In this post I’ll address some of the challenges web designers face when trying to sell their services, and offer some solutions that you can implement in your own business.

For practical tips on actual strategies for pricing your web design proposals, click here.

Part 1 – Challenges and Solutions

Why are you so afraid to charge more for your web design services?

One of the main reasons why web designers don’t charge more for their services is because they’re afraid of getting a no and losing the potential client.

There are lots of different reasons for this fear.

Different reasons might be valid for different people.

The common denominator of them all is that these fears are standing between you and higher paying web design projects.

If you can overcome your fear, you’ve got a darn good chance of getting higher paying web design projects, and making more money.

 

challenges of pricing web design proposal

 

Challenge: Desperation

This is probably the toughest challenge out there, which is why I’m tackling it right off the bat. If you desperately need money NOW to pay rent, buy food, pay your mortgage, buy diapers (you get the idea), then you will be terrified of losing any potential web design work, and you’ll be willing to work for much less than you would under less stressful circumstances.

Solution

I hear you brother!

I’ve been in that situation myself and I feel your pain. So let me be very clear — if you desperately need money, then by all means take any web design gig you can get to get some cash to pay your bills.

But just because you are willing to take anything does NOT mean you cannot ask for the amount you actually want — particularly if you have built some sort of relationship with the potential client or can negotiate during a meeting.

In cases where you are simply sending out a web design price quote that will be thrown in a basket with a bunch of other quotes, then you probably will want to present your lowest price right off the bat and hope that you win the race to the bottom.

But if you have some sort of relationship with the client, and can present your web design proposal in a “face to face” meeting (in-person, video, phone), then you have the opportunity of presenting an initial price and seeing the client’s reaction.

If the client doesn’t push back on your initial price then you’ve scored a big one. But if you get some push back you can negotiate by either adding value or discounting your price.

Don’t be afraid that the client will never want to speak to you again just because you quoted them a reasonable price that they felt was too high. That’s how business works. People bargain and negotiate on pricing.

On the contrary, the fact that you initially quoted a higher price might give you more credibility and make you seem more valuable in the client’s eyes and give you more negotiating leverage.

In addition, everyone loves a discount, especially if they gained that discount through bargaining. So the client might feel like he’s getting a better deal by getting a discount off of your original price than if you gave him the same discounted price right off the bat.

Another benefit of negotiating is that you can move your web design pricing down in steps. For example, if your final price is $2,000 and your initial quote is $10,000, you can first drop to $8,000 and see what happens, then drop to $5,000…$3,000…until you hit your bottom. So you’ve given yourself another 4 possible price points that the client might accept before you hit your rock bottom price.

Note: When discounting your web design pricing just remember that just because a client is paying you next to nothing does not mean that they will not take up as much, or more, of your time than a client paying full price.

Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to ask for your ideal price and then negotiate down, if you have the opportunity.

Challenge: Insecurity

Some freelancers are insecure about their ability to get the work done. It could be that the web design project is bigger than they think they can handle or that it includes certain requirements that they don’t think they can execute.

This problem usually affects web designers who haven’t done many projects or who have done very basic sites and now are trying to land larger, more complex, website projects.

Solution

The first thing to realize is that everyone in the web design and digital marketing industry is constantly learning, or at least should be. That’s because the tools, platforms, capabilities and standards of the industry are constantly evolving and improving.

In this business, years of experience carries much less weight than in other, more traditional, industries. On the contrary, too much experience with tools and platforms that have given way to newer technologies can be a major negative when competing against newer competitors who use newer “cutting edge” technologies.

The best way to conquer your feelings of insecurity is to keep learning new web design tools and techniques. Set aside some time on a regular basis for professional development and stay on top of the “cutting edge” technologies in the industry.

If your feelings of insecure stem from a lack of web design projects in your portfolio, then start building websites for yourself. Clients want to see the work that you’ve done so that they can be confident that you’ll be able to complete their project. They don’t care who you built the site for. They want to see the finished product.

Buy some domain names and create some websites that you can then feature on your portfolio page. Your potential client is not going to research who you built the website for. They just want to see the sites. So build them.

