Sample consulting estimates are hard to come by. New consultants often have little experience with setting consulting fee rates or they aren’t sure what to include in a project estimate. Setting your rate and accurately estimating what is involved in a project are crucial to consultant success. As a result, I’ve decided to include this sample consulting estimate to help new consultants.
Let’s start with the easy part. Similar to my sample consulting invoice, include the basics:
Name / Company Name
US Federal Tax Payer ID (Business Number in Canada)
Next comes the most important part: what to include and exclude from your project estimate.
Billing by the hour
Billing by the hour is relatively straightforward once you understand how much to charge. For example, in your estimate you could state that Project XYZ may take approximately 100 hours and you’ll be billing hourly for your work.
If billing by the hour, most clients would like to see a maximum number of hours outlined in the estimate. For example, " Project XYZ will be billed hourly at a rate of $80 per hour up to a maximum of 200 hours."
Per project estimates
Many experienced consultants bill by the project, and, for the most part, I do too. Most clients prefer per-project rates because they know what to expect.
For example, in your estimate you could state that Project XYZ will cost $3100, plus applicable taxes. If it’s a large project, it may be helpful to both you and the client to break down the project cost into sub-sections so that the client can see how you’ve arrived at the total cost.
When billing per project, it is crucial that you outline what is and what is not included in the project. When possible, be sure to outline the project parameters in the estimate or in the contract (yes, you need a contract!).
If, as an IT consultant, your estimate and contract simply state, "I will fix your computer for $1000," this project is open to interpretation, which can lead to problems.
To you, the consultant, "fixing" the computer may mean diagnosing a problem and recommending a solution. However, to the client "fixing" the computer may mean diagnosing the problem, recommending a solution and providing all of the required hardware or software required to implement the solution. This dispute over who is paying for the hardware or software could have been avoided by a clear estimate and contract.
Detailed estimates and contracts are one of the simplest ways to avoid miscommunication about what is and is not included in the project. Take the time to write detailed estimates and contracts. Not only will they increase your perceived professionalism, but they will protect you and your consulting business.
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