How to Accurately Estimate the Time & Price of a Freelance Project | John Morris | Skillshare

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How to Accurately Estimate the Time & Price of a Freelance Project

teacher avatar John Morris, I help freelancers get clients.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Welcome & Introduction

    • 2. Download the Spreadsheet

    • 3. Complete the Project Details

    • 4. Build Your Project Task List

    • 5. Write the Task Descriptions

    • 6. Estimate Hours for Each Task

    • 7. Add In Buffer Time

    • 8. Track the Actual Task Time and Adjust

    • 9. Export the Estimate for Your Client

    • 10. Next Steps

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About This Class

In this class, you'll learn how to accurately estimate both the time and the cost of your freelance projects. You'll download the Project Estimator spreadsheet I use for my projects. And, you'll walk through these steps to create accurate estimates:

  1. Download the Project Estimator spreadsheet
  2. CompleteĀ the project details
  3. List all the major tasks
  4. Write task descriptions
  5. Estimate hours for each task
  6. Add in buffer time
  7. Track the actual time
  8. Export the spreadsheet for your client

What you'll end up with is a process and a template for consistently creating accurate projects estimates, which will help you plan better and clients will appreciate.

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John Morris

I help freelancers get clients.


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1. Welcome & Introduction: Hey, John Morris here. Welcome to my class on estimating the time and cost of your freelance projects. This is another entry in my freelancing Wanna one Siri's And the premise of the course is pretty self explanatory. I'm gonna show you how to estimate the time and cost accurately for your freelance projects . And you're gonna get access to the method that I've kind of discovered. In 15 years of doing this and probably the big thing, you're going to get access to the spreadsheet that I used to facilitate the process and then learn how to overtime become more and more accurate with your estimates, something that clients really are going to appreciate because this is the hardest thing for a freelancer to do. Or one of the artist things for a freelancer to dio and in the more accurate you can be both with time and cost. Clients are really going to appreciate that. That could be one of those things that set you apart. So I'm gonna show you how to do that. I'm sure you what I've learned in terms of being more accurate with those estimates in this class. So that's something you've been struggling with, or something that you feel like you want to learn. Let's go ahead and dive in 2. Download the Spreadsheet: the very first thing you want to do is actually download this spreadsheet that we're gonna be using for this class, because that's the primary thing we're gonna be going through here. So you want to make sure and download that and have it open? This is a different class, puts the same idea. You go to the projects and resource is section over on the right hand side. There will be a resource is kind of section, and then you could you'll see the download. Here, it'll be named indifferently. Probably project tracking or whatever, but just go ahead and download that and then open it up. Once you have it opened up, it should look something like this. And this is what we're gonna be going through. And I'm gonna show you how to use this to estimate the time of the cost of your freelance projects. 3. Complete the Project Details: Once you have the spreadsheet downloaded and open and you're ready to go, then the first thing we'll do is fill out the details at the top here. So we'll give the project a name. You probably already has one from from the client. But I'll just call this Project X kind of sounds cool, and then the contact, the name. So we'll just say John Doe, Whoever your contact name is, there's a company name. So was do X Y z company for now, um, and then the date that you're going to begin. So let's just go. No, November 1st pick a date here, but whatever date you're gonna begin, just put the date in and then come down here and you'll see the hourly rate right here. We're going to use this to calculate costs. So you definitely want toe change this toe what your hourly rate is Now I want to make sure it's clear up front with this. This is an estimator for a fixed price project. So that doesn't the decline isn't necessarily going to know what your hourly rate is, and by putting it in down here, you can actually play with it a little bit to see how changing the hourly great will affect the overall cost that can allow you to go up or down based off what it is that that you want toe how much it is you want to make off the project, but put it in here. And then when you go to give this to the client, this is something that you can potentially remove later. But we use it for the tracker here to help us estimate the cost and not have to constantly put it in so forth. So go ahead and put that in, and then that will complete sort of the details section of this of the spreadsheet. 