Venting: Proposals

(Image via Sara Bjork)

If I write one more proposal without getting results, I think I’ll scream. Proposals, a must-do for getting clients, can be a huge pain.

In today’s Venting and to answer Harold Abrams’ question from last Friday, this is what I have learned about writing proposals:

1. Even though they are necessary, it’s very important not to spend a lot of your valuable time writing them. The more you write them, the easier they should become.

2. A proposal can be a sales tool. However, it’s very important as you write down your ideas not to give away too much. I have had times where my potential clients received my proposal with my ideas and took them to someone else.

3. For us designers, It’s very difficult to give a proposal before designing the job. So never, and I mean NEVER, give exact figures before fully understanding the scope of work. The most effective approach is to give a range of prices.

4. I know this might sound sketchy, but never just write down the bottom line cost. Always list line items with the cost and let your clients add up the total. This forces your potential client to actually read line by line. A lot of folks just read the bottom line number and rule you out without understanding each item.

5. I try to never use superlatives like, “We’ll be creating the most beautiful wedding” etc. I find that this turn clients off. The truth is that they come to you expecting nothing less.

6. When in doubt, KEEP IT SIMPLE. I myself have gotten proposals that are so complex they give me a headache just to read.

7. If possible, have someone else read your proposal before sending it out. They may catch something you forgot.

8. Most proposals nowadays are done online. Make sure you set up a time to discuss your proposal line by line with your potential clients. Or, even better, do it in person.

9. If you are proposing other vendors, make sure you have their costs in writing. Remember that what you put on your proposal, including others vendors’ costs, is what your clients will hold you to.

10. Most important, be very careful about clients who give you a bottom line price and want it all-inclusive. First, you need to be very clear about their expectations. I have lost tons of money with this one. I’ve heard folks say, “Preston I told you up front what I could afford.” I want to say back to them,”Yes but you did not tell me you were expecting the world.”

So there you have it. Proposals can be very tricky.

Tomorrow I’d like to address the best way to follow up a proposal to get the job. And, as usual on our Monday Venting posts, if you are having any difficulty getting a job after sending out your proposals, please leave a comment and I’ll answer directly by email.

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