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How Do I Get An Accurate Estimate for Graphic Design Work I Need??

September 20, 2011

 The client had a seemingly simple question: “How much do you charge for a website?” He expected a simple answer – a dollar figure. He felt frustrated when he couldn’t get an immediate answer. Another client did get a dollar figure from several graphic design firms and went with the cheapest – then was shocked that the actual cost ended up being much higher – after the firm had added all the pages and features he wanted.

The subject of price estimates can be a frustrating one for both clients and graphic designers. Here are a few tips on how to get an estimate that is accurate and fair:

1. Be specific:

Asking “How much for a website?” is like walking into a restaurant and asking “How much do you charge for a meal?” The only possible answer is “it depends.” Filet mignon or grilled cheese? How many appetizers, sides, drinks or desserts? Quoting graphic arts work is the same – it all depends on what you want.

Let’s say you are opening a clothing boutique and want a website. Well, before a website design firm would know how much to charge you, they would have to know what you want exactly. How many pages will the website be? How many different clothing designers will you be featuring? Do you want a page for each designer? How many designs you want to present – is it 30 or 300? Do you want to include your policies for returns and exchanges? Do you have other products you’d like to feature like purses and shoes? And do you want an e-commerce shopping cart and checkout system?

The same for any copy writing project. For a client to ask “How much do you charge to write a brochure?” is like asking a contractor, “How much do you charge for building a house?” One would need a lot more information to even begin answering that question. In the case of copywriting, any writer will want to know how many pages the brochure will be, how much copy on each page, and if the copywriter will be provided with all factual information or will have to do his or her own research or interviews.

The more specific you are about what you want, whether it’s a website, a brochure or a catalog, the more accurate the estimate will be.

2. Work it out:

Maybe you don’t have all the answers when you contact the graphic design firm. Be willing to sit down and work out the details of the work you require. A good graphic design firm can help you work out the details and make recommendations.

A good design firm understands that it’s always a balance between what you want and what you can afford. And they can help you work out a solution that achieves your goals within your budget. That requires an exchange of information. Any designer who simply sends you a “quote” without asking a lot of questions, can be counted on to do a shabby, inaccurate, makeshift job with little actual thought put into it. OR will give you one quote, then present you with a significantly higher final bill.

Our programmer once quoted a potential client for a fairly large website project. He presented the quote but the client ended up going with another designer. When our programmer checked back with this client after their website was done, the client said that, instead of coming in at the quoted price, the company that did the website work, ended up being more than $5500.00 over the original quote…and over $7500.00 more than our programmer estimated (and would have easily completed the work for).

3. Be realistic:

 Let’s say you have a budget of $500 and want a 10 page website with full e-commerce capability. Well, before you spend days working with a design firm, educating them on the extent of the website and all of the bells and whistles that you need, why not give them an idea of your budget up front?  Knowing your budget range at the start, especially if you have very limited funds, an experienced designer can work with you to come up with a solution that fits your budget. Maybe what you have envisioned is not possible with the budget you have – but maybe there is a great solution you can afford.

We recently had an inquiry from a photographer who wanted to offer his work on his own image searching website, patterned on iStockPhoto or Fotosearch. He wanted people to be able to enter a search term and pull up the relevant images from his portfolio. Of course, we had to ask a lot of questions to be able to accurately give him an estimate. How many images? Did he want ecommerce functionality, like a shopping cart and checkout?  Did he want people to be able to save images to a lightbox? But he was impatient with all of our questions. “Just tell me what your lowest starting price is for a website,” he asked. So we told him. And even that was way beyond his budget – he had just a few hundred dollars to spend.

4. Come prepared:

These are just a few of the many things a professional designer will need to know to accurately assess the scope of your project. For a website, for example, he or she would need to know 1)  the amount of time your project will take, 2) the functions needed on the website, 3) how many pages, 4) how many different page templates to build, 5) how much custom programming, and 6) how complex any programming issues are.

You may not have all the answers to these questions – that’s fine. No professional designer will expect you to know the details of web design or graphic design. But come prepared with what you do know – your business, your product, your goals, your budget. Have an outline of what you want. Bring some examples of brochures, ads or websites from other firms that you like or want to emulate. Have a good idea of your objectives – what you want the website or promotion to achieve. Know your customers or potential customers and their needs.

So if you are looking to hire anyone to do graphic arts work, you should come to the table with as much information as possible. Answer the designer’s questions as completely as you can. Understand that the designer needs your input. It’s your business, and the better that designer understands your business, your goals and your needs, the better he or she can accurately estimate your job.

What experiences have you had giving or getting accurate quotes, either as a professional designer or as a client? We’d like to hear from you.

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