4. Build Your Project Task List: Now what we're gonna do is we're going to just write out our list of tasks in order to complete the project and the big thing here, this kind of main thing of this spreadsheet. But the big thing here is just to first do the list. So don't worry about the description or estimating the hours or any of that. If you haven't actually listed this out before, then you want to take that and list out these things because is going to kind of get it out of your head is gonna help you to sort of plan and outline your project and that that that takes a big weight off your shoulders first off and then it makes it easier to come back and estimate how long it's actually going to take. So I'm gonna use my myself as example. Let's imagine that I were building a membership site. So what I do is I would just sit back and kind of take a big picture view and say, Okay, what are the major steps that I need to take in order to building membership site? So the first thing that I might write down is, uh, I might have to get the domain and hosting so I would write, possibly get domain and hosting and hosting. And I would probably say, get and set up domain and hosting. Okay? And so that would maybe potentially be the first thing. Next thing would be install and configure. WordPress. So there's a certain configuration that I I generally use install WordPress theme actually again install and configure WordPress or I'll just make it themes a little bit shorter. Install and configure plug ins create create admin pages. So there's been a membership site. There's usually different air pages and admin pages and so forth. So you got to go through and create all of those, um, see, create membership, create and configure membership levels. And then let's do configure wish list member because it's the actual membership site plug in. So it's gonna be ah, little bit mawr involved. Configure, uh, integrations. So that would be the payment integration in email integration and so forth. Um, build theme in L. A mentor that I usually use Almonte and l a mentor for my sites, and I'm going to go through and I'm going. I will actually build out the header and a footer in the sidebar and the individual post pages and archives and all of that in L. A mentor and have it control those things. That way, I can design him the way I want without actually having to read any code. Okay, so again, this is not a big deal here, but that sort of gives you an idea of you. Take the project and you sort of break it down into its steps, and you list out all of the task here. So that's really the first big thing that you want to do. Get that out of your head. Try to BTO detail as possible. But don't over. I mean, for example, when I when I write Cree admin pages, so there for memberships like there's a nonmember air page, there's a wrong member air page. There's a cancelled member air pages after registration after log in, ah, log in page sales page forum potentially etcetera. So there's a whole bunch of pages, but I'm not gonna list all of those out here, Okay? I'm just going to list that I'm I need to create those pages for yourself. You know what those are, or you could have a separate note where you write those down. But for the client, you just want to give them kind of the major phases of what's gonna happen as you build the site so they get some some detail behind what's actually going on. So again, just list out those task. Don't worry about descriptions or hours or any of that. Just go through a list out those task for whatever your project is. 5. Write the Task Descriptions: next is the project description. Now there's there. Imagine. There's a little bit of kind of impetus to maybe skip this partner and not do this or just kind of rush into this really quick. But actually, this is This is quite important because what we're doing here is we are. We're kind of justifying to the client the hours that this is going to take our estimate for our time because the client might look, might look at again. Let's just take create admin pages. They might look at that and go, Oh, well, that's, you know, that's a 10 minute. That's a 10 minute step when in reality when you start to look at all of the different pages and what needs to go into them. A nonmember air page, for example, for a membership site actually has a number of needs to perform several different functions and has a number of of moving parts to it. And every time I create one, that page alone usually takes me about an hour in and of itself so that one page will take me potentially an hour. So you kind of have to give them, ah, a little bit more detail for them to understand why this particular task is being estimated at at this many hours. Okay, so well, that's essentially what we're gonna do with the description. I'll take again, create admin pages. So if I look at it, there's 1234567 potentially eight pages. So create a admin pages that help the membership site function, including log in pages, air pages, sales page and others. Okay, so that just gives them some sense of, Oh, he's not creating two pages. He's creating eight pages. It's log in pages, air pages sales page. That gives them some sense that there's more to this than just the two or three pages. Okay, ah, creating configure membership levels. So you know that there's when you create a membership level and you configure it, there's probably six or seven different tabs, and the plug in that I use that you that there's options for you don't have to go through and set every single one of those. But there's a number of things to look at and consider, so you'd want toe make that clear here. So again, the idea behind the description is you just sort of giving them some sense of what's actually entailed in that particular