When it comes to pricing a service, website design and development is one of the trickiest (in my opinion) services to estimate. There are a few reasons why this is the case, which we will get into a little later, but for Website Designers and Website Developers who make their living building websites for clients it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that you properly estimate your website design jobs. If you don’t, you will be eating costs left and right, which will end up totally destroying your profit margin.
Over the next 1700 words or so I am going to do my best to provide you with a little insight into how to properly estimate your next website design project. Throughout the article we will discuss things like, what causes website projects to exceed the scope of work, tips for avoiding scope creep, creating a list of initial questions, using Skype to have face-to-face meetings with clients, and setting client expectations.
One of the most frustrating things that almost all Website Designers and Developers go through when it comes to building websites for clients is scope creep. Scope creep is inevitable, even when you take the time to properly set customer expectations. Scope creep isn’t as bad to deal with when you’re getting paid for it. It becomes almost unbearable to deal with when you’re not. Scope creep rears it’s ugly head in two different phases of the website development process, during development and once the website is launched through death by one-thousand “change requests”. Hopefully after you finish reading this article you will be much better prepared to deal with scope creep, and be able to properly estimate future website development projects. For now, let’s go over some of the main causes of scope creep for website development projects:
Now there are certainly more reasons for scope creep, but in my experience the list above hits on some of the big ones. Now that we understand how scope creep happens, we are better prepared to minimize our exposure to it through educating the client up front.
I’m sure that all of the Website Designers and Website Developers reading this are smiling as I think what we have detailed above has probably affected each of you at one point or another. That said, WE CAN GET A HANDLE ON IT! Below are a few tips that I recommend you consider adding to your arsenal when it comes to managing your client’s expectations and estimating your future website development work. If you follow the tips below I think you will have much more success than before.
As part of the website planning process that I referred to in the section above, creating a list of initial questions that you can ask your client would be hugely beneficial for properly scoping your website projects. What’s nice about creating a list like this is that you create it once and then use it over and over. You may need to tweak the questions here and there based on the client and what you know they are looking for, but the majority of the questions will be the same across all clients. In order to come up with your initial list of questions, think through the most crucial elements of any website development project. What information do you need to know up front in order to properly spec out the job? Once you’ve done that you can start putting keys to the keyboard and type up your list. Here are a few questions I usually use which should help you get started:
As part of the tips section above I recommend that you have at least the initial client meetings in person. That said, if you do not live in the same geographic area as your clients, that poses a problem. The solution? Skype. Get your clients on Skype. I’ve had clients who barely know how to use email who I’ve had successfully install and use Skype. Skype is an amazing tool for business and especially when dealing with website development projects. It will make the client more at ease with the process when they can see you when you are speaking with them. You have to remember that someone who hires you for a website development job probably doesn’t know much about website development, thus they are naturally uncomfortable. This can lead them to challenge things like budget because they don’t full understand what goes into website development. By you taking time to Skype with them and have a face-to-face conversation you can build a level of trust in them with you. This makes things a whole lot easier moving forward.
Too many times website developers put together an initial website proposal and they don’t take time to properly set customer expectations. It normally goes a lot like this, create the proposal, email it to the client, and ask if they have questions. This naturally leads to a lot of confusion on the part of the client because if they don’t know a lot about website development to begin with, they may not know how to truly understand your proposal. I recommend that you set up a time to meet them in person or Skype with them before you even send them the proposal. Once it’s on the books, go ahead and send it to them a day or two in advance. This way they can read through it and come prepared to ask you questions at the meeting. At that point you can walk them through it, answer their questions, and set expectations. The biggest key is to explain to them how website development projects normally go. Don’t be afraid to explain “scope creep” to them. By you giving them an understanding how what’s involved in website development, where the hang ups are, what customers typically don’t understand they will feel much more comfortable when dealing with things like budget. Explain to them that this proposal is an initial starting point and as long as nothing changes in their requirements, this is what you will stick to. Also explain to them that normally as the process goes along clients ask for things that aren’t in the original budget, which creates the need to either extend the timeline or the budget, or both. Let them know that whenever they ask for something that’s out of scope you will be sure to let them know, offer up solutions to either stay in scope while still achieving their request, or moving forward without implementing their request because of the costs/time involved. Either way, explain that you will have a discussion with them. Most clients are very receptive to this.
Hopefully after reading this you have a much better idea on how to prevent scope creep and better estimate your future website design projects. Does anyone have any other tips for how to better estimate website design projects? If so, feel free to leave your comments below.