence what your bid should be: 1.) how much
time you will spend and 2.) how much money the client will spend.

These are at times frustratingly different realities. Whenever possible, I
try to get some ball park figure from a potential client. Most clients do
not want to tell you what their budget is -- I think this is a mistake on
their part but that is another subject -- but some will simply tell you. For
the others I will often throw out figures to gauge a reaction, e.g. "Do you
want us to do extensive user research? That could add (fill in your blank)
dollars to the project." Their reaction, if they react, to the question
gives me a clue to what kind of budget they have. Sometimes I will say,
"This project could be as high as X and as low as X depending on what you
want done." And again try to gauge their reaction. Any clue helps.

If you have gained some idea of client budget, you can then work out what
you think would be the most attractive package of deliverables that you can
provide in their price range.

If you don't have any good feel for their budget, you simply have to make
your best guess as to what they want and give them a bid. Define your
deliverables as clearly as possible so that you don't get caught by
unexpected features that you didn't know were expected. You can always add
them to the contract if they come up. Do not leave your deliverables
undefined -- such as "HTML for all screens needed to complete the site."

One other tip. Do not underestimate the amount of time you will need to
spend with the client's team, nor the number of iterations that will be
required before you can get your designs or deliverables finalized. It is
fairly straightforward to figure out how long it will take you to perform a
particular task. But factor in that you will have to do the same task over
and over again. It's just part of good professional service.

Joseph Selbie
Founder, CEO Tristream
Web Application Design
http://www.tristream.com

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