What To Include in Your Project Cost Estimate

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Putting together a thorough project proposal is your chance to make a strong first impression to prospective clients and give them an idea of what to expect. Using estimate templates for your services will save you time and simplify your process for delivering a clear and detailed project cost estimate and providing your client with a professional experience.

When building a project proposal, cost estimate templates are a great tool to ensure that all details are included with no missing pieces — for you and your client.

In this article, we’ll help you understand what cost estimates are, how creating a cost estimate template can help you save time, and what you should include in your cost estimate template to provide the most professional and efficient experience for your clients.

What is a cost estimate?

A cost estimate, or job estimate, is the outline of any resources you’ll need to complete a project for your prospective client within the defined scope of work, along with the expected project cost. This can include labor and hours, any facilities or vendors used, project deadlines and timelines, and materials or equipment needed. The cost estimate is a crucial step for your client to determine whether or not to move forward on the project, aligning it with their approved budget. 

Create digital project cost estimates

With Square Invoices, you can provide clients with a digital estimate they can approve from anywhere and then easily convert to an invoice with one click.

What are the benefits of creating a job estimate template?

Providing a job estimate to each client allows you as the business owner to set clear and correct expectations with your client from the beginning. Remember, your client will likely ask for job estimates from multiple contractors or service providers, so submitting a professional cost estimate in a timely manner could be essential for winning them over. This is your chance to stand out with your clients, and building a strong job estimate template ahead of time can help.

Creating a professional branded job or cost estimate template allows you to simply plug in the client and project info and go. There’s no need for drafting one from scratch for every single proposal. With the help of Square, you can save time and be efficient. Square Invoices gives you the option to customize your own cost estimate template, making those estimates (and you) look professional.

Here are a few items you’ll want to include on every job estimate and examples of how to create your very own template.

What should you include in an estimate template?

Client and business contact information

The first, and probably most obvious, information you’ll want to include are the contact details pertaining to the project. Include customer information, with name, contact info, and billing address, along with your business and billing information. One way to stand out in a simple way is to use this portion to professionally brand your estimate. Add in your logo, and even your slogan if you have one, to the top of the estimate to tell them who you are and give them a feel of what they can expect from doing business with you.

Job name and message

Next, you’ll want to include the job name and ID so that you can easily refer back to the job estimate, and later the quote, when discussing it with your client, vendors, or contractors. A short message summarizing what is included in the estimate, and any other expectations discussed with the client prior, should be included here as well. Remember, it’s about setting clear expectations from the start.

Below you’ll see a job estimate template example from fictional Cutting Edge Web Design as they create and share a job estimate with the Myriana Hotel and Resort. The template example clearly outlines who the estimate is for and what they can expect to see within the proposal. There’s personality within the message, while still remaining professional, to build trust and understanding with the prospective client.

Estimates — Customer Information

Project and pricing details

Here’s where the fun starts. You can show your expertise in the project by clearly itemizing the breakdown of the services or goods provided. Outline each portion of the project you’ll be completing, including the quantity of hours or services, the unit price for each, and the estimated total.

To eliminate the need for additional back-and-forth conversation, further delaying the client from accepting your proposal, you can provide different package options for the project and what is included with each package. This allows the client some flexibility, whether time or budget is needed, to choose the package that fits their needs best.

In addition, be sure to include all relevant tax and service charges and any discounts or promotions if applicable. The estimate is just that, an estimate. Be as accurate as you can be, while still understanding that costs could change before you deliver the quote to the client.

In the next screenshot, you can see an example of a job estimate package that includes the service breakdown, itemized pricing, discounts, and charges.

Cost Estimates - Package 2

Payment schedule details

Once the project is accepted, the client will want to be prepared with deposit and payment deadlines.

Will you require an initial deposit? Will the balance be split into milestones paid over the course of the project?

Including this in the job estimate not only sets you up for success with on-time payments, but it allows the client to be ready with payment in hand upon hiring your business.

As the business owner, you also don’t want to be waiting on an estimate to be accepted for too long. A lengthy wait period could result in a fluctuation in the costs of materials or changes in the project management process that neither you nor the client were prepared for when the estimate was first drafted. Because of this, be sure to include a due date for when the estimate must be accepted and when the first payment will need to be submitted so that you can begin the project work.

Below you can see the detailed breakdown of the two different packages Cutting Edge Web Design is offering, with estimated totals, deposit and due date, balance and due date, and applied discount. Each package provides details of what is included and allows Myriana Hotel and Resort to make the best decision for their needs and budget.

Multi-Package Estimates

You’ll also want to provide your client with as much information as you can up front. Any custom contract agreements that were discussed prior, relevant scoring documents, and any design files or examples of past work should all be included.

It’s important to know that a job estimate template is used as a sales tool. It’s not about being the cheapest option out there. This is your chance to show potential clients what it will be like to work with you and why you’re their best choice. Use these tips to put your best foot forward.