How to estimate a web development project

Think of a number, double it and then run 16 months late

Software estimates.

Everyone's favourite subject.

The rule of thumb is "think of a number, then double it. Double it again and again, then tell the client. Realise you were wrong, multiply it by 6 and then overshoot by six months".

But why is that?

It's because you're starting from scratch every time.

Building from first principles.

Trying to estimate unknowns.

It doesn't have to be like that.

There are patterns to the work you do.

Stuff you can reuse.

Things you know how to do.

You can choose to build your business around that and suddenly you've reduced the number of unknowns.

And with fewer unknowns come more accurate estimates.

The key is to stop saying yes to every bit of work and focus in on what you're already good at.

What do you do if you quote far less than the time the job actually took?

I love deadlines - the whooshing sound they make as they fly past

What do you do if you quote far less than the time the job actually took?

We've all been there - you can be sure it's going to take 6 hours, but really it took 12.

Or worse.

You're sure it's going to take 6 months but really it took 12.

If you charge for your time, in effect you're covered.

You say to the client I know we agreed £50/hour and it would take about 6, but we've hit the 6 hour mark and I'm nowhere near finished. The client is annoyed, but needs the work doing. And in the end pays twice as much as they were originally expecting.

Or maybe you offered a fixed price estimate. I think it's going to take 6 hours, so at my standard rate of £50/hour, that's £300. When it takes 12 hours, that just means I actually charged £25/hour.

One's bad for the client, the other's bad for you.

Because in both cases, you're selling your time.

You could go value-based. You need to get this many extra enquiries per month, because you reckon it will give you a monthly sales boost of £5000. So I'm going to charge you £10000 - equivalent to 2 months of that boost. Then you don't care that if it takes 6 hours or 12 - but you do need to make sure that it really does bring in extra enquiries.

Or you could go fixed price. What you've asked for is slightly different, but I know from experience that this standard package will get you the same results. It's £2000 and, because it's a standard package, I know for a fact that it only takes me 4 hours to deliver.

Because ultimately, the client isn't buying your time. They don't even care about your time.

What they really want are results. And that's really what you're selling.

Is what you do easy to sell?

If it isn't, what would make it easier?

Software estimates.

Everyone's favourite subject.

The rule of thumb is "think of a number, then double it. Double it again and again, then tell the client. Realise you were wrong, multiply it by 6 and then overshoot by six months".

But why is that?

It's because you're starting from scratch every time.

Building from first principles.

Trying to estimate unknowns.

It doesn't have to be like that.

There are patterns to the work you do.

Stuff you can reuse.

Things you know how to do.

You can choose to build your business around that and suddenly you've reduced the number of unknowns.

And with fewer unknowns come more accurate estimates.

The key is to stop saying yes to every bit of work and focus in on what you're already good at.

Who do your clients think you are?

Who do you think you are?

Are you good at what you do?

Are your technical skills excellent?

Do you have the knowledge and the experience to amaze and delight your clients?

You know you do.

So make sure your clients know this.

Don’t hide behind low prices.

Don’t ask for small projects.

Don’t say you’ll do any work for anyone at any price.

Tell them that you’re the person they can believe in.

Tell them that you're amazing at what you do.

Tell them that you can deliver the results they need.

Because you’re not just some hired hand. You’re an expert who is there to advise them on getting results for their business.

You know it’s true. So make it happen.

The difference between specialisation and niches

The ritches are in the nitches

"You need a niche" they say.

"You need to specialise" is the call.

But what does it mean?

Are they the same thing?

In my opinion, they're not - and the one you choose to do can have a big impact on you and your business.

Specialisation is a deep dive into your skills.

Becoming an expert in your field.

Niches are about choosing a particular type of client to work for.

And focussing your attention on the things they really need.

Both are a form of positioning that help you stand out from the crowd.

Specialisation is a long journey. It’s comfortable but we get little feedback.

Niching is quicker and we get feedback from clients. But for technical folks it can seem much more daunting.

Both will allow you to earn more, whilst working fewer hours, for better clients delivering amazing results.

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