What if you’re feeling insecure about taking on a project that might be too much for you to handle or that includes some requirements that you don’t know how to get done?

Not a problem. You can always outsource parts of your project (or even the entire project). Finding web design freelancers to outsource too has its own challenges, but with a little effort and due diligence you can find the right help.

If you are going to outsource some or all of your web design project, just make sure you price the project accordingly. The last thing you want is to price the project too low and then end up with no profit after paying your freelancers.

You can always get someone to do the work for you. The challenge is getting the client at the right price.

If you’re good at closing the deals, you might never have to actually do the work again — if you don’t want to. But if you’re reading this I’m assuming that getting too many good paying projects is not your problem :)

The truth about insecurity is that it’s a feeling that you impose on yourself. No one can make you feel insecure, if you aren’t. You alone control your feelings. So if you don’t want to feel insecure…then just don’t.

Yeah, I know that sounds simpler than it really is, and I agree. But I’ve seen the stupidest, untalented, guys close deals (and outsource the work) just because they portrayed confidence to their potential clients. Not having the experience or skills to do the job did not make them feel insecure and stop them from getting the work.

Bottom Line: Don’t let insecurity cripple you. Control your feelings. And remember that you can always outsource web design work.

Challenge: Web Design Competition

Let’s face it. Building a website is not rocket science.

Sure, there’s a huge difference between a website built by a professional web designer with years of experience and a newbee who’s built a few Wix sites.

But the fact remains that a fast learner with a bit of an eye for design can build a site on Wix or Squarespace that will satisfy lots of small business clients who aren’t too picky and just want something done quickly and inexpensively.

And the truth is, that if a client can get something that she’s satisfied with for cheap, then they should.

So, if you’re targeting clients that don’t have money and don’t care that much about the look of their website, then you will be competing in a race for the bottom with a ton of people, local and offshore, that will do the job really cheap.

It doesn’t get any less competitive if you’re shooting for clients with bigger budgets and higher quality standards. There’s a ton of competition at just about every level of the web design pricing ladder.

Yes, as you move up the ladder the competition thins out significantly, but there will always be competitors for you to beat out for work.

The first instinct for most web designers when faced with competition is to try to present the lowest price.

And that’s the problem.

Solution

You should not put yourself in the position where you are competing solely based on price.

That usually means that you’ll need to give up chasing the kind of clients that I described before — those with no budget, looking for the cheapest solution.

Unless you’re willing to work for cheap (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that if you need to pay the bills), you have to develop some way of qualifying web design clients before pitching them.

Take this posting for example:

“Looking for someone to build simple business website. Could be college or high school student.”

You’re a web designer and you see this posting in your local community newsletter. You’re thinking, “Ok, they want to build a business website. That’s what I do. I should contact them asap.”

Now, if you want to shoot them an email and roll the dice, I’m not going to stop you. But just be aware of the signals that they’ve been nice enough to send you.

The first clue is “simple”, which you should read as “cheap”. They’re telling you that they don’t need someone who has a lot of experience or skills, because they just want something “simple”. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, they go on to inform you that they want something so “simple” that even a “college or high school student” can do in their spare time.

I see these types of postings all the time, and at first I would respond to them, until I finally got the message. Now, if it’s someone you know and you want to help them out, then by all means do so. I have. But if you are looking for projects that price in the thousands $$$, then you should move on.

Again, I don’t want to dissuade anyone from going after any type of web design business to pay their bills, but the purpose of this guide is to help you get higher priced projects and make more money.

Also, trying to make money from clients that simply have non (or at least not for a website), is draining and demoralizing. It can really get you down and shake your confidence, which is the last thing you need.

Now that I’ve moved you away from chasing clients with no budget, you’re still going to have to deal with web design competition. The main way to do that is by differentiating yourself.

There are several ways to differentiate yourself from the competition:

Niche Expertise
As the saying goes, “the riches are in the niches”. If you can present yourself as the expert in a specific niche, you will usually beat out competitors who are generalists. You’ll also be able to charge a premium, because you’ve removed the competition.