step. So when I come over here and I estimate this in, say, five hours, they don't go Holy cow. Five hours. Why is that to paint, was it and take it to, you know, to five hours to create two pages? That doesn't make any sense. I feel like you're tryingto pull one over and then you can. You know, there's something here to give them some idea, and if you have to, you can explain it. But that's the basic idea behind this description here. So go through and create all the descriptions here, keeping in mind. This is for the client. This is sort of this is not for you to know what to do. This is for them to understand what the step is and how involved or not involved. It might be 6. Estimate Hours for Each Task: Our next step, then, is to go through and actually estimate are ours here. So we're just gonna look at East Task and we're gonna give some sense of try and figure out how many hours we think that's going to take us. There's a couple of things that I do here. I could see these being debatable, but this would be my recommendation. Very first thing is, any task has a minimum of an hour. If you look at a particular tasking like there's no way that's going to take an hour, then you may want to consolidate it with some other things and how you listed out here. So, for example, consult installing configure WordPress. Installing WordPress is not going to take me an hour by any means, but going through and configuring. No, it maybe not get to an hour, but it might be 15 20 minutes by the time that I get all done. So it's starting to push that that a little bit. And so I'm just. Everything is a minimum of an hour you can in the spreadsheet. If you want to do, say, 1/2 hour like that. If you really want toe to do that, But I always just do any. There's nothing less than an hour, and I have to consolidate tasked in order to make that happen than I do that. But that's the first thing. The second thing then is try to estimate at this step how long you actually think it's going to take. Not oh, I'm gonna add in some buffer time. I'm gonna take what I think it is and double it or whatever. You may have heard some of that stuff. Don't do that yet on this step here. You want to go through and just figure out what I think it's actually going to take so set up domain and hosting potentially. I mean again, a minimum of an hour stolen. Come figure WordPress. An hour stolen configure theme That's going to take about an hour installing figure plug ins and our create admin pages. This is actually probably closer. Toe five, maybe six here create and configure membership levels. I'm gonna put at two. It depends on the complexity of the site. The less complex it is. I might go down to one, but most of them are always fairly compact, so I'm gonna set to configure wish this member one configure integrations gonna put to build theme and elemental. I'm gonna put five, okay? And so that that's going to kind of give me some base toe work with here. Okay? Now, I I think I need to actually come through here, and I'm gonna copy this, and that should give us our estimates, and then here, I need to expand this down to 18. Okay, so that puts me at $2000 and you notice what I did there. I just I went into and I copied this down so that it was because this is a calculation. It takes the estimated hours times the hourly late gray and says the cost for that step. And then this just does a some of these cells right here. Okay. So anyway, if you need to just that as usual work, spreadsheet. Feel free to do that, but you can see I have ah, total cost here of $2000. So this is think of this is kind of like a minimum price and actually need to adjust the hours here as well. Change this to 18 and that gets me 20 hours. Okay, so think of this as as sort of Ah, minimum price. We're going to talk about why that is in just a second. But again, just go through all the task that you listed and try and give the most accurate amount of hours. That's gonna It's going to take for you to complete a particular part of the project or each step of the project. Enlist those out and kind of see what the cost is and that will give you a sense of what the minimum you're going to be able to charge for. This is. 7. Add In Buffer Time: Now that you've got the hours listed out, you've kind of got a minimum price. You have a sense of whether it's gonna be within your budget within their budget, but also what you want to make on the project, etcetera. Now we come in and I always add buffer time into my projects because there's a couple of reasons first. And the main thing is is that I find that often, whatever I estimate, something is going to take. I'm usually short. I'm I tend to be, I guess, optimistic in my in my timing. And so things always just end up taking longer than what I imagine they're going to in my head. And early on I had sort of, ah, quasi, I mentor of mine, Give me some advice and and they said, Take whatever you think it's going to be and triple it and I've heard people say double it , that that sort of thing. But you want to add in some buffer time here because things are probably gonna take a little bit longer than what you think they're going to take. The other thing is, is that you're sort of playing with the overall cost here, and you can play with that in terms of the hourly rate. But you can also turn play with it in terms of the estimated hours and again, this is for a fixed price project. So ultimately, what the client is going to be looking at is the overall price not necessarily