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Goal-Time Blog Article

Cost Estimate Differences

How Do I Know Which Budget is Right?

Published by Goal-Time LLC on 2021-11-29 15:30:13

Triangle diagram showing Time, Cost and Quality. Image by Dirk Wouters from Pixabay.
One of the conversations I have a lot with potential clients revolves around getting wildly differing estimates for technical work. As an example, I talk them through this situation:

You have a brief conversation with 3 people about a new website for your business.

  • A friend's son, fresh out of high school and heading for his college computer classes says that he can build your website for $3,000 in a few weeks.
  • A google search result web development company, online, says that they can build your website for $46k, but that it is a 3 month project.
  • Your small-town development buddy from a business networking meeting says he can build your site for $147k, and it will take about 9 months.
The big question: How is it that these 3 providers can have such wildly differing estimates for the same job, and which one should you choose?

    I want to help you to unpack this one, and while doing so, help you understand some of my services and offerings - though, you can find the types of services I provide in your area by searching for a "Business Systems Analyst" or "Solutions Engineer".

    Typically, I offer my new clients a free half-day consult, to get an idea of what they are trying to accomplish, and determine how helpful I can be.
    • Sometimes we determine that the "App" they want to build doesn't need to be an app and could be handled for $30/mo in fees, and a freelance designer from And they never have to pay me a penny.
    • Other times, I might write up a quick idea of what kind of multiple technologies they might need, and direct them to a partner that can build a few integrations for them. And they never have to pay me a penny.
    • In some cases, I provide them with a rough outline of the system(s) I think they need, and create an estimate for a Technical Specifications Project for them.
Back to the problem... what do we do about these differences?

Start here... does the high school kid understand your business and what problems the website needs to solve for your business?
  • Did the friend's son know what kind of features and functions you wanted on your site?
  • Has he ever worked on a site as large as yours?
  • Is your website currently simplistic and need a major overhaul?
  • Is your website currently complicated, and could be reworked more simply?

What information was given to the online web developer?
  • Are they working from your current website to determine what needs to be done for the new site?
  • Were they given a list of new features and functions that should be added?
  • Are they making assumptions about technologies that you do (or do not) want used on your site?
What about your local development buddy?
  • Is he working from the knowledge you've imparted during one-to-one meetings?
  • Have you talked about projects that you've "sort of" considered for your website, and including those?
  • Is he planning to do all of the sitemaps, wire-framing, mock-ups, design and from-scratch development?
What we're really getting at, here, is that you need someone who can come in to your business, get to know the problems you are trying to solve, help you determine "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves". You need someone who can document all of this, so that the same project details can be given to everyone involved.

With Technical Specifications in hand, these are the responses you might get from your 3 providers:
  • Friend's Son - "Oh, wow. I can't do all of that stuff!"
  • Internet Developer - "We can do all of that for about $XXk."
  • Local Buddy - "This is a great project, and it looks like you've cut out some of the items we've talked about before. We can bring this project in for $YYk."
Basically, the two higher estimates will probably come closer together, and the friend's son won't waste your time.

THIS... the Technical Specification document... is what we specialize in at Goal-Time LLC. Our work is done to save you time, money and frustration from projects going wrong, by helping you to plan for success!

Contact us, or find someone local to provide similar services, to learn more.