You pitched a prospective client, and they've responded with interest. Now, they're asking you for an estimate -- what do you do?
Before you type in a number in a reply email -- don't! We understand you're excited to name your price, but this is a critical moment that can make or break a deal.
There's a more professional way of doing things, now that you have access to quality tools like invoicely.
As an entrepreneur, you have a professional image to establish and uphold. You can't do that if you're sending average estimates.
By sending a professional-grade estimate, you get to set a good foundation for your business-client relationship.
If this is your first time sending an estimate or would like to improve your estimating skills, then continue reading.
But first, let's review the difference between an estimate and a quote (important to know!),
Then we'll dive into how you can make a professional estimate using invoicely.
Estimates vs Quotes
We have to go over the differences between an estimate and a quote, so you don't confuse the two.
Here's a hint -- one's legally-binding and the other isn't.
Can you guess which one?
What's a Quote?
You hear the term all the time and may even use it when you're calling around collecting them from service providers.
A quote is an exact price given to a buyer by a business or contractor. The rate is fixed and unmovable once the customer accepts it.
You can think of it like a car insurance quote -- you get a price quote and that's what you can expect to pay once you agree and submit the down payment.
If you guessed this is the legally-binding one, then congrats! You got it right.
A quote is what you send when you know the pricing for sure. But in many cases, you won't know, especially if you're still learning a client and their project.
And this brings us to the estimate.
What's an Estimate?
Most people want to receive a quote so they can know exactly what they can expect to pay. But there are scenarios where an estimate works out for both parties.
For example, when you're first contacted by a client and don't know the complete scope of their needs. This allows you to get a foot in the door by providing a rough estimate of how much they can expect to pay.
This guesstimate is an educated guess and normally consists of a ballpark figure or price range.
Since the price isn't yet set in stone, estimates aren't legally binding. Once you discuss the estimate with the client, you can collect more information to provide a quote/proposal.
Next, let's review how you can come up with a quality estimate.
How to Determine What to Charge
Deciding how much to charge a client for a project is an ongoing dilemma for both newbie and seasoned freelancers.
One way around this is to flesh out your hourly/project rates.
Then when it comes time to answer the dreaded (but anticipated) question, "How much do you charge?" you'll be ready.
So here's a quick break down for coming up with a "good" estimate.
1. Collect All Essential Details from the Client
You can't expect to deliver an estimate without any details about their needs.
Some of the questions you want to ask include:
- What do you need?
- How many do you need?
- How fast do you need it?
- What duties am I responsible for (e.g., graphic design, editing, obtaining permits)?
- Will you provide any resources (e.g., books, guides, outlines, supplies)?
These are general so you can apply it in a way that suits your business type. This will help identify how much work is involved for you.
If you're required to do a lot of the legwork and heavy pulling, then you want to raise your ballpark figure.
2. What to Include in Your Estimate?
There are several things you should consider when calculating your estimate. You're not just looking at the work involved, but the time, and the money you'll have to spend to complete the job.
You have to account for all the losses and include that in the estimate.
For instance, if you're required to travel, then you'll need to keep track of mileage and gasoline costs. If you're expected to buy supplies, then you'll need to add this in as well.
Some of the expenses you want to include in your estimate are:
- Cost for supplies
- Travel and lodging
- Billable hours worked (research, writing, building, interviewing, etc.)
- Contractor costs (if you outsource some of the work)
- Client meetings (virtual, phone, lunch dates, etc.)
This isn't a conclusive list but should give you an idea of how to itemize your estimate.
3. Make Sure to Establish Your Minimum Rate
You never want to go into an estimate without having an idea of what your minimum rate will be. After you collect all the details, you can paint a picture of the project's scope.
More specifically, the amount of time it'll take you to complete it. This will allow you to work within your hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly salary goals.
Will this project take weeks and cut into other client work? If so, then you need to make up for that.
The idea is to choose a minimum that will allow you to survive. If the project's going to take months to complete, then you need to be fairly compensated.
By establishing your minimum, you ensure the amount quoted won't go any lower than that.
So how do you go about creating an estimate in invoicely? Let's have a look.
Quickly Create a Professional Estimate Using Invoicely
The beauty of using invoicely is that you get everything bundled into one platform. You can run your business finances like the professional you are.
Other than creating estimates, you can use it to send an invoice, track time spent working, manage client details, and analyze your payments (and lack thereof) using the dashboard insights and in-depth reports.
This allows you to see who owes you money, who's already paid, and how much you earned throughout weeks, months, or years. You can use this information to improve your invoicing, pricing, and project acquisition.
When you send an invoice, your clients are able to pay online using a credit card or payment platform, such as Mollie, WePay, PayPal, and Stripe.
But to get started, you need to learn how to send prospects estimates that'll land you more work.
To start, log-in to your dashboard on invoicely and then click the plus sign on the "Estimate" tab.
This will open up a new estimate that's ready for you to fill in. You can upload your own logo, name your estimate, add a description for the estimate (recommended), and decide how long your estimate is valid.
An estimate number is auto-generated for you, so you don't have to worry about creating duplicates.
Below, you can add your itemized list of services for the project.
If you work with clients internationally, you can easily adjust the currency.
Be sure to fill out your name and contact details and add your new potential client's information.
You only have to insert client information one time. In the future, you can go to your client list and select the name and it'll enter all their contact details.
Once you have everything filled out, you can move on to adding your itemized list.
Select the type of expenses you would like to include. For this article, I've selected all four to show how each of them differs.
Starting at the top, we have a general item. You can select the quantity and rate based on units, pieces, etc.
The second line is for expenses, such as client meetings, supplies, and so on. You price this one at a flat-rate.
On the third line, you have travel costs. It shows that it's measured in miles so you'll have to insert the number of miles next to it. Then type in the amount per mile (i.e. gas cost per mile).
Then on the final line, you have tasks. This is ideal for estimating how many hours you'll work per task. In the first box, you put the number of hours.
In the second box, you put your rate.
Once you're all done, you'll have a subtotal at the bottom. All you need to do now is look over the estimate to ensure nothing's missing or inaccurate.
Then select the save button at the top right corner to bring down a drop list. If everything looks good, you can hit save and send.
Sending Professional Estimates to Win More Projects
Setting yourself apart from your competitors is a must if you want to win client projects.
There are two ways to earn the initial interest of prospects: write an amazing pitch/proposal and sending a professional estimate that details your rates/costs.
Already have a client waiting for your estimate? Then sign up to invoicely today to create one for free!