I was intrigued by your article Fee market (DW 1 August). We specialise in new media and information design for print; much of our work is for the public sector, won by competitive tender. In these cases the client’s budget is a “state secret”. Estimating how much we add value to public sector activity would be thought strange. So we price our work by estimating the time it will take.
We recently came to the conclusion – hinted at in your article – that showing the client a time breakdown and the hourly rate would strengthen both parties’ hand. Our estimates describe each major activity in a job, indicates who will perform it, quantify how many hours we think it will take – and give the hourly rate. We are often penalised for accurately estimating the length of time and specialist input a project will demand. Some design consultancies tend to low-ball and add hidden extras on completion, which does nothing for their relationship or the credibility of the design industry. It can, however, win them huge projects in the competitive tender environment. But we all know how volatile this makes a business.
A Design Business Association standard form might make competitive tendering fairer; we would like to see it promote this kind of transparency. We have no problem in publishing our rates and look forward to taking part in the new design information initiative on the Internet.