When creating a proposal for a new graphic design job, one of the most difficult steps is estimating the project cost. It can be helpful to break down the necessary tasks to reach an estimate of the hours, which you can multiply by your hourly rate to provide a quote. Below is a list of tasks to remember. Keep in mind these may not apply to every project, and there may be others not mentioned here. You may not want to reveal to the client every small task, so it might be helpful to combine many of the items below to provide a shorter list to your client, or to just provide a flat cost that isn't itemized.
Meetings and PlanningAt the start of a job, and inevitably throughout it, you will be involved in meetings to discuss details of a project. While you may wish to provide an initial consultation at no cost, the time that goes into talking with clients should be considered when creating an estimate. Think about phone calls, in person meetings, and even the time you may spend emailing or instant messaging. Like any item on this list, this will be easier to estimate over time. You may also want to consider the client you are dealing with, as the amount of correspondence can vary greatly depending on who you are working with.
ResearchOnce you have the details of a project, consider how much time you may spend researching the topic. This may vary greatly from project to project, depending on the subject matter and your existing knowledge. In some cases, research can go as far as conducting focus groups and market analysis, or it can be as simple as reading an article online. Always discuss with the client what level of research the expect from you, or what existing research they can provide.
Drafts, Wireframes and Sketches
Before starting on the actual design for a project, it is common to create several rounds of drafts or sketches. These allow you to present concepts to a client without putting in the time required to create a finished product. Consider how many concepts and drafts you might create for a project, and factor in that time in an estimate. In the case of a website design, you may create wireframes
of the various pages of the site.
One of the most time consuming steps of a project, of course, is the design. How much time you estimate for design will depend on the scope of the project, how many versions you create, the type of design, and other factors. When estimating the design, consider how many pages are in the piece, the size of the artwork, and the complexity. Look at past projects to see how long similar work took you, which is a great reason to track your time
RevisionsAlong with the initial design, there are almost always revisions to a project. These can be very time consuming, and you may wish to limit the rounds of revisions included in your estimate. Think about the size of the project when factoring in revisions, as well as your history with the client. Are they "easy to please" or do they come to you with one change after another?
CopywritingMost design projects need some amount of copy written. If not supplied by the client, factor in the costs of writing this copy yourself or the fees charged by a copywriter. Your client will most likely want an estimate of the entire project, which includes fees charged by subcontractors.
Illustration and PhotographyDoes the project require custom illustration or photography? Completing this work yourself can be time consuming, so your hours should be built into the project cost. If you are going to hire others to complete this work, include their costs in your estimate. If you are going to purchase stock illustration or photography, try to estimate these costs or at least let the client know that additional fees may apply, depending on whether or not you are including them in your own costs.
PrepressOnce your work is approved, factor in the time it takes to prepare it for print. This will vary based on the type of work. A package design, for example, may need a lot more preparation time than a simple postcard.
PrintingYou don't want to surprise a client with the costs of printing a job after a contract has been signed. Estimate the costs of printing early, by getting quotes from printers. Quote will vary depending on the printer chosen, the paper, the quantity printed, the printing deadline, and other variables. Like other fees charged by outside vendors, your client will want to know them up-front. It is the total cost, not just your costs, that will determine if it fits within your client's budget.
Additional CostsBefore sending a quote to a client, think about any additional costs that could arise. These may include travel, commuting expenses, supplies, postage, and any other expense that should not come out of your pocket. It is up to you if you factor these in to the initial quote, or mention that some additional costs could come up as the project progresses.