the individual pricing here. And you actually have the option of not even giving them this. This is for this is for you primarily. And then you can give them this to them if you want, in order to justify your pricing or if they question your pricing, you can send this to them and show them how you figured it out. But it's primarily for you to figure out what to charge for a project. So that said, we're gonna add in some buffer time. So what I didn't really do actually is I don't triple, but I do double. But you could do double or you could do time and 1/2 kind of depends again budget. You know what you're able to charge, etcetera. But if we come through here and we just I change these estimate hours, I'm just gonna double all these, and we'll say 12. Actually, this one, I might just do time and 1/2 to give me three extra hours. Double double on some of the bigger ones. I won't necessarily always do. Double. Let's just do eight here about time and 1/2. Okay. So that now you come back through and you can you see that we're up to 30. 500. That's a pretty decent price for most fixed price projects for my membership sites. I actually charged a minimum of 3000 and a maximum of around 5000. Usually, that would include if it was a $5000 project. Who would use a custom plug in that they wanted me to write for them Custom plug in development. And that was a minimum of that was a minimum of 10 hours. Okay, so that was gonna be a minimum of $1000 just for a custom plug in development. So Ah, that was how they I got from the 35 up to about the 5000. So this is really in line. I mean, if I look at this, this is really in line with what I charged. So it's pretty accurate. And I had people who paid me that all the time in order to do projects for them. And then, like I said, You come down here and you can sort of play with the price of Let's say we're way out of budget. We can do $50 an hour and you can see how that affects the price. Um, that one's maybe a little bit obvious, but let's say we do 70. You can see. Okay, that's what it is. Or maybe we want to make a little bit. Mawr You do 125 and see that this is the price of project. So it allows you to go through and just play with once you have the task list out to play with the hourly rate to play with the estimated hours and kind of figure out what what you can charge. And then you know how to justify and so forth and just kind of play around with it a little bit until you confined to knit into something that's gonna be accurate, that if you give it to the client when you do, it's gonna feel really and you're gonna have justified your pricing and so forth, and then just gives you some some sense of what to charge. Plus the overall hours. I think this is one that, you know, maybe people don't think about as much. But you can see here I'm estimating 45 hours for this project. So if I worked eight hours a day, it would take me just a little bit over a week. I could probably do this in a week of a full time, uh, of working on a full time. But maybe I have, like, three other clients. And so I'm only able toe work on this for two hours a day or three hours a day. Well, now I'm looking. Let's say it's three hours. I'm looking at 15 days that I'm gonna have toe that's gonna take me toe. Get this done. So now I have a sense off. Okay? I can tell them I know what to tell them in terms of the overall time frame for the project . So 15 days, maybe I want to add a little bit too. That's all, tellme. Three weeks or a month. So again, it not only the cost, but also the time that you can tell them that you're gonna be able to get it done. Okay, so that's the main part of it. Now, there's some things long term that you want to do in order to make this even more accurate . So I'm gonna talk about that in the next lesson. But this is really the main. The main portion of this is planning it out. Writing down the task, writing down the hours, playing with the timings in the our little bit and getting it sort of honed in where you think it's a good project estimate. 8. Track the Actual Task Time and Adjust: Now, this next step is is really important because this is the thing. The first time you do this, you're just gonna be guessing. And that's the reality of it. And it's probably gonna be, ah, decent amount different the actual time it takes you and so forth is gonna be different than what you estimated. And so this this next step is really, really important. And that is to track the time it actually takes you to complete this, because what happens is when you track the time now you're getting an accurate assessment of what? How much time? It actually takes you to do a particular thing. And if you track that over 234 10 15 20 projects that really allows you to hone in on these estimates and know how long something is going to take you, which you're gonna make your price estimates accurate. They're gonna make your more accurate. They're gonna make your time accurate, estimates more accurate, and clients are going to greatly appreciate accuracy is one of the hardest things when it like pricing and time. It's one of the hardest things for a freelancer to do in a lot of freelancers really don't do it that well, and clients just sort of deal with it. But if you can be really accurate with your estimates and gets a point where you're actually delivering ahead of schedule for clients client to really gonna appreciate that And that's a simple thing that you can do to really stand out and justify higher hourly rate prices. So