The art of estimation


If you’re a freelancer or a contractor of any kind, it’s typical to be asked for an estimate or a quote.

And if you’ve been doing business for a while, it’s likely that you’ve heard about price more than just about any other factor in losing an opportunity.

So the pressure is on to sharpen your pencil, find the lowest price and do the best work you can under the circumstances.

This leads to a grind and an endless race to the bottom.

The glitch lies in how we interpret the objection about price. What the client is actually saying is, “All things being equal, the other alternative is cheaper, so we went with them.”

But all things don’t have to be equal.

There are plenty of clients who don’t actually want the cheapest choice. They want the best one, and a powerful estimate is the clue they use to choose.

If your estimate:

  • is clear and easy to understand by the sort of people you’d like to have as clients
  • if it demonstrates full understanding of the work to be done
  • if it highlights alternatives
  • If it includes examples of proven satisfaction when you’ve done this work for others
  • and if it’s delivered head of schedule

…then you’ve restated the problem. You’ve brought the client along on the journey with you, and established that they’re not spending more for the same thing, they’re spending more for a better, safer, higher status, more reliable thing.

What’s the best proposal/estimate you’ve ever seen? In your industry or any other? Do you have a standard for this that’s as high as the standard for the craft you do?

Of course, you don’t have the time to do this sort of estimate for every prospect. Which is the second half of the art. Politely declining to do estimates for people who are simply seeking the lowest price. Eagerly and happily send them to the people who used to be your competition.

PS Ava Morris is running the Significance Workshop this Friday. Use the code Matter to save 15%.


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