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I Don’t Have Enough Information to Quote for This Job

lady sitting by a laptop and writing notes in her notepad

It’s exciting to meet with new clients and have the opportunity to bid on a project. There’s something about the energy a new client brings that sparks creativity in most freelancers. However, what do you do when you sit down (or stand up) at your desk to prepare the

quote and you realize you don’t have all the information you need to bring a realistic bid to the table?

It’s frustrating, certainly. It’s also more common than you might think and it happens to even the most experienced freelancers.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get the information you need so that you can still get your bid in on time to be considered.

Start with What You Do Have

Before you start emailing the potential client, work on filling in the parts of your scope of work (SOW) that you do have.

As you complete the different sections, keep a running list on the side with information you need to obtain from the client before you can realistically quote for the job.

Remember, many times the client knows what they want the final product to look like, but they do not always tell you the detailed information you need to help gauge the time and resource you will need to devote to the project to get the outcome. This is when it is helpful to involve the client in the SOW process.

Contact the Client

Now that you have the scope of work filled out with the information you do have, it’s time to get the information you don’t have. When possible, schedule a call with the potential client. More often than not, clients can feel overwhelmed with an email that includes a list of complex questions they may not have even thought about yet.

Give it a personal touch and request a phone call. Tell the client you are invested in giving them an accurate quote and you would like to review a few items with them. Then, get on a call to discuss it further.

lady talking to someone over the phone at her workstation at home, and taking notes

No matter how you contact the client, ensure you have a full list of scoping questions they need to answer. If they don’t know how to answer the questions, negotiate a rate where you can complete the scope on their behalf.

What to Include

Building a website is a complex process and while you know this, clients do not always realize it. Before you quote the project, make sure you have a comprehensive list of all of the page requirements and technical specifications the client wants. You don’t want to end up working with the client on the project only to realize they expected different add-ins for pages that will take more of your time than you originally priced out.

It’s all about the details when it comes to compiling an effective SOW. Get the client to take the time to give you the details you need.

Be Wary

You work hard for your clients, and you don’t want to lose money on projects by working with an unresponsive or unrealistic client. If you are struggling to get the information you need from a potential client, take time to do a gut-check and determine if this is a client that you would want to work with in the first place.

Be wary of clients who appear to be:

  • Unresponsive
  • Unrealistic
  • Unhelpful
  • Overly demanding
  • Unclear about the project’s vision and unwilling to be led to a solution

If a client won’t pay for the scoping process or cannot provide a completed SOW themselves, it’s a red flag and can often mean it is time to walk away. In cases like this, you can end up saving money to bow out of the proposal and choose not to bid on the project at all.

The Bottom Line

You can’t estimate realistic costs for a project without a detailed scope of work. Your client should come to you with enough information to complete a detailed SOW, or they should pay you for your time to complete one on their behalf.

several folded dollar bills lying on a green surface

How Do I Stop Losing Money on the Work I Do?

young lady sitting by her laptop with her head in her hands, stressed out

It’s a freelancer’s nightmare scenario: losing money on a job. Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than you might think. As a freelancer, you have to learn hard lessons as you build your business. However, you shouldn’t have to continue losing money on jobs you work hard to get. Here’s how to make sure you are getting paid for your work by being organized upfront.

Why Are You Losing Money?

If you are like most freelancers, you might not realize you are losing money on a specific client or job until you are frustrated and at your wit’s end. These feelings of stress often accompany all the extra work you are putting into a job, meaning you are working on a project for more hours than you anticipated.

As a freelancer, you already know that time = money, so why are you allowing clients to increase your time commitment to their project?

Determining why you are losing money and working more hours on a specific project is the first step in remedying the problem. Common culprits can include:

  • A client that is asking for one more edit, one more revision, or one more draft
  • Experiencing “scope creep”, or clients who are asking for tasks outside of the scope of work
  • Not effectively using a creative brief

Defining Your Boundaries

Most freelancers, especially those first starting out, struggle with setting boundaries. Without boundaries to work between clients can end up taking more of your time and talents than you originally projected, causing you to lose money. Protect your time by defining boundaries with a robust conversation with clients before you sign a contract and enter into the project long-term.

How can you lay out the scope of work as well as get the client to agree to the final outcome? A creative brief.

More About Creative Briefs

A creative brief is an excellent way to keep everyone on the same page and you can use a similar brief template each time you begin a new project for a client. You may have heard it referred to as a Scope of Works, which is a term most commonly used for technical projects, including building websites. Most agencies and businesses now use the term “creative brief” more often than Scope, as it is an overarching term for all types of freelance projects.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you have one.

Your creative brief is a way to keep everyone on the same page. It allows you to develop a plan and allocate your time and resources toward that plan, giving you and the client boundaries to work within.

Clients can have input on the creative brief as well, but once it is approved, stick to it.

Things to Include in Your Creative Brief

Creative briefs will look different from project to project, freelancer to freelancer. However, you can build your brief basics by including any of these:

  • General outline of the project, including audience persona
  • How this project fits in with a short or long-term goal of the company
  • Timeline estimates and hard deadlines
  • What work is included for each of the steps of the project
  • How many hours of work you will work on the project per week
  • Your hourly rate, as well as your rate for hours worked after your allotted time for the project
  • Billing for phone calls, video chats, emails, etc. with the client about the project
  • Additional resources needed, and who is responsible for picking up that cost (stock photo acquisition, hosting services, etc.)

You might also consider adding parameters to the creative brief that help you maintain work-life balance or other clients on your busy freelance calendar:

  • Hours when you are available to reply to phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Specific days of the week when you will focus solely on the project

white and yellow paint lines on the road

Remember, the creative brief is meant to make expectations and boundaries clear, making estimating a project cost and making the project work as effectively as possible.

How a Creative Brief Stops Scope Creep

A creative brief can decrease or eliminate all the “extras” clients can sometimes request during a contract. In turn, you can focus on the task at hand without wasting your time and resources accommodating any extra requests that were not a part of your original creative brief plan.

Even better, in the long run, a creative brief forces you and the client to think long-term about the project. This discussion upfront can lead to a more organized process, leaving you able to schedule your time realistically on your client calendar and judging whether you can pick up a few more side projects over the next few months or not.

Stop losing money. Stop stressing out and working too many hours as you do one more “extra” task per a client’s request. There’s another way to navigate your freelancing business, and it begins with a creative brief.

Learn more freelancing secrets and best practices that I’ve earned over my career here.