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Looking for suggestions on estimating hours

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Forum topic by dansnow posted 02-24-2017 04:34 PM 1104 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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dansnow

298 posts in 1684 days


02-24-2017 04:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi everyone. I’ve been making and selling wooden toys and gifts for a few years now, but never really had to estimate the hours involved in a project before. I would make things then we’d take them to craft fairs or put them on our etsy site.

But earlier this week I was commissioned to do a good sized project for our local Children’s Museum. I’ve done several projects for them before, but it was always only one or two items, so easy to come up with a price.
Now I need to put together a quote on 12 different items and I’m a bit flummoxed on how to estimate the hours. The pieces are not complex, but each piece consists of 4-8 parts.

Does anyone have a general rule of thumb for figuring labor hours? I was thinking of $15/hr but don’t want to cheat myself or the museum by being outrageously high or low.

Any suggestions will be appreciated.

-- Snow's Wooden Toys & Gifts


7 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

14857 posts in 2457 days


#1 posted 02-24-2017 08:35 PM

Up until your second-last sentence, I thought you would be requesting input on ways to estimate hours. It’s the hourly rate you’re looking for. And honestly, that’s tougher than estimating hours. Because there’s charity (nothing close to cost), deep discounts (know what it should be, but this is what I’m willing to do), cost (but only if it is integrated with hours estimate) and profitable (cost, plus things like replacement, opportunity, profit, etc).

There’s overlap, of course, but you get the picture.

I’d suggest you start with an hours estimate, then apply a rate (any rate) to it and give it the ‘sniff’ test. Does is seem high for what the client will be getting? Or low? How about any benchmarking you might be able to do? Finally, are you willing to do the work that price?

Adjust accordingly. Or, dig in your heels on a price because that’s what you need to make it worth your while. Only you can answer that question.

Good luck!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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dansnow

298 posts in 1684 days


#2 posted 02-24-2017 10:38 PM

Thanks for the response.

I apologize for not being clearer. I AM looking for suggestions on how to estimate hours. I figure that once I get a handle on estimating hours I can then decide what would be a fair rate for them and for me. My last sentence was meant to say that I didn’t want to quote on 6 hours when it actually takes 12 or vice versa. Does that make more sense?

-- Snow's Wooden Toys & Gifts

View JayT's profile

JayT

5455 posts in 2050 days


#3 posted 02-24-2017 10:41 PM

Smitty has an excellent post. You have to figure out what doing the work is worth to you.

Personally, I won’t do woodworking for someone else for $15/hr. I’ve had a few people ask what I would charge to do some projects and I start quite a bit higher than that, with the explanation that if I am going to do work someone else wants me to do instead of what I want to do, then I need to make enough to justify taking that time. That’s me with very limited hobby time and not wanting to spend it on For someone else the situation may be different.

If you can batch out the pieces, then the price per unit goes down, even while the price per hour can go up.

Edit: Do you have enough time to make one of each, while recording the time needed for each step, before your quote is due? Even if it’s out of scrap or cheap wood, that would give an idea of time per piece, plus machine setups and everything else involved. If not, can you at least do that for a couple of the items?

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Augustine's profile

Augustine

4 posts in 295 days


#4 posted 02-24-2017 10:58 PM



Smitty has an excellent post. You have to figure out what doing the work is worth to you.

Personally, I won t do woodworking for someone else for $15/hr. I ve had a few people ask what I would charge to do some projects and I start quite a bit higher than that, with the explanation that if I am going to do work someone else wants me to do instead of what I want to do, then I need to make enough to justify taking that time. That s me with very limited hobby time and not wanting to spend it on For someone else the situation may be different.

If you can batch out the pieces, then the price per unit goes down, even while the price per hour can go up.

Edit: Do you have enough time to make one of each, while recording the time needed for each step, before your quote is due? Even if it s out of scrap or cheap wood, that would give an idea of time per piece, plus machine setups and everything else involved. If not, can you at least do that for a couple of the items?

- JayT


Don’t cheat yourself buddy. You are working with your hands and soul, don’t down play it. One of a kind pieces hand made by a craftsman….you need to get paid a minimum of $25/hr if not more. Otherwise let someone else do it. You have toned your skills and you don’t need extra chores. Now if it’s a gift or charity that’s another thing. It’s America, make some profit.

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dansnow

298 posts in 1684 days


#5 posted 02-25-2017 12:17 PM

I think I will try the making one out of scrap idea. Even if I make it say 75% it should help. The museum almost never puts a due date on their requests, letting me fit their projects into my schedule. This particular project has 12 pieces, but 6 different designs.

Thank you for the inputs folks. I often forget to include machine setup time when estimating a project.

-- Snow's Wooden Toys & Gifts

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2716 posts in 1320 days


#6 posted 02-25-2017 02:22 PM

Its pretty much impossible to do an estimate for a one-off project you’ve never built. A lot depends on assembly time and finishing. The only sure way to do it is to simply charge by the hour and whatever it is, it is. Not acceptable to most clients, tho.

In order to have some sort of budget for them, I would give a high ceiling price based on however many hours you think it might take.

If there are unanticipated aspects to the project, you may still end up working for $5/hr, tho.

If you make one out of scrap, you still have a lot of time invested not getting paid for.

BTW, $15/hr for a skill field is too low.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

1036 posts in 2600 days


#7 posted 02-25-2017 02:52 PM

Back in the 1970s when I was making good money on the side building special props for television films and special projects for architectural interiors, I found that my “rule of thumb” that was surprisingly accurate was to figure the number of hours I thought a project would take and then DOUBLE IT. When a project was completed and I added up the hours, I was surprised how accurate this method was. Sounds ridiculous, but it worked for me.

Planeman

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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