Today we’re looking at Bidsketch, another tool I loved in 2014.
We’ve all written estimates for clients right? My early process worked, but involved a number of steps and proved to be time-consuming.
When I needed to create a new estimate, I would use Pages along with a template I pulled from somewhere or other. Once I created the estimate in Pages I’d export it as a PDF, then customize my basic contract for the current prospect (again in Pages) and export that in PDF.
My final step was to write up an email for the prospect and attach both documents to the email.
Once a prospect received my email, they would need to download the attachments, read through the documents and reply to me if they wanted to accept the contract.
We’d have to figure out signatures and then payment…
But writing them
As painful as that sounds, the document preparation wasn’t the most painful part of the process. Writing the estimates was.
See, I had portions of various estimates saved in a few spots so I could find them again and re-use them for new estimates. Each time I needed to create a new estimate, I’d end up digging through the old ones to find (or maybe never find) the part I wanted from a previous estimate.
It was a lot of lame work, which led to a bunch of wasted time.
Bidsketch does one job and does it well. It helps you generate estimates quickly and efficiently.
My old process that took an hour or more was cut down to 20 – 30 minutes, at the most.
Much of the magic in Bidsketch comes from the ‘templates’ that are saved each time you create an estimate.
Want to add a section on your process? No problem — write it once, save it, and it’s there for you to use later.
If you usually address a client by name, just use the markup style language in the Bidsketch tools, and the markup will be replaced with the client’s name.
You can build additional presets by combining sections to create templates. For example, you might use sections A, B and C for a web design project, but need sections A, B and D for a logo project. Bidsketch makes it easy to simply save two different templates and then have the proper sections added without having to start from scratch each time.
Building out Pricing
Bidsketch carries this automation into the pricing section of your estimate as well. Say you want to set a default rate and description for building out a WordPress theme. You can write it once and save it. Then next time you’re quoting a WordPress theme build-out, just choose this item from the saved menu and your pricing is ready to go.
You can also easily add pricing options to an estimate, which we know can easily increase your revenue. When your user gets the estimate they can select the options they want and the totals on the estimate will adjust accordingly.
Unfortunately the UI around accepting options is absolutely terrible for clients. Here, take a look.
See that super small `Add` link in blue? Yup, that’s where your clients are supposed to click to add the wonder pricing option you added to the invoice.
Nine times out of 10 my clients missed the options because it wasn’t easy to see how to access them. I’d follow up with them, copy the estimate and send it again so they could make sure to add the options.
A second failing of the options is that if they aren’t added to the estimate by the client I was never able to figure out how to see them. If a client wanted to add options 3 weeks into the project, I would have to copy the original estimate in order to access the options again.
You really should be able to easily see the options a client didn’t accept.
So you’ve got a stellar estimate and your client is all in, but now you have to wrangle signatures. With my previous system (emailing PDFs back and forth), this step was a bit of a hassle.
But Bidsketch makes this step much easier, since it allows the client and I both to sign online. I always include the contract for a project, therefore any time a new client signs on, they can simply ‘sign’ the document online — as can I — and we’re done.
No more back-and-forth emails trying to get the client’s agreement phrased properly, or looking around for a fax machine to transfer signed documents back and forth.
Bidsketch takes care of it all.
Where I’m not happy
One of the places that Bidsketch breaks down for me is the lack of integration with FreeAgent, my billing system of choice in 2014. So even with the efficient workflow for the estimate process, when it came to setting up billing, I was back to manually setting up a new client and new invoice and …. it was a pain.
Now Bidsketch does have other integrations that would make the process seamless, but I’ve looked at the options and never liked any of them.
This fairly major pain point is why I’m leaving harvest for 17Hats in 2015.
So do I like Bidsketch? Oh yes. It turned estimates from a painful process I hated to a fairly easy process I don’t mind doing anymore.
It saved me hours and hours of time over 18 months and it does what it is meant to do well.
My only reason for leaving is lack of integration with my billing system and the desire to save some money (since 17Hats does invoicing and estimating).
If you’re not using anything for streamlining your estimates, I recommend you check out Bidsketch and make it all go faster.