The exact playbook of how to find and position yourself as an expert in a specific web design niche is beyond the scope of this guide, and there’s no shortage of content out there on the subject.

If you can pull this off and position yourself as a niche expert, you’ll be able to beat the competition and charge a premium in that niche.

Service
Most clients appreciate good customer service. Some will pay a premium for it. These are the greatest clients to work with, because they are willing to pay a lot more as long as you can take away their pain so that they can focus on their core business. If you keep them happy and untroubled, they will pay whatever it takes.

Speed is also a factor that some clients will pay extra for, if they have a deadline to meet.

If you can offer better service, you can put yourself above competitors and charge a premium.

Location
Some clients want to work with a local web design company. They want to meet face to face and be able to know that they can get a hold of you when needed. By focusing on clients in your local area, you can use your location as an advantage over competitors.

Portfolio
Of course, being able to blow them away with your web design work is a competitive advantage, if you can do it.

Relationship
This is probably the most important one on the list. People do business with people. They value working with people that they can trust and depend on.

Developing a relationship with a potential client will give you an advantage over competitors that don’t have that relationship. While price might still be a factor in the client’s decision, a small price difference will usually be trumped by the value of the relationship.

Bottom Line: Qualify your clients to avoid those looking for the cheapest option, and differentiate yourself from the web design competition.

competition pricing

Challenge: Client Perception of Web Design

Some clients who have never done a website project are often under the impression that website design is cheap.

They’ve heard from friends and random people (who are also clueless) that websites can be built for a few hundred dollars by high school students or by offshore freelancers.

The fact that they have no idea how to find these folks is besides the point. But they know that they exist and, therefore, they are under the impression that professional web design is super cheap.

When you quote them your price, they look at you as if you’re out of your mind. They’re like, “WTF — there’s no way in hell that I’d pay $5k for a website!”

Solution

The solution to the “false perception” problem is the same as the one I suggested for the “Competition” problem.

You need to qualify your potential clients to avoid those who think that web design shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred bucks.

Once you’ve broken out above the lowest level client pool, you find that clients will have much more realistic expectations regarding web design pricing.

There still might be some sticker shock, but you’ll deal with that by differentiating yourself (as we discussed above) and by highlighting your value (as we’ll discuss later on).

Challenge: DIY Web Design

Since we just discussed pricing perception, it’s only natural that we mention DIY.

There are some great tools for DIY website building. Some of them, like Wix and Squarespace are targeted towards small businesses.

Clients without, or with very small, budgets will try to use these DIY web design services. While it’s possible to come out with a nice product, the overwhelming majority of DIYers will end up with a mediocre site at best. More often, the site will be horrible.

But it’s only $10!!

Solution

You shouldn’t compete with DIY sites. The clients that choose to use them are NOT your target. If they fail at their DIY efforts and realize they need to pay a professional, then you can take your crack at them. Until then don’t waste your time.

Bottom Line: Real companies that pay reasonable prices do not use DIY tools to build their websites. Don’t waste your time with companies that do.

Challenge: Lack of Urgency

Many businesses don’t need websites to survive. They understand that in today’s day and age a business needs to have a good online presence, but they aren’t pressured to make that happen.

This is especially true of traditional, “old school” businesses. For example, a manufacturing company that produces machines that they sell to other companies doesn’t need a website to make sales. They’ll never sell anything online.

So although a good website will enhance their image and get them a bit more exposure, it probably won’t make a significant difference in their income statement.

When there’s no urgency, clients tend to move slowly and look at lots of different options and solutions. They might eventually end up paying a premium for their website to the company that has built a relationship with them.

Or they might go with the cheapest option.

Solution

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to inject urgency into a client that doesn’t naturally have it. The best you can do is try to build a relationship and nurture them until they finally are ready to pull the trigger and accept your web design proposal.

Challenge: Budget for Web Design

Finally, the greatest challenge to pricing a web design proposal is client budget, or lack thereof.

There isn’t anything more to explain about this one. It’s pretty clear.

