Working as a freelance web designer, you will often get contacted with a request to estimate the time you need to complete a project before you get signed on. Unfortunately, this part of the job is never fun. Overestimate, and the client might walk away. Underestimate, and you will be stuck with unreasonable deadlines. This situation can really feel like a no-win scenario. Thankfully, I have a list of the five best strategies to estimate time for your web design projects.
1. Judge by your previous web design experience
Having previous experience that you can fall back on is always a good thing. Look at your former projects and how long they took to complete from start to finish. If you have worked on a project with multiple similar parameters, you can use that experience to help you estimate time for your web design project. Sadly, beginners won’t have the luxury of a rich web design portfolio, but there are still a few ways to get around the problem.
Develop a habit of timing yourself while you are working. This should even include projects with a relaxed delivery date. This can serve as a good point of reference since, without any previous experience, it will be almost impossible to give an accurate estimate. Don’t wait until you get your first job offer to learn how to estimate time for your web design projects.
You can also track how much time it takes you to learn something new.
During complex and demanding projects, you will frequently be facing new technologies.
Finding out in advance if you are a fast or slow learner can help you get a better sense of how much time you will need.
2. Do research before giving an estimate of the time you need
During your career as a freelance web designer, you will undoubtedly run into plenty of unreasonable clients. Some people might expect you to be able to accurately estimate time for your web design projects on the spot. This can be very dangerous if you are just starting out as a web designer.
I recommend telling your clients that you will get back to them with an answer in the shortest possible time frame. Use that time to research how much time a project of that scope could take you to finish. You can even consult other web designers and have them help you come up with an estimate. Unfortunately, if you are pressed for an answer, it is better to err on the side of caution and overestimate. While researching how much time you need for the project, you should also think about how much that kind of project will cost.
3. Get all the information from your client
This is another very common situation: your client asks you for an estimate, and after you tell them how long it will take – it turns out they haven’t told you everything about the project. They may want you to incorporate a few more features that they forgot to mention, or perhaps you need to use a specific tool you aren’t familiar with. This can make your initial estimate totally inaccurate.
Through no fault of your own, you can still end up in a bad spot. Avoid these situations by getting as much information on the project upfront. Talk to your client about how their additional requests can impact your work’s duration (and cost). Let them know that you can’t magically add new features to their website out of thin air.
Always aim for clear and accurate communication with your clients, and both sides will walk away happy.
Freelance web design should be an involved process where you and your client closely collaborate through all the project stages.
This includes getting the information you need in order to give your client an accurate estimate.
4. Break the project up into smaller tasks
Viewing the whole web design job as a single mountain of work can be scary. In truth, large projects are composed of a multitude of smaller tasks. It can be both reassuring as well as more efficient to view web design in that manner. Judging how much time each individual task will take can give you a more accurate estimate of the duration of the entire project.
This approach is much better than just trying to give a rough estimate on the project as a whole.
Additionally, if you break the project into tasks, you will ensure that you haven’t missed anything.
In case you give a ballpark estimate on the whole job and forget a few tasks, you could easily be facing impossible deadlines.
5. Get familiar with the latest trends
Web design is fluent and ever-changing. While this can be a rewarding and exciting line of work, it also means that you constantly need to be on your toes. New trends can quickly emerge almost out of nowhere, and your customers may approach you with web design requests that catch you off guard. Of course, I always recommend beginners to keep things simple when doing freelance web design work.
Regardless of your level of experience, web design isn’t the type of job you learn once and then keep doing the same thing over and over. As a web designer, you will constantly need to learn new skills and look out for recent web design trends to pay attention to. Starting a new project and thinking that you can pick up the necessary skills along the way can cause you to miss deadlines and make your clients angry. On the other hand, if you manage to help pace with the latest trends, you won’t have to learn as much during the project itself.
Deadlines are every freelance web designer’s worst enemy. As you grow in experience, judging how much time you need to complete a project will come easier to you. Until then, you can rely on the best strategies to estimate time for your web design projects.
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