Clients Asking for Design/mockup as Part of the Proposal?

As we all know a sample design or mockup (whatever the client wants to call it) actually takes a lot of work, conceptualization, trial and error, and is actually already a big slice of the whole project. Some clients think it’s simple work that they can ask upfront without guaranteeing they’ll buy it.

How do you deal with this situation? Do you actually sacrifice and risk your time and effort for a chance to win the project? On the other hand, how do you politely say that you don’t do design mockups for free as it takes a ton of work already?

After all, they won’t appreciate a “quick and dirty” mockup and would still expect quality samples. Feel me?

I am a buyer and often ask the seller show me at least a sample of what he had done and many buyers do it too. So you should prepare a mockup or show them your previous designs or work.

If they want examples of your work, show them your portfolio - specifically the work you’ve done most relevant to this particular prospect; include shining testimonials from previous clients.

If they expect a free mock up, explain to them that a mock up takes a lot of time, both in consulting and actual design work - in fact, take that as an opportunity to describe the exact process involved in getting that mockup, showing how it is one of the most integral parts of the project and definitely not something that they could get for free.

Aim to get your clients to value your time and work.

Don’t listen to any rigid answers on this one. If the client is huge, lucrative, prestigious, and interesting then perhaps you could invest some time in winning this job by providing a mockup. However, you can’t do that kind of thing for every client - there’s no time for that.

In general, I would agree with shadowbox’s advice above. However, every now and then I’ll bend over backwards to win new business because it’s especially valuable in some way.

I’ve gotten my biggest clients (not in SEO or web design - I don’t do SEO or web design) by investing my time and money up front. I’m a semi-retired business consultant and I got clients like Motorola, Harley-Davidson, Borg-Warner and others by visiting and planning projects which I would present to them with a project proposal. I spent close to US$7,000 back in 1997 to get a contract that ended up being worth close to US$120K in billings over about 14 months. I have also lost contracts that I was after to another company and thus lost the time and money I put into trying to get the contract. That’s life. Take the expenses off on your taxes and get on with life.

I do agree that client size is an important factor, as is whether or not I even want to work for a specific company in the first place. For “Mom and Pop” businesses, I’d reference my client list and show them a portfolio I made up. But I rarely worked with “Mom and Pop” places because they couldn’t afford me and I knew it, so I’d typically just tell them I was booked up.

Luckily I’m home most of the time these days and loving it! All I have to do is take care of my web sites.

I can only backup what others have said, conceptual mock-up’s do take time and effort (in the same way that an architect designs a house before a builder puts it together), it’s a skill in it’s own right which isn’t as easy as people might suggest. Portfolios are the place for seeing past work, not customised artwork. However depending on the client and what the value of the contract may be, it could be worth doing something for free in order to establish trust with the client, it’s really a close call but it’s up to you which way you go. Just ensure you retain the copyright (and explicit license) of the prototype / mock-up you produce so you won’t end up with a client which has you build a mock-up only for them to take it and go elsewhere to have the work done (which is a risk)! :slight_smile:

If you do this, be sure to have them sign a legal document stating that they cannot use any part of your concept or design without paying for it. Sometimes unscrupulous clients will have you do a mock up and then use it without hiring you.

This is called “spec work” and it’s a pretty heated debate around it. Since I’m very much against actually doing spec work, I think you’ve got two options.

  1. Tell the clients no way and move on to the next potential client.

  2. Education potential client on why you won’t do spec work. The project is about much more than just a quick design, takes proper planning, requires resources be gathered, etc. Show them your previous projects, portfolio, etc instead.

Here are some good reads on Spec Work:

I ask them to give me two sites they like and tell me what they like about it. Otherwise you’re throwing darts in the dark trying to hit a bullseye. Rarely works. GL

If you have a lot of client you can reuse your mockups ?

I’m generally against it, too, but in some cases it works well. It seems to go like this:

  1. Smaller, less experienced clients will sometimes demand to see comps because they think they are getting more for their money and reducing their risk. Instead, they are filtering out the quality providers, most of whom dont want or need to do comps, so they are screwing themselves in the end. This is why MOST clients who ask for comps are not worth the effort.

  2. Medium size companies are usually more experienced and understand that asking for comps with a bid is not well received. These kinds of clients are accustomed to hiring out professional services and are usually easier to work with. These clients are the sweet spot, in many ways.

  3. When you get to the point where you are dealing with very large projects with very established clients who have deep pockets, it may be reasonable to entertain the idea of doing comps. For example, a government/public sector RFP may require comps, but it may also indicate that only 3 vendors are in the running for a $350,000 project. That may just be worth going for!! This is why you should never say ‘never’ about doing comps on spec!

Yeah it can be tough in the beginning when you have to pay people to create stuff that may or may not sell. I bit the bullet and started doing mock-ups for clients that I was getting ready to approach lol, it helps it sell. If it fails, owell you’re out of like 50 bucks, the next project will make up that expense.

Some people who want mocks are not even really serious about getting a site done, and they don’t care that you’re losing money spending hours working on their comp.

This is going to be difficult case always. It is kind of project management and is part and parcel of any proposal. After all client is going to fund and as a stakeholder he/she wants proof of concept or sample art work.
1)Check feasibility of solution to given problem.Does cost is the key instrument to decide the success of proposal.

2)Whenever you jump on to any proposal you need to understand the estimation and schedule. Get the details of timeline of product as per the client expectation.

3)Check whether preparing Mock is going to take up considerable amount of time. Is Client fine with this?

4)Get into agreement ,decide SLA and chances of your proposal acceptance. Also check with client whether he/she currently getting service only from you or anyother vendor or service provider is already there. In such case you must take a stand otherwise you waste your time as client may be in bidding position.

5)If you have already worked with client then your reputation plays important role here.

This is very tricky and sometimes you can’t get away like this and we need to compromise for long customer relationship.

Give them an idea how much time it takes.

Saying no is better to avoid any problem afterwards.

make it the default to get (therefore obviously pay for) pre production work.

a typical small business owner who wants a website, who’s getting one for the first time maybe, is fully aware of and understands the need for production work (in order for them to get a website). that’s tangible and very understandable to anyone. the output of production work is a website. and that’s what they intend to pay you for. that’s the default (at least common) small business owner client’s basic thinking.

an example (a slightly silly one just to make the point) of making it default for your clients to pay for (therefore be aware of its existance and appreciated its value) pre production work:

set up your company as The Really Important Work Before Websites Are Produced Company, with the subheading (We do the production as well). most/all of your marketing would be informing people about what that pre production work is and the value of it to any clients who choose you.

basically this is beley’s point 2, educating the client, but importantly: educating them upfront (and basing your entire business plan/idea on this) not after they contact you asking you to do work. that way people will choose you (or not) for the kind of work you’re offering to do for them, and they’ll base that choice on whether they think what you’re offering has value or not. you can’t expect small inexperienced clients to be aware of intangible work, let alone appreciate the value of it, if you don’t tell them about it.

this is basically the course of action i’m currently planning taking.

interesting article about defaults: