[thelist] What would you do? -- pricing and estimating

Paola Kathuria paola at limitless.co.uk
Tue Apr 10 19:51:27 CDT 2001

"A. Erickson" wrote:
> I'm curious how people feel about doing this. Just because something is
> project-priced doesn't mean it can go on forever. When a client signs my
> contract, they're also signing a timeline. However, I start itching when it
> comes to these issues because I wonder where my leeway is.

My having to leave the country at a certain date helped focus
the client's attention, I found on a project last year.

I don't think there's any problem telling clients in advance
that you need to get the project completed by such-and-such
date (where that date is perhaps 2-4 weeks beyond the estimated
end anyway).

> Same with estimates. Yes, it's an estimate, but I don't like to go over it.

Hmmm.  If you're being paid for hours worked against an estimate,
then the total invoiced can be under or over.  There's nothing
wrong in invoicing for more if you went over an estimate (and
the client approved it).

Last year, I gave a client a choice between paying us on a time
and materials basis (I'd invoice against timesheets every two
weeks) or fixed price (which was about 20% higher than the
estimate), invoicing against deliverables.  They opted for time
& materials.  Every time they asked for something extra, I'd
tell them that it was extra to the estimate before I started 
any work on it.

If they'd gone for the fixed price option, it'd have been against
the requirements document.  If they then wanted something that
wasn't in the requirements, they knew they'd pay extra for it.

> What about the well-meaning and sincere client who has simply gone over the
> estimate? Do you always charge it back? How do you approach these
> situations.

Having had designers and lawyers do work for me and go over 
their estimates to me, I know how painful a surprise of a
bigger invoice can be.

I approach this with clients as I would want to be dealt with by
people who work for me.  If I hire someone who gives me an estimate,
I give them the go-ahead and tell them that if they find that they
can't complete the work without spending more time than they
anticipated, that they must let me know beforehand.  I let it be
known that if they go over the estimate without agreeing it with
me beforehand, that I won't pay the extra.  Agreeing to pay more
is a decision for me to make, not them.

They then give me a new estimate and I make a decision whether to
agree to the new estimate or whether to cut my losses and complete
the thing some other way.  Similarly, when I give clients estimates,
I give an achievable range and, if I think I need more time, I ask
for their permission beforehand.  Sometimes they say yes and
sometimes they say no but, most importantly, all my time gets
paid for.

By the way, after I worked on sites for a while, I got a feel for
how much I put into things and at what stages clients would ask for
changes (as is inevitable).  I therefore add a contingency to my
estimates and quotes.  The contingency depends on the vibes I get
at the sales meeting, or in how much the experience the client
has about the web.

By not assuming that what the client asks for is *all* they'll
ever want, means that I can accommodate some changes and hassle
with a smile and that it's quite a way into a project before I
start putting up resistance and saying that things will cost extra.

I've never underestimated the amount of changes/hassle (that is,
we don't over-charge); the relationship starts off on a positive
step rather than Day One starting with a "sure, we can do that
but it'll cost more" reply to a request (as used to be the case).


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