When to quote?

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Our development team has been offered a project that's far bigger than
anything we've done previously.

The client wants time estimates and quotes, but has only provided a
fairly brief outline of requirements. My question is: how do we address
this? Should we make a best guess? Quote for the development of a
function spec, then quote on the project once it's been completed?


Re: When to quote?

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As the developer it's your responsibility to probe the client for all the  
necessary information you need to put together an accurate bid. If they are  
unable or unwilling to go through this process then avoid them like the  
plague, but more than likely they lack the technical expertise to provide  
anything more than a general outline of the requirements.

For bigger projects it's not unusual to ask the prospective client for a  
lump sum to cover the costs of this preliminary investigative process, as  
the information you ultimately provide them will have great value.  

Re: When to quote?

battle.chris@gmail.com wrote:

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My 2 cents:

If you have a client like that you are in risk of producing something that  
is not what they want. That is trouble.

In most cases the client don't know excactly what they want and need your  
help to form their own opinion.

How I approach this: Make a rude estimate of the project, confirm that it  
will cost them 20.000 plus or minus 25%. And tell them you EXPECT that at  
least one person will be available to make quick decisions during  
In that way you can get the job, AND make sure the endproduct will be what  
they want.
It also helps a lot to put one day time into it and produce a raw HTML  
version that doesn't work, but show the process to the client in big lines.
(Like, here you can log in, this is what you see if you click XXX, etc)
It helps the client to form their opinion.

In case you don't trust them, and they will not help during development,  
think twice before taking the job.
I NEVER develop stuff anymore without expecting the client the look over my  
shoulder during development.

Just my 2 cent.

Best of luck!

Erwin Moller

Re: When to quote?

<27 Nov 2006 17:17:50 -0800>

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Thats a bit like walking into a car showroom and asking how much a car  
is without actually saying what model your interested in .

Unless they are willing to give you accurate details of what they do or  
dont want - then walk away - for that sort of client is often more  
trouble than they are worth .


Re: When to quote?

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I agree.  Did you ever see "Johnny Dangerously"?  Well, I was caught in that  
trap once.  ONCE!

The worst thing you can do is to promise them delivery on a poorly designed  
spec.  They will come back later with "Oh, that was supposed to be in Phase  
I, not Phase II".  You won't have anything in writing and so you will either  
have to eat it or fight to get paid for Phase I.

The project that taught me this lesson was my first with PHP.  My son sold  
it very cheaply.  I figured that it would take a certain amount of time and  
I would wind up getting paid about $10 and hour -- but it was a learning  
experience so that was OK.  Normally, I would get between $40 and $60.  
Well, it kept growing and growing and growing because we didn't have that  
spec well defined.  In the end I wound up working for $2 an hour.  Of  
course, that led to contracts where I started getting $60 an hour, but the  
lesson was learned about clearly defining the requirements UP FRONT!

The temptation to snag the big one is great.  So, I would recommend to  
either demand definite requirements so that you can price it properly OR  
either walk away or YOU define the requirements and overbid it somewhat.  If  
they buy into your statement of work in your proposal, you can always say  
that this new requirement that they just foisted upon you  is "out of spec"  
and requires and additional fee of $X.  Get it in WRITING!

One more thing, get a significant percentage up front.  I try for half, but  
will take as low as a quarter for a large contract.


Re: When to quote?

battle.chris@gmail.com wrote:
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I agree with the other posters.  I would also add that you allocate and  
specify the number of client contact hours in the job, especially if you  
think the client is unsure of the whole process.  I got a really nice  
job once, we bid it lump sum at 300 hours, and the post mortem showed we  
did it in just about 225.  Should have made a good profit.  But the  
client *required* over 300 hours of meetings over many days, and we had  
nothing in the contract to limit that.  Needless to say, we lost our ass*s.

There are very good contract books for consultants.  Google for "errors  
and omissions insurance".  Many insurance companies have contract  
handbooks you can download for free.  (And don't be afraid to download  
one for engineers, architects, whatever.  The principles are the same.)

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