The Subtle Art of Giving an Estimate

Every time a new potential client contacts us with an idea of a mobile app or a web app project in hand, it is already a little success. However, it is far from being a win as it will take much more than just reaching out and replying to get the product going. All the precious time spent on the genuine effort to break down the product idea and estimate the terms & cost could be wasted unless the estimate presentation is spot on.

The clients are usually confident that any sufficient team is capable of building their digital product and all it takes is the right chemistry, mutual understanding, and affordable prices when in fact, not every project is the right one and not every team is perfect for it.

? Drafting a digital product

In the age of instant interactions, it makes perfect sense that a client and your company come to terms fast: they tell you what they want, you tell them how much it’ll cost, and you’re up for a great start. This is where the first project-crucial challenge comes up.

If you don’t decipher the project scope right, you’ll end up giving an erroneously low estimate. In contrast, if you play it safe and roll out an extravagant budget, you’ll risk a client shying away from you.

? Breaking the prICE

The one thing that may bother a startup owner early on is the skepticism from the others that either it will never work or it will cost a gazillion. A seasoned digital entrepreneur is usually realistic about that, but for others, it’s important to get the conversation going with some digits at place. That’s why we try to give an eye estimate as early as possible. It’s important to be honest with a client and know your capabilities as well.

We specifically trained our project managers to have the nose for feature creep, and on-point development methodology selection based on the little chunks of information they get from a potential client right away. This allows us to give rough estimates which turn out to be right 9 out of 10 times. If the app looks like a $10K project, we say it is a 10 grand project, but we need more details and a bit of time to put together the final price. And yet, this is not the verdict. We may also offer a code investment program, a co-ownership, or (rarely) even have a gentlemen’s agreement and a delayed payment.

The rough estimate with ballpark figures is already a tangible food for thought. The numbers and options get the client going and at this point, you can tell if they are serious about their project and we can move on working those options.

? Project assessment

In order for the project to get a jumpstart, both parties have to genuinely like and have confidence in being the perfect choice for one another. A good way to get there is to assess the information and abilities and come up with a project statement.

For this, the following important points have to be addressed:

  • How much the client wants/can/will spend on the product in its final state.
  • What the minimum and maximum goals of the product are.
  • What they want their customers to accomplish using the product.

With this information, you can decide whether the project is worth taking over and whether you have what it takes to build it. From our own experience, a lot of clients approach a development team with little to none technical expertise and it’s important to introduce them to technology in the smoothest way. Assessing their digital product features referencing the technologies used to implement them is a great way to teach the ropes.

?‍♂️ Scoring an estimate

When the client accepts the rough estimate and is positive to work with us, the grind begins for us. At this point, we need to come up with a feature-by-feature estimate and make it so it does not allow much fluctuation. Giving a detailed estimate requires a solid understanding of the product philosophy, mindset, and aspirations. The deeper you dig the product at this point, the more space you reserve for development in future. On top of that, if you show the true understanding of the features and items of the product, the client will have more confidence in you as well as a better opportunity to supervise the project. If the price goes higher than the initial estimate, it’ll be easier for a client to put up with that number if they know what and why they are getting charged for.

As a prerequisite comes the thorough knowledge of your design and tech teams’ expertise and workload dynamics.

However, listing features is not enough. Each of them detailed in technical terms is just another line in the budget for a client. To make sense of them, you need to highlight the benefits behind each feature and what exactly they do for their business. This is a transparent approach which will result in better assessment and prioritization and the project won’t end up with a bunch of cool features implemented instead of the right ones.

A web application or a mobile app only starts once it’s done. So it’s not the app itself that is the final product. It’s the app’s ability to generate revenue that has to be targeted at every step of the product development cycle.

The Subtle Art of Giving an Estimate | Shakuro

All of these aspects are impossible to cover in a one-sentence quote most potential clients want right away. We can give a high-level quote with a ballpark number in it but in order for an estimate to be representative of our approach, we strongly advise our clients to wait until we come up with a Project Proposal.

A project proposal is a different animal. We make it in a narrative form, demonstrating the depth of our understanding of the project and with as much transparency of our process as possible. This is not an invoice, this is a script with time and money costs presented in conjunction with the results we are looking to achieve.

This format allows every type of client find the exact information they need about the estimate. The ones interested generally in numbers will get their numbers. Those who are new in the game, need a trustworthy walkthrough of their product development and they will also find that.

We are genuinely interested in our products doing great after the release that’s why we never accept the projects we don’t feel like we can make a 100% success of.

At the same time, we trust our clients in their ability to create a great idea and need equal trust in our ability to implement it. A good estimate will help establish this type of relationship. Hit us up with your web or mobile app idea and let’s see how far we can take it!

Written by Moses Kim
January 01, 2018