As part of our guide to learning the steps to create a professional invoice, let’s take a look at how to write an estimate or a quote to offer your potential clients in hopes of getting a new job.

Often, for contract work or work to be completed in the creative field, such as writing an article or designing a website, the client will want an estimate so they can have an idea of how much the work might cost, which is sometimes called a job estimate, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Define the scope of work

Creating an accurate estimate is important, because the scope of work and the price could determine whether or not the client wants to hire you for the job. An estimate allows you to take information from the client about the job they are looking to have completed, and apply what you know about how long the service will take, how many resources will be needed, and how much it will cost.

Create a timeline of services

Start your estimate by creating a timeline of the services to be completed. In order to create the most accurate estimate, you may have to have a meeting with your potential client to make sure you understand everything that needs to be done. Ask them questions to get as much information as possible.

Within your timeline of the job, you will want to include a description of each step of the job, how many hours each step will take, along with the resources needed. Will you or your team be completing the work or will you be hiring outside help?

Consider your costs

Consider the cost of hiring any outside labor, or additional tools you’ll need to purchase in order to complete the job. Once you figure out how much the service and resources will cost, factor in the profit you’re hoping to make, and add it up to get your final total.

Include a space for your prospect signature

Use all of this information to create your estimate document. Typically, estimates are less-formal than a quote, but they look very similar to an invoice. Use a professional header, and include the contact information for both parties. Include the date the estimate was created, and then list the line items and their costs. Finally, you’ll want a place for the potential client to sign it, understanding that if the work goes out of scope, they agree to job completion.

This is the major difference between estimates and quotes.

Your quote is a commitment – be thorough

A quote often looks the same as an estimate, however a quote must stand no matter what. This means that whatever is in the quote, goes. So, if you quote to the client that building them a brand new website will cost them $500, and halfway through the project you realize you need to hire another employee, the client still only has to pay you $500. A quote document will stand up in court, so no funny business.

The only thing that will stop a quote is time, as most quotes are invalid after 30 days. If you want to be as clear as possible, feel free to include an expiration date on your estimate or quote document.

With either a quote or an estimate, you will want to be as thorough as you can, given the information you have. If you feel you can’t be exact with the numbers or the scope of the work, offer an estimate. But if you are certain about the expectations, you can offer the potential client a quote. Both a quote and an estimate should be clear and professional looking, and you should give one copy to the potential client, and keep one copy for your records.