How to Give and Receive Accurate UX and UI Bids

UX and UI projects vary in levels of complexity. Developing an effective bidding or request for proposal (RFP) process is key if you want to give and receive accurate bids. Landing on an accurate bid also helps build and maintain a harmonious relationship between agencies and clients during every stage of the project.

Through my experience leading a UX and UI design agency over the past several years, I’ve learned that giving and receiving accurate bids can save time, reduce project costs, avoid over or underestimating total project scope, and set up the UX or UI design project for success.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this story to teach you how to give and receive accurate bids:

Top challenges to avoid when bidding

Bidding challenges happen across all industries and specialties. I’ve highlighted two of the top challenges my agency has experienced during the bidding process for UX/UI design, along with the implications of each.

  • On the client side. The client often doesn’t provide enough information about a project up front when requesting bids or proposals. This can happen when a client doesn’t take the time—or doesn’t know how—to think through details of the project.
  • On the agency side. Agencies, on the other hand, don’t always ask for the detail they need to give an accurate bid. This means a bid may come in too low—or too high. Overestimating can put qualified bidders out of the running. Underestimating the bid and scope can present roadblocks, including higher cost and longer project timelines.
  • Implications: When multiple agencies bid on the same vague project, pricing will be inconsistent and challenging for the client to sort through and select the best-fit bid based on the project goals, budget, and timeline. A client may select the lowest bid, only to end up with an overall end cost that is similar to the highest bid.

Another implication is that vague details for a bid can lead to the need for multiple iterations of a bid with prospective agencies. This increases time and money spent on the agency side before the project begins. It can also lead to additional cost after the project has begun, if the scope was not clearly outlined from the start.

Real examples of bidding processes that worked—and didn’t

I have participated in many bidding processes over the years and learned helpful lessons along the way. In thinking about key criteria that lead to an effective versus ineffective bid, the following examples came to mind.

These bids worked

  • Client provided detailed information up front. My agency worked with a UK-based client. During the bidding process, the client went above and beyond by sharing a detailed project overview, including potential wireframes. Preparation on the client side led to a quick, efficient bidding process. The client spent much less time communicating back and forth with different bidders, as all information about the project was prepared and ready to share with all prospective bidders. We had everything we needed to deliver a quote to the client in only 30 minutes—which benefited both the client and our agency. Once the project was underway, the client saved at least 30% on the total project costs, because less time was spent in the UX and UI wireframe design stage.
  • Agency helped the client understand project scope and complexity. A client requested in-platform messaging and assumed it would be a simple project because messaging is a fairly common feature. Recognizing that UX and UI design projects aren’t always as simple as they appear is important because different projects have different complexities and limitations. Since our agency has worked on several messaging projects, we created a library of options that can be shared with clients based on different flows and levels of complexity. Options start as simple as a two-person messaging system with a messaging platform similar to WhatsApp that is pre-designed. Any time a client requests a simple messenger, our agency has a variety of options to show during the bidding stage that help clarify exactly what the client is looking for.

This bid did not work

  • Client didn’t share enough detail and the agency lost the project to a lower bid. In another instance, a client shared limited details to begin the bidding process. We delivered the strongest bid possible given the limited information. The client ended up choosing a different agency because they thought our bid was too costly and the timeline was too long. I checked in with the client once the project was underway with the other agency and it turned out the other agency underestimated the bid. The project was behind schedule and over budget. As a result, the client had to wait longer for the project to be delivered and the client was frustrated that promises and expectations weren’t met. The client also ended up paying more in the end to account for the additional time that was not included in the bid from the beginning.

Here is a mockup and example of a messenger system to use to ensure clear communication.

Messenger mock up

How an agency can submit an accurate bid for UX and UI designs

While every bidding process is different, some common best practices can help make it easier to develop and deliver accurate bids.

Do your homework

Any successful project starts with doing your homework. For a UX or UI design bid, this can include ensuring you understand the project requirements and completing in-depth market and competitive research.

To develop and deliver a strong bid, consider the following steps during the research stage:

  • Carefully read all details provided by the client
  • Familiarize yourself with the client’s website, app, platform, or related technology
  • Evaluate the client’s top competitors
  • Assess similar projects completed by your own competitors
  • Research trends in the client’s target market and industry
  • Identify similarities between the project and previous UX and UI designs you’ve completed
  • Review requirements to ensure you follow directions and all relevant information is included in the bid

Send detailed project briefs and questionnaires

In an ideal bidding process, the client will share enough information from the start, meaning you won’t necessarily need to follow up with additional questions. The success story shared above about a client that included detailed wireframes for the project is an excellent example of an effective bidding process. However, this isn’t always the case, so maintaining a list of questions to ask clients if they don’t include enough detail is helpful.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are a few questions to consider including in a project brief:

  • What are the goals of the project and how do they align with overall company goals?
  • What are the estimated budget, deliverables, and timeline for the project?
  • Do you anticipate the timeline shifting?
  • What challenge is the project looking to solve?
  • Who is the target audience or end user?
  • Who are the client’s top competitors?
  • Are there any technical restraints we need to take into consideration?
  • Which stakeholders will be involved and what will the review or approval process look like?
  • What is your preferred collaboration or communication process and style?

