Using Cost-Benefit Analysis for Decision Making

Cost-benefit analysis

As a freelancer or contractor, you are likely responsible for most, if not all, of your work expenses. This makes good budgeting and smart spending all the more important.

Thankfully, there is a simple way to cut down on expenses: by conducting a cost-benefit analysis. This ensures that no unnecessary costs are incurred and that you can make the best, most informed decisions when spending. 

In this article, we will explain how to minimize financial risks by conducting a cost-benefit analysis, as well as some actionable tips on how to best use this framework to your advantage.

What is a Cost-Benefit Analysis?

A cost-benefit analysis is a decision-making tool that can help you to evaluate the financial feasibility of a particular project or action by comparing its costs and benefits. 

The first recorded use of the cost-benefit analysis was in the 1840s by Jules Dupuit, a French engineer. However, very little interest was generated until the 1950s, when a group of US economists, led by Otto Eckstein, developed the modern cost-benefit analysis method. Since then, this framework has been used worldwide in a wide range of industries over the decades. 

Cost-Benefit Analysis

This analysis involves identifying and quantifying all the costs and benefits of a proposed project or action, both in terms of money and factors such as time, effort, and resources. Then, by subtracting the costs from the benefits, the analysis can determine whether the project or action is worth the overall price, or if the cost outweighs the benefits. 

The purpose of conducting a cost-benefit analysis is to determine whether the expected benefits of a project or action outweigh the costs and to make an informed decision based on this evaluation.

How to Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis for Business Decisions

In a cost-benefit analysis, the projected and estimated costs of a project are compared to the estimated benefits (or opportunities) to determine whether or not it makes sense from a business perspective. 

Below are some steps that you can follow when conducting a cost-benefit analysis for your own business decisions:

1. Determine the costs of not changing anything

If, for example, you are considering investing in new accounting software to save time and stay on top of your finances, think about how much it would cost you not to implement anything at all. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean monetary expenses, but how much time you would be losing doing your accounting, and any losses that may incur if you don’t do it correctly. 

2. Identify the costs of the action or project

Take some time to identify all the potential costs of making your purchase. This can include the initial financial costs, but also the potential future costs, and any risks associated with making the purchase. 

3. Identify the benefits of the action or project

Brainstorm all of the benefits associated with making this purchase. Will this purchase bring in any earnings in the future? What is your ROI? Using the accounting software example, think about how much time you would be saving each week. Think about the mental energy that you would spare and the stress of constantly managing your accounts that would disappear. 


4. Assign monetary value to each cost and benefit

Decide on a monetary value for each cost, whether direct or indirect, and each benefit. Determine the total value of each category, and compare the two against one another. If the costs outweigh the benefits, consider whether there are alternatives to the proposal you haven’t considered. You may also be able to reduce costs to achieve your goals more affordably while still being effective. If total benefits outweigh total costs, then you should proceed with the project or decision.

Examples of How the Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Help Freelancers and Contractors

If you’re wondering how the cost-benefit analysis can benefit you as a freelancer or contractor, below are some practical examples of how this framework can be used in your profession.

Example 1: To Determine Pricing

As a web designer, you are considering increasing the price of your services due to the rising costs of software. However, you are concerned that this may cause a decrease in demand and client satisfaction. To determine the optimal price for your services, you conduct a cost-benefit analysis. You calculate the cost of software, labor, and overhead, and compare it to the potential benefits of increased revenue and client satisfaction. After analyzing the data, you determine that a small price increase of 15% will yield a significant ROI without adversely affecting demand or client satisfaction.

Example 2: To Evaluate Potential Projects

As a writer, you are approached by a potential client who is interested in an extensive content marketing campaign. You conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the project is worth the investment. You calculate the cost of your time, research, and other expenses associated with the campaign and compare it to the potential benefits of increased traffic and conversions. After analyzing the data, you determine that the project will provide a significant ROI, and you accept the client.


Example 3: For Resource Allocation

As a graphic designer, you have several ongoing projects and limited resources. You conduct a cost-benefit analysis to prioritize your work and allocate resources accordingly. You calculate the cost of your time, software, and other expenses associated with each project and compare it to the potential benefits, such as revenue and client satisfaction. After analyzing the data, you determine that one particular project has the highest ROI and prioritize your resources accordingly.

Tips and Best Practices for Effective Cost-Benefit Analysis

Here are some tips and best practices for conducting an effective cost-benefit analysis:

  • Define the objectives: Clearly define the objectives of the proposed action. This will help to ensure that you are focused on the most important outcomes when conducting the cost-benefit analysis.
  • Identify the alternatives: Identify all viable alternatives to the proposed purchase. This will help to ensure that your cost-benefit analysis considers all possible options.
  • Weigh qualitative and quantitative factors: Consider both qualitative and quantitative factors in the analysis, and weigh them based on their importance. Qualitative factors may include social or environmental impacts, while quantitative factors may include financial costs or benefits.
  • Account for uncertainty and risk: When calculating costs, account for any risks or uncertainties that may be present. This can include a project potentially failing, a tool not performing its desired function, or a client not being willing to pay your desired fee. 


As a freelancer or contractor, conducting a cost-benefit analysis can help you to make better decisions when it comes to budgeting and spending. By comparing the costs and benefits of a proposed project or action, you can determine whether it is financially viable, and make an informed decision based on this evaluation. 

It is important to clearly define your objectives, identify all alternatives, weigh both qualitative and quantitative factors, and account for uncertainty and risk when conducting a cost-benefit analysis. By following these tips and best practices, you can use the cost-benefit analysis to your advantage and make smart decisions that benefit your business.

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Using Cost-Benefit Analysis for Decision Making

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