Quotes or Estimates? Hourly rates or set budgets?

Tom Wilson
13 October 2016

I'm asking as an illustrator, but equally interested in the opinions of anyone in the Canvas community, either side of the contract. Which do you prefer, and why?
• Quotes or estimates?
• Hourly rates or set budgets?
Thanks in advance!

Remy Busson
Creative Director
17 October 2016

Hi Tom, I am an art director (not only illustrator) working in animation/illustration/video/medias industry.

If I am asked for a freelance work, here is my typical way to go :
1) From first information about the project, I estimate how much time it will take me to do the job and will come with an estimation.
2) If my estimation fit with client's budget, we usually set some meetings, I get some more elements in order to be ready for starting off.
3) Before starting any work, I am making a precise quote, precising what job will be done for when. I am making it by email or make a signed document if the project excess a certain amount.
At this moment, it is time to readjust the price for the final quote regarding the latest given information.
4) Once quote is done, I stick to it no matter what. If I see any abusive overtime work coming or extra task that were not originally planned, I notice the client immediately in order to avoid any surprises on his side. Sometime we agree with the client and I update my original quote accordingly.

That way, client can control his budget and potential conflicts are avoided.
I actually do calculate my quote using my hourly rate, but it is only calculation method and I don't want to bother the client about it.

It happened that I got paid at an hourly rate, but in that case, it was always if the client asked to go that way (it can happen when if I am working directly at the client's office).

I don't know if my way to do is the most common, but it worked so far for me.

Tom Wilson
17 October 2016

Thanks Remy Busson !
This workflow sounds pretty similar to my preference as well, adjusting as the project continues. I tend to refer to the first 'quote' as an 'estimate' to avoid any confusion and prepare a detailed breakdown of the production process for new clients, when needed.

Occasionally I get the clients who dictate their terms and budget from the start, and so the process is slightly reversed. Unfortunately, I often undercut myself along the way, sometimes heavily, but if its a big client with return business I prefer to keep them happy.

So, one further question... Do you ever experience this latter situation? And if so, how hard do you bargain?
Thanks again!

Remy Busson
Creative Director
17 October 2016

I dislike to bargain, and I find that clients (especially big clients) can have difficulties to adjust their budget after a first quote is validated.

I really avoid to to adjust the quote on the way because it may become very unclear for the client and stress everyone.
I am using few techniques to avoid a constant bargain :
1 ) I include enough cushion in my initial quote to be able to accept some unexpected demands or extra changes (to a certain extend of course, but it happens in 90% of the projects I work on).
2) If initial quote starts to be really tight, I try to slightly low the amount of time I'll work on the project. Meaning, I will down-step the level of details as possible to cut the costs on my side.

After this, if budget is still too tight, it can mean two things :
- I underestimated my initial quote
=> In that case, I consider it as my fault and will accept to do more work for the same price as possible before starting to bargain.
- Client is really asking more than initial amount of work.
=> In that case, I immediately explain the problem, and client would usually agree to update the quote.

So finally, I am doing everything to avoid to "bargain" about an ongoing project. If a client want to bargain hard during a project, I really dislike it and will be very unlikely to work with the same client ever again because it's so unprofessional way to work.

Hope my answer helped. I wonder if my way is special or not...

Tom Wilson
18 October 2016

Thanks again Remy Busson,
Just good to get a comparative opinion and know my process is a reasonable standard. Likewise I prefer not to bargain, if possible, although every now and then there seems to be that one exception to the rule.
So, yeah very helpful, thanks!

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