Maintain a pre-defined pricing structure

Develop and maintain a spreadsheet, calculator, or similar tool to track all the steps that go into a UX or UI design project, estimated time spent on each step, and associated costs. This will enable you to offer consistent pricing to all clients, which saves time during the bidding process and can help you avoid either overestimating or underestimating project scope.

Here are some inputs my agency includes in our spreadsheet calculator to deliver transparent, accurate bids:

  • Hourly rate
  • Breakdown of each phase and task involved in the project
  • Ranking of complexity level for each task
  • Estimated minimum and maximum number of hours for each task and the entire project
  • Estimated minimum and maximum cost based on total hours
  • Project timeline for completion

When delivering a bid using your calculator or pricing formula, be transparent about whether revisions will be included in the scope. Minor revisions or feedback can be included, but time spent on revisions adds up quickly—especially for complex projects—so consider billing revisions separately to avoid exceeding the initial scope. Make sure this is clear to clients from the start to avoid miscommunication down the road.

Here is an example of what a calculator spreadsheet looks like.

Project calculator

Steps a client can take to receive accurate bids

Here’s what a client can do to proactively prepare for a successful bidding process.

Also do your homework

On the client side, completing research before inviting agencies or vendors to submit bids or proposals can streamline the process by saving time and reducing costs.  

Some steps you can take as you research your desired UX or UI design project include:

  • Complete customer or user surveys and research to identify pain points and opportunities
  • Analyze competitor websites, apps, platforms, and other technology
  • Identify trends in your target market or industry
  • Research potential agencies and vendors, including available services, pricing, past work, and reviews
  • Gain an understanding of costs for similar projects and developing a budget with this information
  • Set a realistic timeline based on any steps and complexities involved in the project

Share the same detailed project overview with all prospective vendors

Once you’ve completed initial research, the next step is to develop the project overview to share with prospective agencies and vendors. A vague project overview will lead to multiple iterations during the bidding process—and after the project kicks off—slowing it down and driving up costs. Sharing unclear information or slightly different details with each agency can lead to inconsistent bids, which will make it more difficult to select the best partner for your UX or UI design project.

By instead sharing uniform, in-depth project details with all agencies in the running for the project, your business can save time and money, and ensure you receive more consistent bids.

Here are a few details to include in the project overview:

  • Overall project goals, budget, timeline and deliverables  
  • Company information, such as overall goals, products and services, mission, and vision
  • A website sitemap
  • Details about the target audience, personas, or users
  • Technical requirements and restraints
  • Rough wireframes, if applicable and possible

Ask all bidders to submit the same information

Be clear on what you want bidders to submit to you.  

Consider requesting the following details in a similar format from bidders:

  • General company background information, including services, skills, and capabilities
  • Examples of relevant past work
  • Explanation of why the agency or vendor is the best fit for the project
  • Project overview broken down by phase and individual task or milestone
  • Estimated budget and timeline based on total hours spent on each stage of the project
  • Client reference contact information, if applicable

Even with guidelines in place, you may still receive bids that don’t offer the same level of detail. When this is the case, don’t hesitate to follow up with agencies or vendors and ask for additional information you need to subjectively compare bids on a consistent scale. Take in an agency’s communication style when you put in these requests. It’s helpful to understand whether your communication styles will be a fit if you partner on the project.

Partner with an agency or vendor to develop project details when needed

Some clients prefer to consult with an agency or vendor to get better bids. As the client, this can enable you to tap into the agency or vendor’s technical expertise and past experience to develop an accurate project overview.

Keep in mind, enlisting expert consultation before beginning the formal bidding process will require additional budget and resources. However, this approach can help reduce costs down the road because developing a concise project overview can reduce additional rounds with vendors or agencies during the bidding process.

With accurate bids, everyone wins

Both bidders and clients win when there is a consistent and accurate bidding process in place. A successful bidding process can also position both sides to build a long, healthy working relationship that extends beyond the initial project.

I partner with businesses to transform their ideas into UX and UI design and deliver software design for SaaS, CRM, ERP—primarily focusing on management platforms and mobile applications. If you’re looking for an experienced partner for an upcoming UX/UI project, send an inquiry through my Upwork profile and we can discuss your specific needs in more detail.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Bohdan H.
Top Rated Plus
Software AI Design Expert
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Software design expert

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