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How to Plan Scope and Budget for a Freelance Project

Sarah Bartley
Front-end web developer | Moderator for Elphas Can Code | Creator of Disney Codes Challenge
・6 min read

Originally published April 16, 2019 on BritishPandaChick Codes. I made tweaks to the original post so it would work for Code Newbie.

The next lesson of Skillcrush 300 is dedicated to scope and budget. These are two areas both you and your client need to be on the same page on before any work can start on the project. Scope and budget are very important parts of your project.

They won't just be in the project proposal. Freelancers and clients often pay attention to these areas throughout the project process to ensure they are accurately staying close to the estimates they calculated before in the client intake process. Before students can write a project proposal, Skillcrush dedicates a lesson to figuring out the scope and budget for a freelance project.

This lesson shows students how to get the most accurate estimates for these areas of your freelance project. They even introduce the scoping spreadsheet, a tool freelancers use to stay organized and keep track of these areas throughout the project process. Today's post is going to share Skillcrush's process for figuring out your scope and budget. I will also describe what you need in order to customize or make your very own scoping spreadsheet.

What do scope and budget mean to freelancers?

Before we dive into the calculations and formulas, let's take a minute to just define what scope and budget mean to freelancers. The scope of a freelance project means what the project will be like. In a project proposal, the scope walks clients through the steps that need to be taken in order to create the finished product or accomplish specific goals. It lets a client know how long each task is going to take

The budget is how much a freelance is going to charge for the entire project. In order to get out the project budget, you need the scope for your project as well as the numbers you've decided on for your services, padding, and rate. All of these items will help you get a close estimate of the project cost.

You will want to keep an open mind on the numbers you have in mind for your services since those numbers might change in order to meet a client's budget. Scope and budget can sound scary to new freelancers, but Skillcrush shows students that it is much easier than it appears. In order to get the scope and budget for a freelance project, you'll need to do three things.

  1. estimate the project scope.
  2. you'll start putting together your budget. You will use the scope to guess what the cost will be.
  3. you need the padding. This gives you some wiggle room in case surprises pop up during the project.

It is time to find the scope of your freelance project.

Figuring out the scope of a freelance project requires lots of working backward. There are two things you need to do to figure out the project scope. First, you need to figure out all the tasks that need to be done to complete the project.

Don't worry about including any numbers just yet. Just list everything that needs to be done to complete the project. This doesn't just include what is needed to make a project. You will also want to list any administration tasks that need to be done as part of the project.

Once you have your list, it is time to start organizing your tasks.

This is the secret freelancers and Skillcrush use to figure out the scope for client projects. Now you need to take these tasks and start dividing them into specific phases of the project. Skillcrush recommends dividing tasks into small-medium-sized tasks.

Smaller tasks are easier to calculate than trying to make a guess on the entire project as a whole. This means a job that would take 30 minutes to complete. 30 minutes is a good balance of being easy to calculate yet big enough to do.

After you organize your tasks into phases, you can begin to figure out the amount of time it will take you to complete these tasks. The first thing you need to do is figure out the total estimated hours or total hours. If a task doesn't take an hour to complete, Skillcrush recommends using 0.5 as the minimum number of hours.

Keep calculating estimates for tasks. The last thing you need to do is add up all your estimates. The sum of all these hours will be the total hours or total estimated hours.

Find the base price estimate.

Now that you've got the total hours, it is time to figure out the base price estimate. Freelancers rarely use this price on a project proposal but this number is important to helping figure out the budget. You can think of the base price as your starting number you'll be working with.

You will often play with this number as you add padding later. In order or get this estimate, take your hourly rate and multiply it by the total hours. This number will be the base price for your project.

Time to get the budget!

It is time to do the last few calculations to get your budget. Your budget isn't just one number but rather a range of numbers that will give your client a sense of how much the project will cost. This includes low-end, average, and high-end estimates.

You will get these numbers by adding your padding. Freelancers like to use padding as part of the project budget in case they need it. You'll find as you do more client projects that things won't always go according to plan. Having extra padding planned in your scope will come in and save the day when surprises do pop up.

Now that you've got your base price, let's add some padding. Take your base price and multiply this by the padding estimate. This will give you the final price your client will see in the proposal.

Skillcrush encourages their students to build more padding than they anticipate. They advise students to set their padding one tier higher than they are planning.

Scoping Spreadsheet

A scoping spreadsheet is a tool freelancers use to keep scope and budget organized. Freelancers use the spreadsheet to calculate these elements for a project proposal, but they use the spreadsheet to keep track of how long tasks actually take when they are working on a project. Skillcrush provides students with a template to use, but you can make your own scoping spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. You can also find templates online through a good Google search.

There is no right or wrong way a scoping spreadsheet should look, but your spreadsheet will change as you get more experience and do different client projects. Skillcrush narrows down the specific functions any scoping spreadsheet needs to do.

  • has project phases.
  • includes all the tasks and notes for the tasks
  • has hourly estimates for all the tasks.
  • separate area for actual amount of time it takes to complete tasks.
  • padding estimate section
  • area for final project totals

If you are planning on making your own scoping spreadsheet, you can use this list to start customizing your own scoping spreadsheet. If you are using an online template, you might want to play around with the template a bit to see how it works before you start customizing it to fit your project. When you are using an online template, you want to pay attention to how values change when you are doing calculations. You also want to look to see what items could be cut or add to your spreadsheet that will help you estimate the project budget.

Conclusion

That's a wrap on this Skillcrush lesson! Scope and budget are two areas your client is going to be looking at on a project proposal so all the advice in this post will help you get the best estimates on these areas for your project proposal. Make sure you use a scoping spreadsheet to help you stay organized throughout the project process.

You are now ready to write your project proposal. The next lesson in Skillcrush 300 is looking at the next step of the client intake process which is the project proposal. This post will examine why the project proposal is important as well as the tips to writing a project proposal a client will agree to.

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