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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    Questions about proposals

    I'm writing my first formal proposal in a day or two, and I've been wondering:

    1) How do I include the costs if I still don't know how much work exactly my potential client would need?

    2) I'm going to work alone on this project - do you suggest using "I" or "We" when referring to myself in the proposal?

    3) Do you have any online resource that teaches how to write proposals for web services? because all I could find so far are generic ones.


    Appreciate your input

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    Quote Originally Posted by mPeror View Post
    1) How do I include the costs if I still don't know how much work exactly my potential client would need?
    You can't IMO. What you should really be doing at this stage is simply 'proposing' to this prospect an initial 'spec-finding' period where you carry out technical consultations with them to discover the exact work that will be required. At the end of this process you can then write up a detailed project spec/proposal which can be signed off and then work can begin. You of course charge for this entire process.

    I would suggest that you can certainly talk vague costs, but in this situation, it would be far better to have the prospect commit to a budget to which you can tailor a suitable solution.

    I really don't think it's necessary nor possible to write a full sales proposal if neither party is able to initially define the required spec for the project. It would also be unreasonable for the prospect to expect you to discover that spec for free.

    2) I'm going to work alone on this project - do you suggest using "I" or "We" when referring to myself in the proposal?
    'I' would be suitable if you are a sole trader working alone.

  3. #3
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    A proposal is what you "propose" to do for a client. If you don't know what you'll be doing, how can you propose doing it?

    Has this prospect contacted you and asked you to do a specific job or are you initiating the contact? It's puzzling to me that you say "in a day or two". Generally I try to answer all RFP's within 36 hours of receiving them.

    What you use (I or we) depends on if you are the only one doing the work. I use generic terms in my proposals such as the Client, the Customer, the "Provider" (content writer, designer, etc.) depending on the job, if I'll do it myself or if an associate will do it.

    There are good articles here at Site Point on writing proposals.

    I have posted an overview of my proposal template at Older Space.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower
    Has this prospect contacted you and asked you to do a specific job or are you initiating the contact? It's puzzling to me that you say "in a day or two". Generally I try to answer all RFP's within 36 hours of receiving them.
    Actually they asked me to describe the process of the things I'm going to do for them, and send them a proposal by Saturday. That's why I said I'm going to write it in a day or two.

    Thanks for the help shadowbox and Shyflower. (Chris Yeh's article seems to answer my last question)

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Then I would write the proposal in a problem-solution manner. First define the "problem" as you see it and then tell them, without getting to technical, what you'll do to solve it.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    SitePoint Enthusiast exstatic's Avatar
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    Proposals should be unique to your business. The proposal is effectively your sales page to your client, it needs to outline why they should choose your business over other businesses, why your idea is better than anyone elses, if a client has 3 proposals in front of them, it is not always the price that will make them decide who to choose, it is usually the company that presents themselves the best.

    As a guide, all my proposals have the following;
    - Introduction & History of my company
    - Overview of current clients situation
    - Project Scope ( what it is you are going to do )
    - Budget & Costings
    - Caveats & Conclusion
    - Client Agreement & Deposit Details
    - Contact Details & Sign-off

    Depending on what you offer, you may also want to put in some terms and conditions.

    I recommend spending a considerable amount of time developing a proposal template that you can effectively use and massage for each client.

    Remember a proposal represents your business and what you offer, it needs to be original and portray the image you are trying to give off to your client. So if it is a 1 page unformatted text document it is not really going to wow your client, but if it is a fully formatted PDF with flow charts, diagrams, images logos etc.. you may get a better response and ideally be able to ask a higher premium on your services.

  7. #7
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by exstatic View Post
    Proposals should be unique to your business. The proposal is effectively your sales page to your client, it needs to outline why they should choose your business over other businesses, why your idea is better than anyone elses, if a client has 3 proposals in front of them, it is not always the price that will make them decide who to choose, it is usually the company that presents themselves the best.

    As a guide, all my proposals have the following;
    - Introduction & History of my company
    - Overview of current clients situation
    - Project Scope ( what it is you are going to do )
    - Budget & Costings
    - Caveats & Conclusion
    - Client Agreement & Deposit Details
    - Contact Details & Sign-off

    Depending on what you offer, you may also want to put in some terms and conditions.

    I recommend spending a considerable amount of time developing a proposal template that you can effectively use and massage for each client.

    Remember a proposal represents your business and what you offer, it needs to be original and portray the image you are trying to give off to your client. So if it is a 1 page unformatted text document it is not really going to wow your client, but if it is a fully formatted PDF with flow charts, diagrams, images logos etc.. you may get a better response and ideally be able to ask a higher premium on your services.
    As someone who solicits, reads, and selects vendors by reading their proposals quite a bit, I strongly disagree.

    The proposal IS'NT ABOUT YOU. It's not about your company, or your history. I don't need an overview of my situation. I don't need your caveats or conclusions, or even your recommendations.

    I need to understand HOW you will satisfy my business needs, WHY you are qualified to do the work, and HOW MUCH it will cost.

    The rest is just supporting information.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    As someone who solicits, reads, and selects vendors by reading their proposals quite a bit, I strongly disagree.

    The proposal IS'NT ABOUT YOU. It's not about your company, or your history. I don't need an overview of my situation. I don't need your caveats or conclusions, or even your recommendations.

