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Tips for Estimating Desktop Publishing Projects

written by: Haley Montgomery•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 5/28/2009

Estimating DTP projects is a crucial part of the desktop publishing process. Project estimates can ensure that a project stays within budget. This article offers tips for accurately determining desktop publishing costs with 5 questions to ask your desktop publishing client before a project begins.

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    Estimating DTP Projects

    Many desktop publishing clients don't have a frame of reference for the costs of DTP projects. Producing an accurate estimate for a desktop publishing project provides a way for clients to establish the appropriate budget required to produce an effective product. Sticking within the estimate agreed upon can also help desktop publishers to maintain a good relationship with clients for future projects. Ask yourself and your client these five questions before calculating DTP costs.

    1. What is the scope of the project?

    The estimate for your DTP project will largely depend on its format and how extensive it is. Outline ballpark project specifications including the size of the piece, the number of pages, and the number of colors at the beginning of the process. The scope you set for the project can serve as a guide for estimating design time as well as for procuring printing or production estimates.

    2. How involved will the client be?

    Consider your client's history of working on desktop publishing projects when completing your project estimates. What process does a client normally go through in reviewing and offering feedback on project proofs? Generally, the more people involved in the process, the longer it takes. Multiple rounds of reviewing and feedback by committee usually require more time, and therefore, more desktop publishing costs.

    3. How will I receive information?

    When compiling your desktop publishing estimate, take into consideration any time required to prepare information or photos for use in your layout. Will photos or images need to be scanned? Will you need to write copy from bullet points provided? Will provided text need to be typed in? Will illustrations be provided or will you need to research appropriate images? These questions can help you determine any additional time for image or text research and preparation to build into your desktop publishing estimate.

    4. What licensing costs are involved?

    If the desktop publishing project requires stock photography or specific fonts, the purchase of appropriate licensing fees may apply. Include those royalty and license fees in your overall desktop publishing estimate.

    5. Will the desktop publishing project require additional contracted services?

    The production or execution of a desktop publishing project often requires the use of outside contractors for services like custom photography, printing, mailing, or companion promotional products. Contract service providers each have their own fee scale for DTP projects, and it is a standard practice for desktop publishers to "mark up" contracted fees prior to invoicing the client. The up-charge normally covers the time required to work with contractors during the course of a desktop publishing project. Obtain estimates from contract service providers based on project specifications. Be sure to include those fees in your desktop publishing costs.

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