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Stop Writing Project Proposals

After several grueling days I had finally finished the proposal. I sent it off and waited for a response. Nothing. After a few weeks, I discovered that they were “just looking”. Despite the urgency and aggressive timeline for the RFP (Request For Proposal) plus the fact that we had done business with this organization before, the project was a no-go. My days of effort were wasted. Not entirely, though, because the pain of that loss was enough to drive me to decide that it wouldn’t happen again.

I work at a Web development company and we’ve experimented with proposal writing a lot over the years. We’ve seen the good and the bad, and we have found something better. In this article I will share the pains that we have experienced in the proposal writing process, the solution we adopted, and our process for carrying out that solution. I’ll also give you guidelines to help you know when this solution is and isn’t appropriate.

Proposal Writing Causes Pain Link

After several years of writing proposals, we began to notice that something wasn’t right. As we considered the problem we noticed varying levels of pain associated with the proposal writing process. We categorized those pains as follows:

  • The Rush
    Getting a proposal done was usually about speed. We were racing against the clock and working hard to deliver the proposal as efficiently and as effectively as possible. However, sometimes corners would get cut. We’d reuse bits and pieces from older proposals, checking and double-checking for any references to the previous project. While the adrenaline helped, the rush gets old because you know that, deep down, it’s not your best work. Besides, you don’t even know if you’re going to close the deal, which leads to the next pain.

  • The Risk
    Our proposal close ratio with clients that came directly to us was high. We’d work hard on the proposals and more often than not, we’d close the deal. The risk was still there, however, and I can think of several proposals that we had spent a lot of time and effort on for a deal that we didn’t get. Not getting the deal isn’t the problem — the problem is going in and investing time and energy in a thorough proposal without knowing if there is even the likelihood that you’re going to close the deal.
  • The Details
    The difference between a project’s success and its failure is in the details. In proposal writing, the details are in the scope. What work is included, what is not, and how tight is the scope? Now, this is where the “rush” and the “risk” play their part. The rush typically causes us to spend less time on details and the “risk” says: “Why spell it all out and do the diligence when you might not even get the project?” A self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps, but a legitimate concern nonetheless. Selling a project without making the details clear is asking for scope creep, and turns what started out as a great project into a learning experience that can last for years.

Now, writing is an important part of the project and I’m not about to say you shouldn’t write. Having a written document ensures that all parties involved are on the same page and completely clear on exactly what will be delivered and how it will be delivered. What I’m saying, though, is that you should stop writing proposals.

Write Evaluations, Not Proposals

Write Evaluations, Not Proposals — And Charge For Them Link

A few years back, we decided to try something new. A potential client approached us and rather than preparing another project proposal, we offered the client what we now call a “Project Evaluation.” We charged them a fixed price for which we promised to evaluate the project, in all of our areas of expertise, and give them our recommendations.

They agreed, paid the price, and we set out to deliver. We put a lot of effort into that evaluation. We were in new territory and we wanted to make sure that we delivered it well. So we finished the report and sent it to them. The client liked it, agreed with our recommendations, and started a contract with us to do the work.

That project became a game changer for us, starting an on-going relationship that opened doors into a new market. It was the process of the evaluation itself that brought the new market potential to our attention, and gave us the opportunity to develop this business model. It was a definite win, and one that a project proposal couldn’t have delivered.

What Is A Project Evaluation? Link

A “Project Evaluation”, as we’ve defined it, is a detailed plan for the work that is to be done on a project, and explains how we do it. We eliminate the guess work, and detail the project out at such a level that the document becomes a living part of the development process, being referred back to and acting as the guide towards the project’s successful completion.

The Benefits Of (Paid) Project Evaluations Link

As we put our proposal writing past behind us and embraced the evaluation process, we noticed a strong number of benefits. The most prominent of those benefits are the following.

  • Qualification Link

    If a client is unwilling or unable to pay for a project evaluation, it can be an indicator that the project isn’t a match. Now, we may not always charge for evaluations (more on that later). We also recognize a deep responsibility on our part to make sure that we have intelligently and carefully explained the process and value of the evaluation. After all that is done, though, you may run into potential clients who just don’t want to pay what you’re charging, and it’s better to find this out right away then after writing a long proposal.

  • Attention to Details Link

    Having the time available to do the research and carefully prepare the recommendations means that we are able to eliminate surprises. While the end result may be a rather large document, the details are well organized and thorough. Those details are valuable to both the client (in making sure they know exactly what they’re getting) and to the development team (in making sure that they know exactly what they’re delivering).

