Selecting a Realistic Completion Timeframe
(Page 1 of 2)
One of the most difficult jobs in crafting a proposal is deciding how long to tell the client the job will take. Many clients are impatient and want the work done as soon as possible, and even those who aren’t in a rush would rather get the job quickly than see it drag out. This puts pressure on freelancers to propose speedy delivery of end products, with schedule becoming part of the basis for competition among bids. But while saying you can get the job fast may give you a leg up over others who promise slower results, over-promising in this area can quickly get you in trouble.
Scheduling is a problem chiefly because of the uncertainty involved in freelancing. A “chicken and egg” situation arises. How quickly you can get work done depends on how much time you have available. And your availability depends on how many proposals you win, and thus how much work you have. But you don’t know in advance how many bids you’ll win, and in fact your winning percentage depends on your delivery timeframes! In effect, you are stuck having to make estimates based on a work schedule that in turn depends on your estimates.
The difficulty here is undeniable, but also unavoidable. You cannot use a lack of certainty about your own work schedule as an excuse for not giving clients delivery timeframes—they simply won’t accept it. You just have to do the best you can to manage the situation. If you are new, this can be a bit daunting, but take solace in the knowledge that it does get easier with experience. Hopefully, the advice below will also help.
I recommend breaking the timeframe estimation process into three steps: estimation, scheduling and buffering.
Step One - Estimate the Amount of Work Required
Start by analyzing the project to figure out how many hours or days it will take you to get the work done. For this step, consider strictly the work itself, assuming you have nothing else you need to do.
The figure you come up with here will be entirely a function of the project particulars, and you have to use your judgment and expertise as a freelancer to determine it. I recommend being conservative in your estimation, but don’t be too cautious. Remember that even if a job takes a bit longer than expected, as a freelancer you do usually have some ability to compensate just by working longer hours temporarily. We’re also going to build in some “safety” in step three.
Step Two - Fit the Project Into Your Schedule
Next, take a look at what is already on your plate, to figure out how much time you have available to do this project if your bid is chosen. Take into account both projects you are currently working on and any proposals you already have outstanding. Weight the past bids based on your assessment of how likely you are to win each project, and how that will impact your active work schedule. Based on your current commitments, determine how long it will take to get the current project done if you are selected.
Step Three - Buffer Your Estimate
Finally, add a buffer to your estimate. If you think you can get the project done in three days, don’t tell the client you can get the project done in three days—choose a larger figure. This will give you some breathing room, and allow you to deal more gracefully with changes in your schedule (such as getting a project you thought you had lost) or unforeseen issues (for example, a computer on the fritz or a sick child kicking around the house). It also helps you recover from situations where you simply underestimated the amount of work required to get the job done.
How much buffering to do is, again, a judgment call. The amount of “padding” added to the estimate should depend on the following factors:
Again, don’t go overboard. You don’t want to lose a job that you’re entirely capable of doing in three days because you told the client it would take five.
Home - Table Of Contents - Contact Us
The Online Freelancing Guide (http://www.FreelancingGuide.net)
Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
© Copyright 2001-2012 Charles M. Kozierok. All Rights Reserved.
Not responsible for any loss resulting from the use of this site.