    I need to understand HOW you will satisfy my business needs, WHY you are qualified to do the work, and HOW MUCH it will cost.

    The rest is just supporting information.
    Wow! We are going to absolutely agree about something. I feel a headache coming on.
    There are three kinds of men:
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    The few who learn by observation.
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  9. #9
    SitePoint Zealot solutionsphp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I have posted an overview of my proposal template at Older Space.
    Thanks for this. I notice in item 5, you don't require a signature to activate your contract. Do you know if this is legal? This is exactly my question here.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Enthusiast exstatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    As someone who solicits, reads, and selects vendors by reading their proposals quite a bit, I strongly disagree.

    The proposal IS'NT ABOUT YOU. It's not about your company, or your history. I don't need an overview of my situation. I don't need your caveats or conclusions, or even your recommendations.

    I need to understand HOW you will satisfy my business needs, WHY you are qualified to do the work, and HOW MUCH it will cost.

    The rest is just supporting information.
    Sagewing..

    I am saying pretty much the same as you are, I look at many proposals from all walks of the IT and web industry daily. Maybe things are lost in translation, let me put it into the way you questioned..

    HOW you will satisfy my business needs - Situation - Project scope.. If you identify what the client wants via the situation, then solve those problems or improve their current situation via the project scope.. this is how I will satisfy their needs.

    WHY you are qualified to do the work
    - Company History, proof that we are capable of doing the task and have a track record - show them that you aren't just a kid out of college with Dreamweaver trying to make a few bucks - this section should be limited and not exhaustive.. you dont want to bore your client, but do want to get a point across. If I have a solid history of proof and client work then that speaks louder than any qualification.

    HOW MUCH it will cost. - Budget & Costings pretty self explanatory.

    The reason I add the other stuff in is most of my clients it is their first time working with a professional, rather than their sisters boyfriend with Front Page, they want to know what they are getting, what can go wrong and why we am charging more than Joe Blow down the road.

    Because a lot of clients don't know the industry; caveats are there so people don't get surprised when it takes an extra 2 days to add something that seems relatively simple to them. It also protects us slightly in ensuring that if the scope changes they realise that there could be other issues that arise.

    I am not saying that a proposal should be 30-40 pages.. none of mine are more than 2-5 pages long, needs to be concise and easy to read.

    Of course, every one does things differently and if we all did things the same competition wouldn't exist.. This proposal strategy works for me.. and out of the hundreds I have sent out, I can be proud to say I have a great success rate.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Enthusiast imagineinternet's Avatar
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    I agree with both schools of thought here:

    exstatic's template looks like too much, but if it's kept to 2-4 pages, looks great, and positions you as a quality company that is well qualified to do the work, then it's worth it. I find that while most folks flip to the budget page, the other stuff matters when they compare us to others. Many folks have specifically mentioned that our proposal stood out compared to the others. The proposal is only one aspect - they are looking at your past work, reputation, price...but a great proposal may just be the deciding factor if other things are equal.

    Some pros:
    - It shows you spent the time to to understand their business and didn't slap it together 5 minutes before the meeting.
    - You could really stand out amongst competitors

    Cons:
    - A colossal waste of time if you aren't chosen.

    Fact is different people have different needs. Some want all the detail you you can give them (and then some), and others just want to know how much. We have found we can't leave either of them out. For that reason, we put the scope and pricing up front, and the fluff behind it.
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    IMO the simplest way to find out what the prospect wants in a proposal is to ask them:

    "When you say 'proposal', what exactly are you looking for in that document?"

    You can then assess what is needed and decide if that's acceptable. I find this process tends to avoid the 'colossal waste of time' issues, especially as most projects I handle simply don't need a proposal as they are small-ish and I'm dealing direct with the only decision maker.

    ultimately, I would argue that creation of a detailed 'proposal' should only be created in order to document an agreement to do business together.

    "I'd like you to write everything up in a proposal please"

    "Sure - are you saying we have a deal then?"

    "No, I need to see it in writing first"

    "No problem; so if I write it all up as we have already discussed, with no surprises, will you definitely sign it?"

    (Hint: The answer should be yes....!)

    I would also try to find out if a proposal was required (and if so, what it would need to cover) before I spent too much time with a prospect - ie. during an initial phone chat. Obviously many projects require formal proposals and the like, so if that process doesn't gel with the way you like to do things, you can pass on the project at a nice early stage.

  13. #13
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solutionsphp View Post
    Thanks for this. I notice in item 5, you don't require a signature to activate your contract. Do you know if this is legal? This is exactly my question here.
    I'm not in the 5-figure range for proposals, but if I were, I would certainly have an attorney draw up a contract and get it signed.

    If a client wants to sign and wants me to sign, we can always use an addendum and fax it back and forth. I'm not against signatures. However, my proposal specifically states that the deposit is the client's agreement to the project as outlined in the proposal. Because I work with clients in several countries other than the US, it would be near impossible to collect on a default, signature or not. It isn't even worth my while to try to collect small sums from clients who work out of state so the deposit as acceptance works fine. In 8 years of doing business, I have only had two clients default and although I lost the profit, their deposit paid for most of the time spent on their projects.

    I am not a lawyer and I have never taken a client to court over a project... so would it stand up if I did? I don't know.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown


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