  • No Pricing Surprises Link

    Figuring out all the details and ironing out a complete scope means that we’re able to give a fixed price, without surprises. This gives the client the assurance up front that the price we gave them is the price they’ll pay. In more than a few cases, the time we’ve spent working out the details has eliminated areas of concern and kept our margins focused on profit, not on covering us “just in case.”

  • Testing the Waters Link

    When a potential client says “Yes” to an evaluation, they are making a relatively small commitment — a first step, if you will. Rather than a proposal that prompts them for the down payment to get started on the complete project, the evaluation process gives us time and opportunity to establish a working relationship. In most cases, the process involves a lot of communication which helps the client learn more about how we work, as we learn more about how they work. All this is able to take place without the pressure of a high-budget development project. And by the end of the evaluation, a relationship is formed that plays a major factor in the decision process to move forward.

  • Freedom to Dream Link

    Occasionally, we spend more time on an evaluation than we had initially expected. But knowing how our time is valued has given us the freedom to explore options and make recommendations that we might not have made otherwise. In our experience, the extra time and energy that the context of a paid evaluation provides for a project has consistently brought added value to the project, and contributed to its ultimate success.

Write Evaluations, Not Proposals

The Evaluation Writing Process Link

Over the years we have refined (and continue to refine) a process that works well for us. As you consider the process, look for the principles behind each step, and if you decide to bring this into your business, look for ways to adapt this process and make it your own.

#1 — Do the Research Link

The heart of the evaluation process is the research. If it’s a website redesign project, we read through each and every page on the website. We take notes and thoroughly absorb as much content as possible. Our objective is to get to the heart of the project and gain as much of the organization’s perspective as possible.

If it’s a custom programming project, we try to get inside the project’s concept, challenge it, look for flaws in the logic, research relevant technologies, and work to make recommendations that keep the goals of the project in mind.

We spend time with the client by phone, over Skype, via email, and sometimes even in person. As our research uncovers problems or finds solutions, we run them by the client and gather their feedback.

The research process allows us to go deep, and in our experience it has always paid off, giving us a thorough grasp of the project and providing a foundation to make intelligent, expertise-driven recommendations.

#2 — Offer Recommendations Link

Each project evaluation is different. Depending on the nature of the project we may make recommendations regarding technology, content organization, marketing strategies, or even business processes. The types of recommendations we make have varied greatly from project to project, and are always driven by the context and goals of the project.

When it comes to areas of uncertainty for the client, we work hard to achieve a balance between an absolute recommendation and other options. If the answer is clear to us, we’ll say so and make a single, authoritative recommendation. However, when an answer is less clear, we give the client options to consider (along with our thoughts) on why or why not an option might be a match.

We share our recommendations with the client throughout the evaluation process, and when the final report is given, there are rarely any surprises.

#3 — Prepare the Scope Link

After we’ve worked through our recommendations, we put together a technical scope. This is typically the longest part of the document. In the case of a Web design project, we go through each page of the website, explaining details for the corresponding elements of that page. The level of detail will vary based on the importance of a particular page.

The scope document is detailed in such a way that the client could take it in-house, or even to another developer, and be able to implement our recommendations.

As the project commences, the scope document will often be referred to, and can function as a checklist for how the project is progressing.

#4 — Prepare the Timeline & Estimate Link

With the scope complete, calculating the cost and preparing an estimate becomes a relatively straightforward process. While how one calculates the price may vary, all the information is now available to see the project through from start to finish, identifying the challenges, and determining the amount of resources required to meet the project’s objectives.

Note: Prior to the start of the evaluation process, we nearly always give the potential client a “ball park” estimate. So far, that estimate typically ends up being about ten times the cost of the evaluation.

We take the estimating process very seriously, both in the ball park stage and especially here within the context of an evaluation. Once we set a price down we don’t leave room for “oops!” and “gotchas!”, and that means we are extra careful to calculate as accurately as possible, both for our sake and for the sake of the client.

Now, because of the nature of the evaluation, we are often able to research and explore options above and beyond what the client originally brought to our attention. In the case of a Web application, this might be an added feature or a further enhancement added onto a requested feature. Within the scope of the evaluation we carefully research these extras, and when appropriate, present them as optional “add-ons” within the timeline and estimate.

They are truly optional, and while always recommended by us, we leave the decision up to the client (there’s no use wasting research energy on an add-on you wouldn’t fully recommend). In cases where the budget allows for them, they are nearly always accepted. In cases where a tighter budget is involved, the add-ons are typically set aside for future consideration.

