Our Best Estimate

Estimates are part of my job.  However, I try to stay more on the side of firm numbers rather than estimated ones, unless I can’t help it. They tend to create a lot of gray space between what the client is asking and what we are analyzing.  This “gray area” can sometimes be dangerous as they do not provide my potential client with an exact figure when it comes to total costs or turnaround times.

In order to get an accurate quote with an exact turnaround time and price, we need all documents or files relevant to the project.  Being able to analyze all pertinent content allows us to understand the scope of the project and what will be involved in completing it properly.   This is true for all projects whether they are editable source files for an InDesign file or as simple as having the whole document as opposed to a sample.

Here’s a short example of how this can go wrong:  A client sends a PDF brochure, originally created in Adobe Illustrator, and says that they’ll provide the source files later, but requests an answer right away. I would then provide the client with a quote, but forget to tell the client that it’s our best educated guess and the final cost and turnaround time will depend on the source files.  What happens next?  The client sends the source files, the quote completely changes, and the client believes that the quoted price was final and absolute.  It has unfortunately become a lose-lose situation because I have not conveyed that what we gave was an estimate and could change with the original source.  Oops.

When in the quoting process, my goal is to keep information as symmetric as possible. We provide a quote for the documents/files that we have at the moment and do our best to quote the hypothetical situations.   Estimated quotes can happen in several situations: audio/video transcriptions to translation, word counts from character based languages to letter based, and not having all necessary files.  Transcriptions are analyzed using estimated formulas for a time/cost analysis.  For example: the average English speaker speaks 120 words per minute and we have 60 minutes of audio; we’re looking at 7200 words.  This is an example of how we might quote a transcription.  We simply do not know the exact word count and will not know until it’s on paper.  The estimation part should be conveyed to the client so they understand that the exact and final project figures will be determined once completed so the final invoice isn’t a fun surprise.

The other example briefly touches again on source files.  Frequently, clients are looking for a ball-park figure for budgeting purposes or even to see what kind of value a project has by analyzing costs.  More often than not, full documentation is not at hand or has yet to be developed.   Not a problem.

Client: “I will have 100 pages that will be similar to this one.”

Me:  “Great, I can help you with that, let’s get the calculator out and get to work”

However, as an Account Manager in my position, it’s important to communicate that what we are quoting could be an estimation and will likely change when we are able to review the entire document.  Again this allows us to better understand the project.