To maximize your success, your proposals should include thoughtful cost and time estimates. However, Employers sometimes post vague project descriptions because they don’t understand the full scope of their project or the costs involved. Employers look to experts like you to help them articulate their project and determine a fair price.

General Tips

  • Include a polite disclaimer: “This proposal may change when more details are available.”
  • Make some assumptions about the Employer’s needs: “I see that you request a website for your small company. If you’re interested in a brochure-type website that includes the layout and programming up to 20 pages, I usually charge $X / hour or $Y per page.”
  • Base your estimates on your relevant past work: “A recently-designed, tri-fold brochure for a Charlotte-based carpet reseller was completed in 20 hours and the final cost was $X. While I’m unclear about the full scope of your needs, I hope this example gives you an idea of my pricing and time estimates.”
  • Make suggestions to broaden the service: “You indicate that you’re looking for a technical writer. Not only can I satisfy your writing requirements, but I can also provide design and layout services, if needed. I typically charge $X – $Y per hour for these services.”
  • Ask questions in your proposal that will help you to provide a more accurate estimate.

Cost Estimates

Though you must first state your total estimated budget for the project, within the proposal you can present your cost estimates in various ways, including per hour, per project, per page, and per word.

For example, writers often calculate fees per word / page, but Employers may be unfamiliar with this standard. Instead, you may want to present your cost estimate in industry and non-technical terms, such as, “I submit a proposed cost estimate of $X [250 pages with approximately 750 words per page at a cost of $Y per word].”

Time Estimates

Time estimates may also depend on many criteria. It may help if you break the work into its components.

For instance, “I propose completion in 3 weeks, including: 1 week of homepage design, 1 week of internal page design, graphic and text upload for up to 20 pages, 1 week of customer review and upload of the completed website.”

Use the suggestions below to determine cost and time estimates.

  • Call firms that offer the same service and check their time quotes.
  • Check with friends or colleagues.
  • Check with professional organizations that cater to your profession.
  • Base your time estimate on how long it has taken to complete similar work in the past.

Consider vague project postings an opportunity to convince an Employer of your expertise. Offer ballpark cost and time estimates and help the Employer understand the full scope and cost of their project. Employers hire Freelancers who demonstrate expertise, cooperation, and patience. A vague project posting allows you to prove your unique ability to cultivate success.

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  1. Hideki Dennis Poole

    Hi Stacy,

    I’ve only recently joined Guru as a freelance illustrator. I’m still learning how to write proposals to clients, and I found your article very helpful.

    Thank you!

    Dennis Poole

    (My preferred name is Dennis: this is a throwback to my school days, when teachers found it difficult to pronounce my name. Younger people today are much better at it.)

    • Stacy

      Great, Dennis. I’m happy to know it helped. I wish I could take credit for the article, but it was based on feedback from other users. So, thank your fellow illustrators!

  2. Athula Siriwardhane

    This is great.

    As a Comic book artist there are certain basic questions like whether the page is color or Black and white makes a lot of difference in the estimate.
    Most of the times we ignore the projects which lacks clarity. Especially because the employers neglect questions, perhaps because some freelancers propose without sufficient details.
    So I suggest that you may make an optional form to based on questions we usually ask when a project details are vague.
    If you agree to do so, we would help, when needed.

    Thanks a lot for the great site
    and exceptional service.

    All the best

  3. Alf Welgemoed

    I am unable to submit a bid on a project because the system keeps telling me that I must correctly complete the required fields and highlights the cost field which I have completed as “$125”. Please help.


    I am a basic member reently joined here. I’m sure that these advice will go a long way in writing my proposals. Thanks and regards.

  5. santanu manna

    i’m a new comer and recently joined here. this blog is very useful. thank u stacy and if you discuss about the templates which use when we submit the proposal, it will be very greatfull to me.

    once again thanks and regards,

  6. Luigi

    Hello Stacy,

    i’m not able to apply for a job because of ‘craft your quote’ details. I just put cost/hour but a message says that some is not right with such info. Please, could you tell me, in details by some examples too, what that area should be filled ?.
    Thanks and Regards,

    • Anna

      Luigi, make sure you are putting in at least $25 and that you aren’t including the dollar sign ($). If you still have trouble, please let us know.


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