December 6, 2018

Sending estimates with ranges?


Are there any good web apps out there that let you send estimates with ranges? I know Harvest, Freshbooks, and Zoho have estimate sending capabilities, but they're all fixed numbers, which doesn't really say "estimate" to me.

I'm hoping someone knows of something I haven't found, so that I can save a lot of time. But, if not, I might have to build such a product :)

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    I use ranges (min, max days per line item/story) to output an estimate. An estimate should be an exact number.

    My algo is: ((BestCase Days * 1.3) + (WorstCaseDays - BestCase)) * 0.5

    You might need to tweak to find your sweet spot depending how good you are at setting the best and worst case numbers.

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      Thanks Rory! So, do you wind up billing actual hours or just invoicing the original estimate regardless?

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        Depends on how negotiations go. I always push for actual time as most clients don't respect scope and I don't want to be left holding my nuts. If I do end up billing on the original estimate I stick to scope and push back a lot. Regardless I am very upfront with client regarding scope, scope creep and time/cost from the very beginning. I drill it into them essentially. This formula is rock solid for me on any job that takes more than 10 days, meaning estimate and actual line up perfectly 100% of the time as long as we stick to the agreed scope.

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    Just curious but why not just send the estimate in an email? You probably want to include a bunch of caveats as well.

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      I like having a price of software that tracks the state of estimates (accepted, rejected, aging, etc.) and the explicit button for the client to click “accept”.

      I’m also imaging the client could “play with the numbers” almost like a spreadsheet, which can go off the rails in email.

      But, I agree this is how most people do it today and would be hard to out-do for simplicities sake!

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        Hmm, I understand but to me an estimate is a very rough figure to see if they're keen to spend the time to turn that estimate into a quote.

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          Oh, cool. As I was thinking about this, I was imagining a way to kick the process off (like you’re talking about) with something very broad like a “ballpark figure”. Aka $10k-$50k, just to make it easy for both parties to walk away if they only have $1000 to spend.

          Even something as broad as “$10k and up”.

          I could even see it being a boilerplate ballpark that you could integrate by cc’ing on an email.

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            Hmm, to me displaying a ballpark estimate like that is going to make it more likely the client will hold you to it as it looks more like an agreement I think. When you get into requirements gathering phase, you might find your maximum was miles out. Usually when I'm doing estimates it's to find out if the client has a remotely realistic budget so you aren't wasting each others time.

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    I am worked in a few web agencies. So far we had different google doc table templates for edtimates. Even when we had min/max numbers still, in the end, you need to say final exact number. Then client allocates budget. I wasnt lucky when client had min-max budgets.

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      That’s good feedback—thanks!

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    Before I did my own estimates I wrote in the description line #1 "XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - minimum cost" and I detailed the possible range in the line #2 below.

    You can add additional cost in the price column if you want.

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      That’s exactly how we’ve done it too. Have you ever had a client get confused by either which options were optional or by seeing a large total at the bottom, even though they could (in theory) drop some line items?

      I.e. do you think a tool could help the back-and-forth when it comes to those variables and optional line items?

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        I'm working in programmation and R&D so I always explain my clients if they want a fixed price I will need a security amount so for a best price/value min-max pricing is the best.

        Usually my project have only one line with the price and one annex the the full description. It's a good method to avoid droping parts of the project or checking hour by hour the job my team is doing.

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