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Category Archives: money

Estimating

This post is about business, so… you know, caveat emptor.

Probably the single most common thing I do in business is write estimates. If people are even vaguely interested in a project, I can tell them about how much it would cost to have me do the work. No charge for the estimate. And certainly they don’t all lead to paying work. But very few paying jobs proceed without them. The latest one — written today — was around number 550. That’s more than 1 a week, since I went into business for myself.

I dislike writing them. Or at least find it to be difficult, tedious work. I think people look at it as something you can just plug a few numbers into, and then send out. But those numbers don’t just come out of thin air. I have to understand the project. I have to wrap my head around every possible aspect of the project, and be able to approximate how much time and resources will be required for those steps. And if I’m working on 5 or 6 projects on any given day, (and I am), it takes a feat of concentration to be able to push it all aside mentally and focus enough to build this whole project in my mind.

So lets say I’m stupid enough to try. I’ve built myself a kind of formula, to make the calculations a bit simpler. I broke down the average job into phases.

  1. Research
  2. Cleanup
  3. Populate (optional)
  4. 1st Author Alterations
  5. 2nd Author Alterations
  6. Meetings (optional)
  7. Rush (optional)

And for web sites, you can add:

  • Code Sample Page
  • Template

Research is the time I spend coming up with ideas. Looking through samples. Finding inspiration. Making sketches.

Cleanup involves taking all those sketches and ideas, and putting them into clean, digital proofs, so they client can look them over and start making choices. Usually after this stage, we have a design direction.

Populate comes into play for long pieces… books, reports, websites. My initial mockups only have a couple sample pages or spreads. So if it’s a long piece… then once a design direction is chosen, I apply to the remainder of the content.

1st and 2nd Author Alterations are the comprehensive sets of fine-detail edits that the client wants to make to the project. They go through and review the whole piece, collect every edit they want, and send it to me. I encourage/restrict my clients to use this “set of edits” method, rather than sending them over piecemeal. Piecemeal edits are a pain in the ass. Either you’re constantly jumping between jobs to make a repeated small edits, or you’re forced to collect and collate all the edits yourself, which can be difficult if they start overlapping. So my estimates include 2 ’rounds’ of edits. Anything significant beyond that gets billed hourly in addition.

On websites, once the design is set, I have to code a sample page with the design. This gives my the basis for the website and lets me work out any programming or interface bugs.(And occasionally to make sure I can actually accomplish some new, ambitious design element). Then I take and merge that sample page into the templates for whatever CMS I’m using.

And if I it appears as if I will have to spend a significant amount of time interacting with client… repeated meetings, or tutorial sessions for a new website, or such, I will add on some small amount of time for ‘Meetings’.

For everything listed so far, I figure out what number of hours, or percentage thereof, I will need.

Occasionally a project is a rush. Well… every project is rushed. But there’s a scale of rushes. Do you need this for your conference in a couple weeks. No problem. Do you need this add in 2 hours? Rush. And the rush is a percentage markup. Usually around 20%, although that can vary based on severity.

So total up the hours. Apply any rush markup. And then multiply by my hourly rate.

To further make my life easier, I have a spreadsheet. It includes the above calculations, already set up, for a variety of job types. So I already have a tri-fold brochure on there. And a 12 page report. And a logo. And a 10 page website. And…

And don’t forget to add in costs. Stock Imagery. Printing. Hosting. Special software. Programmers. Photographers. Copywriters. Editors…

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lovenox

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with this, or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.

I just threw away $600.

Sort of.

I finally tossed out my leftover Lovenox syringes. After paying $1,200 for the full prescription, (no insurance), I had some difficulty with the idea of throwing away half of them when I didn’t need them. I knew there was no way I’d ever need them. But still.

I even tried donating them, back when they were new, to the public health center. But they never got back to me.

So they sat there for a while… out of sight, out of mind.

$120 per injection. Twice a day. 5 dosages. Gone.

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Financial Status

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with this, or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.

Did my taxes today. Took less time than expected. Only major issue was figuring out where to include my Franchise Tax payments. (Since TurboTax changes it every year). Turns out it just basically went under “taxes, misc”.
So I billed roughly the same this year as the previous year. But I had less expenses. So practically, I made more money. I have almost zero debt. (About $300 on my sole credit card). And while I am short on cash at the moment, somewhat due to awaiting payments from clients, I am relatively stable. Taxes paid. Almost no debt. Expected income. Work for the foreseeable future.
I can think of worse conditions to be in.

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death to debt

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 6 years old. Who the hell knows what I was thinking back then?! Damn kids... get off my lawn!

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I feel better. I deposited a couple big checks today. And given that it’s also the first of the month, which is when I normally pay myself, I took the opportunity to pay off my credit card, which is the only real debt I have. For years I had kept the balance down to nothing, by paying it off every month. (And relatedly, never getting an increase in my credit limit). But early last year, I got hit with a series of expenses, such as needing to replace my old laptop earlier than expected. And while it never even reached $4,000 at it’s worst, it still bugged me knowing that it was there.
But now it’s gone.
I took that picture above while I was just walking home yesterday. I’ve been here so long I very easily forget how much there is to this place. Almost any kind of travel refreshes my vision of the city. And I try occasionally to take pictures of that ‘bigness’, because I know enough people who don’t see it every day.

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