When Evaluations Are Appropriate Link

A project evaluation functions like the blueprints for a new office building. Imagine that I own a successful construction company, and I have a number of world-class office construction projects to my credit. A new client comes to me after seeing some of my work and tells me “I want a building just like that!”. Assuming, of course, that I own the rights to the building, I can say “Sure!” and tell them how much it will cost. Why? The blueprints have already been drawn.

Now, there will be variable factors, such as where they choose to have the building built, and any customizations they may request matter. But in most cases no new blueprints will be needed, and I can proceed with construction without charging them for the plans.

Suppose another client comes to me after seeing one of my buildings and asks me to build an entirely new design for them. A new design calls for new blueprints all of their own, and these must be developed before the project begins. Can you imagine a large-scale construction project without any blueprints?

Web development is the same way. In our experience, evaluations are appropriate when a client comes to us and asks us to take on a project outside of our existing set of “blueprints”. Examples where we’ve found a project evaluation necessary include:

  • A redesign of an existing website.
  • Developing a new Web application.
  • Bringing new technology into an existing project.

Without an evaluation you’re either left to go ahead and do the research on your own (with the weight of the rush, and the risk on your shoulders) or you’re stuck making as educated a guess as possible for the scope of the project. This dangerous guessing in a situation where an evaluation is appropriate can leave you with an estimate that is too high (which can mean losing the project) or even worse, an estimate that is too low.

When Evaluations Are Not Appropriate Link

When a project is familiar, and doesn’t require an evaluation (or fits within the scope of an existing type of evaluation), we give an informal, direct estimate along with a scope of the work. Small to mid-sized Web design projects typically fall into this category. While the content and design are new, the process isn’t. The key here is the experience and confidence in your abilities (and the abilities of your team) that the work will get done within budget to the expected delight of all parties involved.

Conclusion Link

Project evaluations up until now haven’t been given much attention. I would suggest it is a simple concept that has been overlooked and passed by amidst the rush of a booming Web development industry. I invite you to implement the process, experience the benefits, and stop the pain of proposal writing.

I thank you, dear reader, for your time in considering this concept. And I thank you in advance for your feedback.

(jvb) (il)

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Jonathan Wold is the husband of a beautiful redhead named Joslyn and the father of a baby boy named Jaiden. He works at Sabramedia, a web design and development company that specializes in WordPress powered media sites. He is also a core developer and evangelist for Newsroom, a newspaper paywall and CMS built for the newspaper industry.

  1. 1

    Certainly a very nice read but I’m wondering how much time you spend on the evalutation? (Did I miss it?) It could take several days, I guess. And does your client actually pay maybe a thousand Euro for this?

    • 2

      I was wondering the same thing, I think most of our clients would not agree with paying for something like that. I suppose it also depends on the scale of you clients.

      • 3

        Are we talking about website projects? So what takes several days? I spend 2 hours on project proposal which includes prices and an idea of what client gets and I have never asked for more money than the scope planned. Sorry but I don’t get it, how could you make project proposal for few days and still get the prices wrong. Oh, one more thing, I am not getting ANY rejections. Maybe the problem is that you charge too much or simply overdo whole process. And in case anybody wonders, I don’t charge 10€for a website neither…

        • 4

          Have you got a website link? Interested to see how you do it..

        • 6

          I’m going to venture a guess that none of the sites you build take more than a week or two to build. I’m currently one member of a team on a 7 month project. It took 4 months just to get the contract negotiations worked out. My studio just came off a 14 month project. It takes more than 2 hours just to READ some of the RFPs I’ve answered. Before trolling, maybe consider that some people here are working on projects much bigger than what you’re used to, and maybe you’re not the intended audience of the article.

    • 7

      The time actually spent on the evaluation will vary depending on the size and scale of the project. In our experience, an average project evaluation takes between 15-25 hours and is typically delivered within 2 weeks.

  2. 8

    Seldom do I read an article where I feel the author has been inside my head, looking with my eyes and seeing my thoughts.

    I have spent enough of my life writing project proposals. A year back, I embarked on writing a proposal for a big governmental organization. Their sites have to comply with a heap of local and international standards, and I spent a week writing a comprehensive case study/proposal.

    We didn’t get the project. The reply was surprising though: “Of all (11) proposals, yours was the most comprehensive and detailed.”

