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Freelance Design 101: How to Write an Estimate for a Freelance Design Job - Part 1

Updated on January 19, 2012

You landed your first big client, and you are ready to jump into the new project. Before you start dazzling your client with your million dollar ideas, you need to protect yourself by getting a written estimate. Verbal agreements won't hold up in court if your client decides not to pay. Writing an estimate for each project - no matter how small - is crucial for your business and reputation.

An estimate is more than a legal contract between you and the client, but also a strategy to keep the project on track. If you have faced a client that says "I'll know what I want when I see it", this can be a red flag when you don't have the project terms agreed upon. Your time is valuable; by showing up with an estimate in hand, you will let your client know that you mean business, and they will think twice about abandoning a project.

Designing the Estimate

When you create an estimate, there are some basic items that it needs to contain. Preferably, you should have standard letterhead for all of your business documents. It doesn't have to be fancy or win any design awards. The layout should include at minimum:

  • Your contact information with your name, your company's name, postal address, email, phone

  • Dates for project deadlines

  • Client's contact information with their name, company's name, postal address, email, phone

  • Title of project
- Project description section
  • Final deliverables for project

  • List for number of hours, cost per hour, and total cost

At the top of the estimate, you should place your contact information with address, phone and email. Some freelancers prefer to use a post office box for all of their business-related mail, but using your home address is acceptable. Next, you need to have separate dates for the day the estimate was written, the Estimated Deadline and the client's Final Deadline.

Describe the Project

Following the project deadlines, the estimate should feature a section for the project information. This includes a title and detailed description of what needs to be completed. It is a good idea to list any project assets i.e. copy, images, web hosting, to clarify who is responsible for each part of the assignment. If the client already has a logo, photos and/ or copy, you need to make a notation within the estimate. The Description section should explain the steps of the project. For example, register client’s domain name, setup hosting account, install CMS, etc.

Cost of the Project

Once the Project Assets and Description are finished, the estimate should detail the final deliverables of the project. This is a summary of what you are going to be handing over to the client: A custom website with installed WordPress CMS or eNewsletter for an event and so on. Below the Deliverable section, you will need to outline your time and costs for each part of the project. Estimate time should include everything from writing copy, web hosting setup, coding, and so on, plus make an entry for the cost per hour. If you have separate charges for stock photography or web hosting, make new section with a brief explanation for each. Finally, combine all of your estimate time and additional charges into the total cost.

Get a Signature

You aren’t quite done yet - Don’t forget leave space for you and the client to place your signatures on the document with a date. Before starting any work, you need to send the client a copy of the estimate for their records. In the event that the project changes, compose a new estimate and have the client sign the updated version. This will prevent any possible disagreements on the project deliverables. To protect yourself even further, you may want to include term and conditions of service with your estimate. 

Sample of Web Design Estimate
Sample of Web Design Estimate


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    • dipless profile image

      dipless 6 years ago from Manchester

      This is a good Hub thank you for sharing, getting that signature on the contract is the most vital step.