Web Design Proposals: Fixed Price or Estimate?

This is probably one of the most asked questions by web designers. Do you provide fixed price quotes or estimates?

Many choose to go down the estimate route as often jobs can expand or go over budget significantly and leave the designer out of pocket. An estimate stops this by allowing you to add a clause such as the following:

These figures are an estimate, not a quote. They are based on information provided, and may be inappropriate if additional information is forthcoming, or job specifications change. It is valid for XX days.

This gives the designer a way to ensure that all work not covered, or for extra time spent changing a photo/colour/insert-element-here 20, times is compensated for. But is it the best approach?
For a long time in my web design career I used estimates. Last year I moved to fixed price quotes. Why?

  • It’s simpler for both me and my clients. We both know where we stand and what we’re getting.
  • It’s much easier to covert a prospect if they know exactly what they’re going to be paying for their site.

But how do you manage continual changes, additions of new features and so forth I hear you ask? Simple.

  1. Define what your quotes do and don’t include.
  2. Define how many updates, changes, re-designs etc you will do within that figure.
  3. Communicate with your client. If they want something outside the scope of the quote explain it to them. Most clients are fine with this as long as you communicate with them clearlybefore you do any additional work.

It’s up to us to manage the design project and our client’s expectations. I always use the “is it reasonable” test. I’m happy to be flexible, if a client decides the photo they wanted to use looks no good and would like it changed I’ll change it. If they ask me to change it 10 more times it’s no longer reasonable and outside of the scope of the quote. 99% of the clients I have dealt with would find that reasonable too. And those that don’t aren’t clients any more. ;)

This way is not for everyone, I’ve been designing websites for long enough to be able to quote accurately, but I definitely think it’s the best approach.

6 thoughts on “Web Design Proposals: Fixed Price or Estimate?”

  1. Heh Sophie

    Glad you posted this – I find the same… I just quoted someone for a small site. Once the price was agreed and I advised the paperwork would be forthcoming he then started demanding extra’s for free.

    I advised he best find another web designer if that was the case as he was adamant he wasn’t going to pay me a penny more…

    Funny he then agreed to pay for more work! Just takes a firm explanation to sort things out with some clients…


  2. Sounds like you handled it well Daz. Sadly there are always people who will “try it on”. Usually when you stand up to them they start to give you more respect. Funny world eh.

    So I gather you do fixed price quotes too?

  3. i use fixed quotes and have found the following to work in almost all scenarios…

    “Variations to this quote will be treated as additional work and charged accordingly at Y Euros/hour.”

    i fully agree that you need to advise the client beforehand of likely additional charges. unfortunately that isn’t always foreseeable (when the 3rd change becomes the 4th, then the 5th, etc.)

  4. Your “is it reasonable” test is a good (great) idea, Sophie. I think it’s important that proposals be reasonably detailed but not too stern and off-putting, and the “is it reasonable” test covers … well, what’s reasonable. ;)

  5. It definitely works for me Diane. And it can be used from both the client and web designer’s perspective. Is it reasonable not just from my perspective but theirs too. I find using this approach I’m more comfortable dealing with those issues that can be a bit tricky.

    And I guess I’m a reasonable gal. ;)

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