    So why didn’t we get the project? They thought we were too small a company and not experienced enough in the area of governmental organizations. So even though they actually contacted us for a proposal they ended up choosing someone bigger. What if I knew that before I spent a week writing and researching? Or what if they paid for the work?

    I like Jonathan’s approach a lot. Thanks for the wisdom shared.

    • 9

      I often get the “you’re too small” argument, which is just utter bs. You’d be surprised how many of the larger agencies simply hire “too small” freelancers to do the job they were hired for in the first place.

      • 10

        Yea, that’s a good point. Also, small companies tend to biggify themselves to appear more important. But I believe a small company should emphasize the benefits of their size (agility, no bureaucracy, what more).

        • 11

          I also Argue that as we are a small compagny, we have really low “operation costs”: we have no secretary, small offices, etc… : a high ratio of the budget will be spent in labor.

          Sorry about my awfull english.

      • 12

        The thing about “too small” isn’t so much that you’re smaller than the team that would be working on the project. It’s that you may not be able to demonstrate the stability of a larger company. If the project goes off the rails, a larger firm may be able to bring more resources to bear to get it back on track without risking going out of business in the process. Last year we took over a project that had spun out of control. The initial shop was something like 8-10 people, not big by any means, but had come highly recommended to the client. But soon after we took over the project, they went out of business. I’m not certain, but I think the financial hit that the loss of the project caused ended up putting them under. A large firm will (theoretically) have deeper pockets and be able to complete a project at a loss if necessary to satisfy a contract.

    • 13

      I agree totally, Simon. Too often, I find companies are forced to get 3 bids, but already have a favorite. I recently spent a week working on a comprehensive proposal with a PowerPoint presentation, and gave them many ideas that they had not considered, only to be told that they were going to use their existing developer. So, I LOVE this idea for large jobs.

    • 14

      Yes likewise and I think the idea of charging for a “project evaluation” is brilliant and is just the breath of fresh air I needed at this point to sort the genuine clients from the rest.
      Thanks for the great solution.

  3. 15

    Ricardo Machado

    February 17, 2012 12:44 pm

    Well we, at NorteSul, made ‘proposal models’ for the different market targets that we’ve defined.
    So, it doesn’t take ‘days’ to make proposals… Few projects need a really detailed proposal.

    Beyond that, a proposal is an ‘intro’ to a contract… or at least it should be…. But that’s just our way of thinking.

    Still, good article, in certain cases I may apply the ‘project evaluation’ concept :)

    Keep rockin’.

  4. 16

    Thanks Jonathan. This is a great share. I have seen written evaluations from other firms and always wanted an approach and set of guidelines to use when deciding to offer this approach. While many of our projects would not qualify, we certainly have had plenty that would. I also like that you gave some pricing guidance as well. We have always thought that our SOWs were strong and thorough but many times we do a great deal of work in research and planning with no way to recoup. Do you have any baseline examples of the structure that you use?

    • 17

      You’re welcome, Steve, and thank you for the feedback! At the moment I don’t have any examples that I can publicly share.

      • 18

        Almost all of us are wondering about any examples that you could show..
        Maybe if you change for other unreal names and change/remove all your layout..
        just to show us an real example.

        I have one more question.. before, or on cases wich dont need an Evaluation, what you used to send? Something like an invoice?

        Thanks! =)

      • 19

        Awesome article! Thank you! Do you think you might be able to post an example any time in the near future?

  5. 20

    Thanks for this article Jonathan, excellent read.

    Would you consider including an Evaluation sample document for those of us who has never seen one?

    • 21

      That is a good idea. An example would be really cool

      • 22

        Ed Gould (@MarcommCreative)

        February 17, 2012 1:45 pm

        haha yes please can we get a copy too? sure will save lots of time ; )

        Great comments about age old problem – as ever if only all the agencies and provider could stand together and agree to charge for evaluations and pitches then we woudl all be better off.

        I am up for it , anyone else?

      • 23

        I would love that as well!
        Great article by the way.

    • 24

      Yes, I am agree.
      Please, give us an example of this document!
      Thanks in advance!

    • 25

      I would also appreciate a copy of the evaluation sample as well. It sounds very interesting.

    • 26

      Thank you for your feedback, Seba! I have considered it and, unfortunately, I don’t have any examples that I can publicly share. Depending on interest, I may consider making an example public in the future.

      • 27

        I’m looking forward to it. It will be extremely helpful. Great article by the way!

      • 28

        @Jonathan You can provide an actual Evaluation document after removing clients information (or adding factitious info). It would be a great help for all of us. Btw, thanks for the great article.

