Shall I treat project estimations as urgent as calls or chats on new projects? I take later as urgent unplanned events and talk to clients today or tomorrow. I never let them wait longer.

However, estimations take time. It can take the full day of my time to properly research and make an estimation on complex projects. All other tasks are waiting while I make estimation.

I am not sure if this is a proper approach as approx 50% of estimation are never realized.

4 Answers 4


Estimates/quotes take top priority here. Any delay in returning a bid/quote can instantly result in losing the project.

I have yet to find a day where I could not spend some time writing up an estimate. Even if it took a couple days, I can work it in with what I currently have ongoing. Face it, no one schedules every day wall to wall. It's often very valuable to put in a few hours of overtime to finish a bid/quote.

If you are slow on delivering a quote, clients see that as a direct correlation to how you work on their project. If you are slow to quote, they will assume you are slow to respond when working.

  • But you do not act the same with every client, right? I mean, there are those who just ask, and on them I spend 10 min saying approx costs and asking for detailed specs. Those who are more serious, I spend 1+ hours delivering official estimation for every part of the project. Do you do the same?
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 7:27
  • 1
    Yes. Estimates take top priority. Whether it's a loose ballpark estimate or a formal proposal, they are always at the top of my list of things to do.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 7:31
  • So you always finish them within 24 hours you got a request for estimation? What about when you have a regular client and he tells you "I need estimation, but it's not urgent project at all, do it when you have free time" - do you still act within 24 hrs or you loose on it?
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 7:35
  • 1
    My point is there's no such thing as being "too busy" to deal with prospective clients/projects. If I'm too busy to write a quote, I'm too busy to accept the work... so I turn down the request for a quote.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 7:41
  • 1
    I don't respond to anything on weekends. Nothing. If I get a request in late Friday afternoon, if I can't get it back to the client by Friday night, then I send it first thing Monday morning. But I will send things very late Friday.. 10-11pm if needed. Overall, I want clients to be accustomed to my NOT being available on weekends, so I don't contact them on weekends. If not working weekends costs me a client, that's fine. I don't want to work weekends.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 9:19

I set aside a portion of each day for "business development." I also have some standard packages priced already so I can turn rough estimates around quickly.

Having standard boilerplate you can paste into an email is also helpful and saves time in the initial project negotiations.

  • Are you a programmer? As in my 10+ year career, I have been unable to write such template. I can try to guess the price in 10min, but when I do a real estimation, the final result may wary from 100% upwards.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 7:12
  • No I'm not a programmer. I'm a UX/graphic designer and technical writer. A lot of things I do are pretty straightforward. I know how long it takes me to (for example) create a set of 24 icons/buttons for an app, or how long it would take for me to design a business card, or layout a trifold brochure.
    – Voxwoman
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 21:03
  • There are standard questions you end up asking every client before you can provide an accurate quote. THAT is what you should put in your standard response, so you don't have to waste time retyping it constantly.
    – Voxwoman
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 21:04

This is tough because if you take too long, you may lose some projects to clients who think you have lost interest or that you will be slow to do actual work. But like you said, you have real work to do, this is not a guarantee, and they can be very time consuming.

The main thing is, you don't want to leave them wondering.

What I do is either ask: "How soon do you need this?" or if I know I can't get it out very fast, I will say "Based on my current schedule, I believe I can have this to you by ____." Usually they assume it will take some time and say "Oh, that's fine!"

This also gives you an opportunity to start training them that you are taking their important project seriously but your services are in demand by others too and it is not going to happen in the snap of your fingers.

  • I am actually doing a very similar thing now so I am glad I see that it's not a wrong approach.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 6:42
  • In addition to this, if I see that the client is one of those "100 estimations, 0 projects awarded", I then take 5min to take a look at the project and give him a very rough estimation saying that he should send me detailed specs for a better estimation.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 6:44

One way I've dealt with this is to give people a rough estimate, and setup a contract where I'm paid hourly for the time worked. If they are interested in a fixed-price contract, then I will have a first milestone (that they pay me for) where I deliver a fixed-price proposal, and they can choose to continue it or not. I ended up having to do this after being asked to scope the work for several large projects, and then having the clients not take the contract because the price was too high. I have not run into a lot of pushback from this, in fact, it's generally reduced it, because it provides visibility for the customer, and keeps me from rushing the bidding phase.

  • But such think is not possible when you work via oDesk and similar sites right? clients may rate you badly because you took their money and they got nothing in return.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 7:14

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