Oh no, we forgot to quote for that? Using estimate templates to save your sanity and your return

After many years writing proposals and having to include fairly detailed estimates, we’ve found the safest way to ensure you’ve included everything in an estimate is by using a template for particular types of projects.

Using estimate templates

It’s such a pain when you get part-way into a fixed-price project and have to absorb some cost because you forgot to quote for something. It sounds daft, but it happens all the time.

We decided to fix this by using templates which are reductive rather than additive: starting with a complete list of all possible tasks, we take away the tasks that we know we won’t do in a project. This is far better than trying to remember what tasks to add.

This is why we’ve included templates in Billy. They’re there for you to create a catalogue of tasks you know you’ll be selling in most projects. This will help you speed up putting an estimate together (particularly useful when you’re up against a proposal deadline!)

Because Error’s work is very specific (web applications and website development), we find that one big template is sufficient. The template has 71 line items across 9 categories, and we rarely miss anything when costing a project. Our template is an example in Billy, and you should feel free to use it if you’re in the web development industry.

Don’t share all the details with your client

An important point to make about estimate templates: the client doesn’t necessarily need to see the minutiae of the estimate. Most (if not all) clients we’ve used our template for have only seen per-category costs, leaving the line-level details for our use. Don’t confuse your quote with loads of mini-costs. Lots of line items will make you look expensive and could risk you losing the work. Costs per category are normally enough, as long as you can detail the categories if necessary.

Why use a template?

Here are our the reasons to use a template in Billy:

  • don’t miss something that will cost your business money later on in a project;
  • speed up your subsequent estimating time - if all your projects are broadly similar, don’t do the maths every time;
  • use those line items as project tasks - you can directly relate these items to your project planning 1;
  • most importantly, be confident about what your final estimate price will be.

You can create as many templates as you like, and it’s dead easy.

How to create a template estimate

  • Go to the Template section within Billy
  • Give your template a title
  • Click ‘Create Template’ to get started

You’ll see what looks like a regular estimate, with one notable difference: Andy’s hatched background (Andy loves hatching. He thinks this is enough to distinguish a regular estimate from a template. We’ll see.) Oh, and of course, you can’t put price against line items in a template - when you use this template to create an estimate, you’ll flex your day rate using the slider to figure out the price. You can enter fixed costs though, such as travel costs for meetings, or printer toners. Stuff you know will always be a fixed cost in a project.

So now you’re free to add categories and line items in the template. You can add in how many people, how long it’d take them individually, and the quantity.

When you’ve finished editing your template, there are two ways of creating estimate based on your template: either click 'New Estimate’ from the template, or choose the template when you’re creating a new estimate from scratch.

Easy peasy. If you need any help setting up templates or want to discuss how to use them, give [email protected] or [email protected] a shout.

  1. You can export your estimates to CSV or Excel to import into project management software. If there’s some piece of software you’d particularly like to integrate with, let us know. 

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Billy has been made by the nice folk at Error. We create digital products and brands for companies like the BBC, Sony, Bupa and Tate.