  6. 29

    Nice article and already have a good question. Jonathan Wold how much time would you consider worth, for a project evaluation? What about money?

    • 30

      I’m sorry Andreas, I didn’t understand your question. Are you asking how much time I’m willing to dedicate to a project evaluation? If so, that depends on the size and scale of the project and, as far as money goes, we charge for the evaluation based on the amount of time and effort that we estimate will be needed to complete the evaluation.

  7. 31

    Guillaume Moigneu

    February 17, 2012 1:10 pm

    Thansk Jonathan for your article. While I agree with the whole idea/concept, I’m a bit confused on the differences between a proposal and an evaluation. Documents I write for my clients, which I consider to be proposals, contains all the project scope (structure, all screens mockups) and a detailed estimate for each task to be done.

    Gentlemen, what are you including in your proposal ?

    • 32

      Guillaume, if doing all the research and preparing mockups etc is a process that’s working for you, excellent! In our experience, the evaluation process helps us qualify the client. There are, assuredly, other ways to do this and, in a case where you’ve fully qualified a client and you are sure of their interest, a full scale project proposal may be the ticket. If you haven’t fully qualified the client, though, you can end up spending a lot of time on a project that just wasn’t a match. Our answer for that problem is the project evaluation.

  8. 33

    great post and comments. I’ve also lived same situations several times. In fact, right now I’m working on two project proposals like those you mention.
    And I’ve been in Simon’s situation also.

    I whish I could do that. I’ve been always camplaining about not being paid for all the job done.

    But, how many “opportunities” / “potential works” have you lost by working this way?
    Specially nowadays, that are many companies dying for a new lead, or pulling down prices.

    • 34

      Ignacio – We have lost potential clients because of the evaluation process. Our goal, though, is to make sure that we have explained it so well and given our clients confidence in the value of the process that the only potential clients we lose are those that would not have been a match for us anyway. Not all clients are created equal and winning every project that comes your way will end up hurting you at some point.

      • 35

        “Not all clients are created equal and winning every project that comes your way will end up hurting you at some point.”
        This is in my opinion the main idea behind this great article. I created my web development company 8 years ago and 3 days ago I found something “new” to make sure to include in the next contract we make with a client – we definitely did not match, the experience was exhausting because the client was rude, overstressed and didn’t want to listen to our opinions but still expected us to do all the thinking. In the end, we spent 3 weeks working for a client who will never pay for that work and left a team totally exhausted and disappointed.
        A project evaluation would have surely avoided this. At the very least, it is useful as a “client match evaluation”
        I agree that this is only applicable to large projects, though.
        Congratulations on this great article!

  9. 36

    Thanks for the share and some great information here. Many large and very serious consulting companies will recommend and charge for an evaluation or a requirements study – depending on how many consultants they have on the “bench”

  10. 37

    They should include a “Buy a Beer” for the author function on this website, this is by far the best article on Smashing Magazine that I’ve read. Cudos to you sir, now back to my code.

  11. 38

    This is exactly the strategy we’ve shifted to within the last 4 months. Writing a Statement of Work or Proposal was pulling us away from billable work, and when the job wasn’t won–well you can’t get those hours back. My question is how have your clients responded to your offer of an evaluation? We’ve had some act incredulous at the offer, which speaks to the disconnect business people often have with what it takes to develop software solutions. We take the time to explain the complexities of development work and why determining a scope takes a long time, but the initial reaction is like a bad first impression. How do you overcome that?

    • 39

      Karen, thank you for stopping by! In our experience, overcoming the hesitation has been fairly straight forward. We explain to clients that this is simply “the next step” and we explain what will take place over the course of the evaluation. We focus on the value and on building the connection to the client. In cases where clients, especially large clients used to getting lots of proposals from companies fighting their business, show resistance it has taken patience and persistance. If they ultimately decide to walk away, we do accept the risk of losing out on a great client – so far, though, the risks outweigh the rewards. For the clients that we’ve “lost”, we have gained many more and for those that walk away it is better to discover compatibility early in the relationship rather than later.

    • 40

      hasan sahoglu

      May 11, 2012 6:19 pm

      you could potentially tell your client to deduct the cost of the evaluation from the total if they decide to work with you?

  12. 41

    How come there is no button for Emailing or Sharing an article. No Facebook Share either?

    And the Share on Twitter link isn’t very visible either. I had to search through the page for it.