again, just track what? What? How long it actually takes you to do each one of these? Now you can just have, ah, note on, like, keeper, a note pad or something and write it down. But there are also tracking software for this kind of thing. So when I see people recommend from time to time, is this one called timely? It's kind of, ah, tracker that will allow you toe track times. The time you spent on different projects has availability on a lot of different devices and so forth. Uh, the pricing for me is a little much is about $100 a month. Um, I don't know if this necessarily justifies that, but if if that works for you, then that's maybe something you can look at. Although they do have I guess, for individuals. I hadn't noticed that for individuals. So it's a lot cheaper so that that's actually a lot better for you don't have a team members that you need to worry about and so forth. This is, ah, pretty decent pricing here. Another one is toggle so kind of does the same thing. Um, And you see, the pricing on it is in line with the individual pricing four Timely. So $9.18 dollars, etcetera. So these APS make it a little bit easier for you to track the time, and you can break them down. Um, it kind of says on the sales page, you can break them down by project so you can actually mark thing things that you did the time that attracts you working in, like, see you at photo shop open and you're doing something in photo shop. You can tag that to a particular project, and so you can. Over time, you'll know how much time you actually spent on projects and tasks and so forth. And this will allow you to be really accurate with your timing. So however you do it, just make sure you're tracking your time so that you know how long you actually takes you to do things and over time to just be a lot more accurate with your estimates. It's important clients. They're gonna appreciate that on that's gonna help you to build a reputation of being honest and accurate when it comes to people working with you on projects. 9. Export the Estimate for Your Client: the last piece here, then is I just going to show you what you can do if you If you do decide, you want to give this to a client I recommend for a fixed price project, not including the hourly rate in it, because it's just it's gonna become a topic that it can open up a can of worms that you don't necessarily need toe to deal with. And so what I would do is I would just kind of highlight this and then just change the text color, the white. So it looks like it kind of disappears and then come over here and you want to download as a pdf. So when you downloaded as a pdf, then this cell is it going to be something that they're gonna be able to click and see? Oh, there's now a degree in here and so forth. Okay, So just downloaded his pdf and then send them the pdf. I wouldn't ever directly send them this as an excel file, and I would never include the actual hourly rate in there either, just because for a fixed price project, you know, if you're doing an hourly rate project you don't need to really do this necessarily conducive to estimate the time. But you're just gonna track your time, and that's what you're gonna charge them. But for a fixed price project, I would d completely decouple it from the hourly rate from the client's perspective. And so I would just do that and go with whatever your estimate is. And then if there's some push back or they wanna, you know, talk about adjusting the price or whatever, then you can come back in here and play with us a little bit and kind of get where you need it to be. Your play with ours, etcetera. So that's kind of the last step with this before he sent to the client. Make sure and and just kind of hide that hourly rate because for a fixed price project, it's just like I said, I'll open a can of worms so you don't really need to get into. And to be frank in all the years of me, I've been a freelance for 15 years. All the years I've done fixed price project, I never once had a client asked me about the ire hourly rate so they don't really care. And then if you just don't kind of put it in their face, it's not gonna be anything that becomes a big issue. So there you go. 10. Next Steps: I'm honest there's no more. So, so little housekeeping to finish up this course. If you haven't yet, be sure to head on over to the class area. There is a class section for some, some steps for you to walk through for this course. So be sure to head over in that it's under the discussion in Projects tab that you'll see on the course. Also, if you head over to my profile, be sure to give me a follow on my profile here so you'll be notified when I release new courses. And I also have an ongoing sort of weekly podcast style course called Let's Talk freelance. So if you would like to have sort of access to ongoing training regarding freelancing and online business and so forth. Be sure to check out that. Let's talk freelance course as well. And finally, I do have a daily tips newsletter on my website at John Morris If you head over there, you can sign up to that mailing list. You will also be put into my own, my very own mobile app, or you'll get access to over 78 hours of free content at the time of this recording related to freelance and so forth as well. So if you're interested in that, BD sure to check that out as well. Again, that's John Morris All right. Thank you for taking the class. If you enjoyed it, I appreciate you for You. Leave me a review and we'll see you in the next course.