As a freelancer, you’re often juggling multiple projects at once, creating one of the most daunting tasks for many: Time management. But if you accurately estimate the time commitment required to complete a project, you can safely meet your clients’ needs while maintaining balance in your schedule. Creating a time outline will help ensure you keep those proverbial balls in the air.
Here a few key components to consider when estimating the time needed for project completion:
Clearly, there’s a research component to making a bid in the first place, but the project may require a deeper understanding once you land the gig. You may want to grasp a better understanding of the client’s target demographic or familiarize yourself with their competitors. The research component should also include an allotment for meetings to review project details, conduct information-gathering essential for the project or brainstorming sessions.
Most of your hours will end up in this section. When allocating time for the actual project, consider past projects similar in nature. How long did it take you? What foreseeable challenges will you face? How long will it take you to resolve such challenges, and could they delay the project’s competition?
Consider the complexity of the project in your hourly projections. If this is a topic or design that is new to you, give yourself permission to have a greater learning curve than for projects similar to your past work.
Don’t forget to allot some time for revisions. Try to limit the number of revisions you allow to one or two rounds to encourage clients to send revisions in batches, and allot a few hours for each round. This avoids the endless cycle of minute detail changes that end up adding hours and hours to your total time commitment. This can easily happen if these constraints aren’t set forth in advance. Otherwise, you may find yourself working to meet someone else’s unrealistic vision of perfection.
Unfortunately, the nuances of each client may dictate the number of hours spent on each gig. If this is a repeat client, it’s easy to estimate for such dynamics. For example, if you’re designing a website for a client that is very particular on font color, size, typeface, etc., you know to expect more demands than average for revisions and changes. However, it can be difficult to determine if new clients are going to be easy to work with, never asking for anything outside of the project’s scope, or if they’ll be the nightmare client who expects your world to revolve around them. It’s wise to allocate one or two hours (more if you KNOW the level of difficulty) for miscellaneous tasks.
It’s also wise to include details surrounding the project’s scope in each bid and outline added costs for out-of-scope revisions. For instance, if a client agrees on a focus, then changes the entire direction midway through the work, you’ll want to have a contractual agreement set forth in advance which allows you to bill for the initial time spent.
Now that you have a workable timeline, double it. Doubling your initial estimate allows for unforeseeable complications, client additions or time management issues. It’s better to give yourself a little more time than not enough. If you’re billing by the hour, this will help give your clients an estimated cost. If you’re billing by the project, it will provide you with a built-in safety net for your own sanity.
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