  13. 42

    Thank you for this great article.

    I was playing with same ideas, your article is a confirmation I was thinking in the right direction. It is really so much easier if you have a ‘blueprint’ of an webapp and then just follow it. But like you mentioned, this approach is not for every client.

  14. 43

    Geoffrey Fortier

    February 17, 2012 3:09 pm

    Well this was certainly more eye-opening than the cup of coffee currently sitting in front of me. I’ve done what I consider to be thorough, comprehensive and fair proposals only to have to “eat” those hours when a client turned out to be just idly fishing or otherwise not really seriously committed to the project. Alternately, I’ve been hired to do assessment of sites, making recommendation or validating work/quotes by other companies. In the case of the later, the amount of time and effort was similar, and in each assessment my client was delighted at the findings (both good and bad) and the value of the work I performed. This article brought those two stream together in my head and made me realize that there just might be some common ground between proposal (evaluation) and assessment. It also makes me realize that the sort of proposal necessary for most of my type of work are essentially “spec work”, something I feel you should never do.

  15. 44

    This is fantastic! I’ve recently gone through the vetting/proposal process (I wrote about my experience) and it’s not fun from the client side either. What you are describing here sounds like an amazing alternative to an uncomfortable experience.

    • 45

      Janessa, thank you for sharing your thoughts! It would be interesting to get more feedback from the client perspective. We have a relatively limited experience there, judging our client’s satisfaction with the evaluation process by whether or not they proceed forward with our recommendations. Thus far, our ratio has been 100%, excepting a case where the client took our recommendations in-house and another where our recommendations were that the project not be developed.

  16. 46

    big red flag at “we are able to eliminate surprises.” This is wishful thinking on a project of any size. The cone of uncertainty can’t be eliminated no matter how much time you spend googling and reading whitepapers and making bullet points and wireframes. The idea of getting clients to pay for useful competitive research and consulting/strategizing is good (not exactly a new idea, but good when appropriate). But on the day actual development starts, you have basically locked yourself into an even stricter waterfall model and you will be keeping your fingers crossed that everything goes according to your Gantt charts and “blueprints”.

    • 47

      Hi Sam,
      That’s exactly my concern – you still need wiggle room – there’s always things that crop up. How do you handle that?


    • 48

      The underlying message is that the temptation to “overlook” details in a proposal is greater when working in unpaid time with no certainty of winning the project. Because a paid proposal developer feels more comfortable developing a thorough evaluation, the scope will be harder to deviate from. If the project is awarded and the client wishes to stray from the clearly communicated and developed scope, it is much easier to catch overall project value increases and charge accordingly.

  17. 49

    Not only can I agree with this concept, but have seen it affects. My boss was always asking for meat in proposals, but balance of time and content always became the source of pain. I found after creating several proposals that spent more content dedicated to evaluation they opened up stronger communication when you provide expertise on week points. Charging for it is more a commitment than a profit source. Agree with the comments above why waste time when the money or the choice is not there.

  18. 50

    depends upon time i agree with these points

  19. 51

    I do like the concept of the “evaluation” as opposed to the “proposal”. The biggest difference I see is that you are getting paid for a more thorough evaluation that gives you further confidence in working with that client.

    I believe that this is appropriate for just about any business, small or large. From my experience, it’s difficult to write up a proposal for a client whose business and expectations aren’t clearly defined. You wind up estimating a project only to find out that it wasn’t estimated properly because there wasn’t enough Q&A, research, etc… With a paid evaluation, that includes a discovery phase that is well worth the time for both you and the client. Knowing that you are getting paid for that time and effort, leads to better quality work. Surprises may happen regardless, however this approach I believe will help to keep them less frequent.

  20. 52

    What a thought provoking article!

    This is something I’ve been mulling for years because the phone rings and the voice down the other end says “how much does a website cost?” and you have to respond with some kind of answer (even if that is explaining your process).

    I’ve tried to set out some packaged services where the client can serve themselves – the constraints are defined so I am sure I won’t get my if gets burnt.

    If the packages are not appropriate and we are in proper bespoke/app territory then a different kind of response is required.

    With me I make a difference between “proposal” and “discovery stage” where the proposal is unbilled, time sensitive and full of caveats. The discovery phase is a fuller, billed specification process where you can do things like look outside the brief.

    My blog post about it is here:
    Trying to give the client accurate quotes for the best possible solution (rather than *just* what they were asking for) whilst, at the same time, trying to make sure we don’t get left doing more for less is an ongoing battle.



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