5 Simple Things Your Quotes Need To Protect Your Time, Money And Your Reputation


How many times have you found yourself in the middle of a project when everything starts going off the rails?

Where the client suddenly provides new information that totally changes what you have to do or how long it's going to take...?

Or they change their mind on what they want...?

Or they never get back to you with feedback but still want it delivered on time....?

Or they start asking for things that were never included in the first place....?

And you end up getting stuck having to make a difficult decision:

Do you...

  • Have a really awkward conversation and potentially ruin your client relationship AND your reputation...? OR

  • Suck it up, avoid the conflict and just get it done as quickly as possible so you can move on?

Most people will end up doing the latter.

Protect their relationship and reputation at the cost of their profitability and stress levels.

This is especially true when you never actually clarified if things were included or not, or what would happen if something changed.

It was all a bit 'vague'.

So you feel bad having to explain to the client AFTER they've paid and you're halfway through that that wasn't actually what they're gonna get.

And it all comes down to this:

Mis-matched client expectations.

In business, as in life, managing expectations is key to healthy, long term relationships.

When I work with big corporates, managing client expectations usually involves an 80-100 page written document.

Which is fine when you're spending multi-million dollars.

But it's simply not practical when you're working with small businesses or small budgets!

However you already have the key document you need to manage client expectations AND protect yourself from having to take a bath when the shit hits the fan! (metaphorically speaking of course!)

It's called your Quote or your Estimate.

Basically whatever document you use to outline exactly what the client is getting for their money.

There are 5 components all good quote documents need in order to manage your client expectations AND enable you to back yourself in a considered and thoughtful way so you can protect your reputation and your profit!

Here they are:

  1. Deliverables

  2. Timings

  3. Costs

  4. Exclusions

  5. Assumptions

Let's take a closer look...

#1. Deliverables

Your deliverables is basically a list of all the key features or outputs your client will be getting.

What's included will depend on what type of service you offer.

If you run a coaching service, then you might outline how many sessions are included, how long they are and how often. You may want to spell out it email or messaging support is included, or if there are any tools or resources the client will also be receiving.

Social media marketers may include deliverables such as quantity of posts per month, what post formats are included, how many platforms, frequency and format of status updates, etc.

For photographers it may be the number of images included, at what resolution, in what format. You may also want to include quantity of locations, clothing changes or family members (depending on what you offer).

The key is being clear, specific and detailed on what your client is getting for their money.

#2. Timings

Managing expectations is key, so in this section you are managing their expectations for when they will receive your service or deliverables.

This isn't necessarily a big section. Again it depends on what you are delivering.

Coaches may include the date when the programme or service starts and finishes.

Photographers may include timeline between when the photoshoot is completed and to when they can expect to receive their images.

Marketers may include campaign duration, start and end date, or reference the length of the contract.

The key here is to be realistic with when you can start and when you can complete the service.

Pro Tip: When you're managing your timelines, make sure you differentiate between the how long something will take to do and when you will actually get it done.

To do this you want to build in buffer or 'contingency' from when you expect to start the work to when you say you will deliver it so if anything goes wrong (they're late with feedback, your kids are sick, you've got another project, it takes longer than you expected) you've still got time to do it without missing your deadline.

For example, is a piece of work is likely to take you half a day, plan your timings around having 2-3 days to do it in. You'll only charge the client for the time it took, but it gives you breathing space to get it done.

#3. Costs

So this is a pretty obvious one. A quote without a number ain't much of a quote!

However, how you detail your costs can have a big impact on how they are received.

If you only offer one option with no alternatives or add-ins then this is a pretty straight forward process.

However for more complex services you may want to put a bit of thought into how your prices are presented.

Bundling everything, including optional items, into one big cost is generally not going to go down well.

Most clients already have a budget in mind and if they see one big number that's a lot more than they were expecting (even if parts of it are actually optional) then that becomes a tougher sell.

Separating your costs into required, or minimum items and then separately itemising or bundling your optional extras can be a smart option.

This way you don't end up scaring the client with one big cost for things they may not need or want.

And you also enable the client to feel in control of their budget.

Now, this doesn't mean include ever possible optional extra - an overwhelmed client will not buy!

Just include the options that have either already been discussed or you believe would provide real value or benefit to the client.

Lastly don't forget to include any relevant taxes such as GST or VAT where required.

#4. Exclusions.

This is basically a list of everything the client could reasonably expect to be included in the price, that isn't.

Now you do need to be a little careful here.

You can easily find yourself with a massive long list of everything that ISN'T included.

And if you're not careful, the list of things that AREN'T included can quickly become bigger than what IS included.

And that is not a good look!

So the key here is 'reasonably' - you want to limit it to only those things the client could reasonably expect to be included that aren't.

An example is a website design and build, where Hosting is an excluded item.

You might not offer this as a service, but not all your clients are going to know that. They may not realise there will be additional costs involved in order to put their website live, and you can understand how they might assume it's all included.