The 7 Types of Estimates

I’m sure we’ve all estimated tasks. It’s usually not a fun exercise. I can’t make the estimating process any more fun, but hopefully you can have some fun reading about these 7 estimation techniques.

I only like to use the last 2 techniques, but you need the right client and project manager for them to be effective. Hopefully you can avoid the other techniques, but sometimes you are forced to use them.

Feet-To-The-Fire Estimate

This is a commitment, not an estimate. The person asking for the estimate wants the ability to exert pressure on you if you go over this amount. This results in significant overestimation to avoid the pressure.

Read-My-Mind Estimate

You give an estimate, then someone tells you that your estimate is wrong, because you aren’t allowed to spend that much time working on the task. They then tell you to ‘fix’ your estimate to the correct number. Then you are held accountable to the ‘correct’ estimate. You can’t win.

I-Don’t-Want-To-Work-On-This Estimate

Either you disagree with a decision or you really don’t want to work on something, so you give an insanely high estimate so that they will decide they don’t want to spend that much on the task.

I-Have-No-Clue Estimate

You have no idea what the customer wants you to build, or you have no idea how the technologies work. So you pick a random number and multiply by 7.

Update-After-Completion Estimate

Create an estimate, do the work, and when the work is done, update the original estimate to reflect the actual amount of work done. This is guaranteed to be 100% correct.

Range Estimate

You gives an estimate as a range of hours that it could take, such as estimating a task to take 5-10 hours. At the beginning of a project, the range is large, because there are lots of unknowns. As the project moves forward, you can refine the estimate. Once the task is complete, you can then given an exact estimate, because you know exactly how long the task takes.


There are only 5 possible estimates: Extra-Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large. The purpose of the estimate is to determine effort relative to other tasks in the project, not to determine any kind of timeline or total effort.