The Client Proposal

Now that the Merdeka fever has toned down a notch, I’m able to catch up on some reading online once again. As much as I’d like to say there’s nothing better than sitting in front of the screen, reading the papers and sipping my hot cuppa latte, it just doesn’t fit.

So cutting right to the chase, I pulled up a few of my favourite reading sources. Digital Web Magazine has matured in style ever since I started reading it, their articles are applauded by me half the time. *applause* This time around, they were discussing request for proposal (RFP) or clients requesting for a proposal.

The author of the article, Nick Gould talks about the few sensitive issues that should be taken into heavy concern when preparing the proposal.

Project Budget
“What is the project’s target budget?” should be your first question. If the client refuses to answer this, go ahead and propose a range and gauge the reaction. I have found that even clients who are not willing to provide a budget will usually react to a proposed budget range that is too high. At a minimum, this will help you determine how much work you are willing to put into your response (given the potential size of the project), or whether you want to respond at all.

This is rather crucial in the Malaysian business world because here, price is everything – especially if you’re freelancing. Clients who aim to hire freelancers are sometimes looking for the ‘best’ price in comparison of the best quality.

Expertise
In other words, designers need to communicate to prospective clients that they understand how this project fits into the client’s overall business, and, more importantly, that they can point to specific connections between their proposed design process (or their background and qualifications) and the factors that will make the project successful.

Another major disconnect occurs when designers assume that clients know how design “happens.”

This is what lacks totally in the business world of web design or web developing. We assume the clients to understand or worst of all, being Malaysians we like pretend to understand the matter at hand. We refuse to show our weaknesses, worrying that either client or freelancer might be stared down like an insect.

“Spec” Creative (Design Mocks)
Many clients expect that vendors who want a project badly enough will do whatever it takes to get it—including spending time and money creating speculative (“spec”) designs that give the client an idea of what they’ll get once they start paying. Designers, on the other hand, can be irritated by having to produce work under less-than-informed circumstances, especially when they have loads of references, case studies and other collateral that illustrates their capabilities. Generally, no vendor should be asked in an RFP to start the design job. But there is a set of goals for both sides that, if adhered to, streamline the process.

This is a grey area as explained because by Nick. Both sides are threaten by the requirements of a proposal. From the clients view, they need to understand that freelancers aren’t machines. You don’t just put a slip of what you want into the freelancer’s mouth and out comes later your ‘great work’. For the designers view, it depends whether or not you want to prepare a design mock.

If you read the article in full, there’s a good and bad side to providing a creative along with the proposal. Over here, freelancers need to be more wary of who they might be dealing with. There have been some cases with clients who accepted a proposal but denied the job and later passing the proposal to a cheaper alternative.

The method I use to try and curb this, compile the proposal into PDF and make sure no alterations could be made to the document.

Process Timeline and Transparency
The best you can do is to be open about your resources as they pertain to the RFP and if something changes before a decision is made, communicate. I am constantly calling prospective clients who are still mulling their decision to update them on our schedule and resource availability. I sometimes get the sense that these calls are interpreted as veiled attempts to force a decision, but I will take this risk in order to avoid the discomforts that can result when a client says “go” without being fully informed of our capacity to go at that precise moment.

Some projects require a development in stages. And one of the problems some freelancers face when dealing with ‘smart’ clients, is that they don’t know how to protect themselves from extensive workload. One solution is to include a note in the Terms & Conditions area discussing the changes awarded to the client. Another method is by making the client sign a kinda black and white agreement after every crucial meeting.

Crucial meetings could be anything to do with planned timeline for stages and work made to a certain project.

The full article by Nick Gould is titled; Call and Response: Handling RFP Tension.

Though these only cover the probable crucial parts of the proposal, there might be additional items worth discussing. These items I honestly can’t say because I myself am still looking into what’s important for a proposal.

Some company’s have a proposal prepared like the size of a PhD’s thesis whilst some only prepare a proposal with 10 pages. I believe we just need to slowly learn as we take each step at a time. There isn’t necessarily a timeline to learning so learning things properly is better than learning only part of it at fast speeds.

My proposals normally only come up to 10 pages maximum. Where does it lack? I’m really sure but I will try to find out from my clients. :)

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2 Responses to “The Client Proposal”

  1. Response #1 by Tien Soon on September 2nd, 2005

    I have found that even clients who are not willing to provide a budget will usually react to a proposed budget range that is too high.

    This is true. Usually, even if the client responded by giving you an expected budget, it’s most probably a below-average figure. They will say “I dont have much budget for this project”, wishing you to keep your quotation at low figure. However, if you’re able to propose a satisfying and convincing solution at resonable price (even if it was higher than their ‘allocated budget’), the client will usually agree to it.

  2. Response #2 by dannyFoo on September 2nd, 2005

    Well, sad to say this, as much as you’d propose over the client’s ‘allocated budget’ there’s normally only so much you can obtain from the allocation. I’m sure everyone would like to save a few bucks for the company, but everyone needs to understand there’s an extent to it.

    It’s like everyone in the world is a conman or something. -.-“


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