Imagine a prospective homebuyer walking into a real estate agent’s office and saying, “I want to buy a house. How much does a house cost?”

After getting over the initial shock of the question, the agent likely would ask, “Well, what sort of budget do you have for a house?”

“I don’t have a budget,” the buyer replies. “You sell houses all the time, so I’d like you to give me an estimate of what I can expect to pay for one.”

The agent would probably explain that housing costs vary widely—starting at somewhere under $100,000 and on the high end ranging into the millions—depending on what part of the country the buyer wants to buy a house, how big it is, its age and condition, upgrades the house may have, the value of comps in the neighborhoods the buyer is most interested in considering, etc.

Based on the buyer’s answers to these and other questions, the agent may then suggest homes in the $300,000 to $350,000 range.

“That’s too much!” the buyer protests. “I can only afford $250,000 max.”

While it’s unlikely this scenario happens very often—if ever—in real life, something similar takes place every day in creative agencies across the nation: Clients request estimates for projects without providing a budget or much in the way of details.

The result is often unsatisfactory for all concerned. Here are five tips for edutainment marketers to help maximize everyone’s time and ensure accuracy when requesting a budget estimate for edutainment creative:

1. Give the Creative Agency a Ballpark Budget for the Project. 

Even a range is helpful because the scope of a project can be tailored to work within just about any reasonable budget number. For instance, if someone wants a custom website, let’s say we know we can give the client a nice site for $30,000. That is a fair price for the site we have in mind. However, if the client’s budget is only $10,000, we can adjust the complexity of the creative and programming to fit $10,000. Of course it won’t be as robust as the $30,000 site, but if a client doesn’t have the budget for that level, we’d rather make adjustments and still meet the client’s most important needs.

2. Detail the Details.

Rushing an estimate without knowing details is counterproductive. The details of the project impact the cost just as much as the size of the site does. The good news is that the details can be adjusted to scale to different budget needs. And the more details known upfront, the tighter the estimate can be.

3. Recognize that Timing Can Impact the Cost.

A normal turnaround time is the most cost efficient because it can be pre-planned into your agency’s workflow, and the work scheduled into a normal workday. When the schedule is red-hot, sometimes there literally are not enough hours in a workday to get the job done. When that happens, a second and sometimes even third shift may be necessary, and of course employees are paid at a different rate in those cases. Even a short-term rush project impacts the workflow. If a rush project comes in that needs immediate turnaround, staff needs to be pulled off of other projects to jump on the emergency, and the projects that were pushed aside then need to be done after hours.

4. When Comparing Creative Costs, Be Sure to Compare Apples with Apples.

As previously mentioned, details matter greatly, so if all vendors aren’t quoting on the exact same specs, it isn’t fair or accurate to compare their costs. Also, if some key information is not given to the winning agency in a bid, there is no guarantee that agency can hold to its price once the details of the project come to light.

5. Factor in the Limitations of Freelancers.

While individual freelancers are generally lower cost than creative agencies, it’s important to remember that creative agencies handle the overall project as opposed to just one aspect of it. They work in teams based on the specific expertise of the team members to execute the project cohesively, which is more expedient/efficient then moving the project from a freelance designer to a freelance photographer to a freelance programmer, etc. It is also more time consuming for the client to coordinate multiple freelancers vs. working with one project manager/account executive in an agency. Finally, there are usually fewer revisions when a project is done under one roof vs. moving from one freelancer to another.