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21 Questions to Accurately Estimate Your Next Job


Estimating is the last important step in being awarded an exciting new assignment. As we know, no two shoots are alike so showing that you have anticipated all the variables with a thoughtful and detailed estimate will build trust with your client. The more information your estimate includes, the clearer it will be for your client to understand your unique approach to their project and will help you to stand out.

Invest in an Estimating Program

We recommend using BlinkBid. It is user-friendly and has a nice format that produces a clean and clear proposal to present to your client.

Creating an Accurate Estimate

Here is a list of questions to ask your potential client to help create an accurate estimate that fulfills both their expectations and your needs.


1. How did you find out about me? Website? Friend? Reference? Contest? Google search?

Project description:

2. Do you have a layout? What can you tell me about the imagery? How many images? Look and feel? Concept?

3. Where will we shoot? Is this a studio or location job? If location, is travel involved? Should I include travel costs in my estimate?

4. Location scouting?

5. What type of props, wardrobe, and sets are needed?

6. Makeup stylist? Hairstylist? Wardrobe stylist? Prop stylist? Stylist assistants?

7. If including casting in your bid, what type of casting are they looking for? From cards, in-person casting? Stills only? Video casting? Will the client be attending?

8. Talent specs? How much has the paid talent been in the past?

10. Catering? The number of people from the client-side and the number of people from the agency? RVs for clients? RVs for talent? Any special requirements? Dietary likes or dislikes from your team.

Post-production imaging:

11. Will you be handling post-production? Retouching?

12. Image delivery? Hard drive? FTP?

Qualifying the client and budget:

13. You need to qualify the client in order to set your Creative Fee. Clarify whether they are an ad agency, editorial, direct client, mom and pop shop, consumer, etc.

14. Can you give me an idea of the budget parameters? Or should I just work the estimate up as if it were an ideal situation?


15. What is your projected production date?

16. When will you need this estimate?

Licensing – how will the image(s) be used? Factors to consider when defining rights:

17. What is the media use – Consumer ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, brochures – single-use, or multiple-use?

18 What is the specific area of circulation – Local, state, regional, national, international?

19. What is the frequency? Size of the print run? What is the planned number of insertions?

20. What is the period of use? Duration of license.

21. Do you want to see licensing options?

Hang up before giving an estimate. Take the time to consider all parameters and avoid giving “ballpark” figures without giving the project the proper thought it deserves.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What is the scope of the project? What is the difficulty of production and uniqueness of the image? Is it a single image, multiple images, and is it a campaign?
  2. Did they call me because I am the only one who can do the job? Or do they want my vision specifically?
  3. Is there value to having tear sheets? Give serious thought to this question. Consider the real value – to you as well as to the client.
  4. If editorial, how important is the credit line?
  5. Will this image have resale potential in stock or other markets? Does your licensing give you this option?

Finally – Things to Remember

Before production begins you will need to receive a Purchase Order and if one is not provided have the client sign the approved estimate. If there is an Advance payment, invoice for the advance asap asking for 75% to 100% of the production expenses. Inquire about their policy on paying talent and if possible have models bill directly.

As things get busy and production starts, don’t forget to get all overages signed in writing!

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