No budget = No $$$ for you

Solution:

When faced with a client who has insufficient budget, here are your options:

Pass on the project.
If you can afford to do that, it’s probably the right choice in most cases.

Discount your price.
While this is usually not the preferred option, it could be the right one if you think there’s potential for more work from the client down the road. In that case it’s worth getting your foot in the door and doing the project at a discount, because, assuming you do a good job, you’re guaranteed to get the additional web design work.

In other words, look at the lifetime value of the client instead of just this one specific job. You might end up making more money in the long run by discounting initially to get the client for the long term.

Here’s a real life example of this:I once met with a prospective client who needed a simple WordPress site built in a rush. Time was “of the essence”. The site was only a few pages and they had all the content they would need ready, so I new it wouldn’t take be more than possibly ten hours, including all the client “back and forth” and approval. I told them that I usually don’t do sites for less than 10k, and certainly nothing for less than 5k.

This was a face to face meeting at their offices, and I could see on the client’s face that she was probably not going to go that high and that she’d probably shop around for a better deal.I did not want to lose the client because I could see that there would be more work coming down the pipeline in the future.

So I told her that since it was a rush job and I wanted to work with them I’d do it at the discounted price of $4,000.They accepted.I executed the project quickly and to their satisfaction.

Over the next couple of years I got another $10,000 of web design work from them, and they continue to come back to me whenever they need anything related to digital marketing.

Offer payment options.
If the client is just starting out in business, you can offer to break your fee up into smaller payments, as long as you keep control over the site so that you retain leverage to make sure he pays the entire fee.

Or you can offer to let the client pay by credit card instead of check, which makes it easier for them to pay off in small sums while you get your money (minus the cc fee).

Offering creative payment options instead of discounting is my favorite :)

Bottom Line: Discounting is ok when the lifetime value of the client justifies it. Offering creative payment options is even better.

discounting projects

Conclusion

I hope this post has addressed some of the challenges you face when trying to price your web design services, and offered you solutions that you can implement immediately.

If you want actual pricing tactics and strategies for pricing your web design proposals, you can read about them here. 

To try Propfire for FREE for 14 days click here.

write business proposal

Writing a business proposal can be stressful for consultants, freelancers and agencies, whose livelihoods depend on pitching projects and services to clients and closing deals. That’s why it always surprises me how many of these professionals are clueless regarding how to write an effective proposal.

What is a business proposal?

A business proposal is a document you present to a potential client that specifies the services or work you will provide along with a time estimate and price.

Business proposals are usually written documents, but they can also be presented in video form. It doesn’t really matter how your business proposal is presented, as long as your offer is clear and the client understands and accepts it.

But for the purposes of this post we’re going to focus exclusively on written business proposals.

Components of a Business Proposal

What are the different components of a business proposal template?

There are other components you can add to your business proposal if you feel the need, such as an about us section. Some people recommend adding social proof too.

The reason I haven’t included these two elements in our list is because, as I indicated before, you should ideally be presenting your business proposal to a client who you’ve already met with at least once and who knows who you are (even if it’s just from your website and social profiles).

In that case, it’s superfluous to include an “about us” section or social proof to someone who already knows that information. And if you feel compelled to add those elements, then you probably haven’t done your prerequisite work, and you’re just sending a “cold” proposal — which is NOT what you want to be doing if you’re looking to actually win business.

Cover Page

The cover page of your business proposal should contain your company name and contact info, your proposal title, your client’s name and the proposal date.

The truth is that you can present a business proposal without a dedicated cover page and simply include the cover information on the first page of your proposal. But having a cover page makes the proposal look more professional, which is always a good thing.

You can also add a background image to your cover, or not add one. It’s really a matter of taste. I’ve done successful business proposals both ways. On Propfire, we provide business proposal templates with cover images, but we also give users the option to create a cover without a background image.

If your business proposal will primarily be viewed online, including a background image could add an attractive design touch. If your proposal will be exclusively viewed as a printed document, then printing a full color background image might end up being more of a pain than it’s worth.

Objective

The objective section of your business proposal is where you summarize the solution you will be providing the client. You preferably want to frame that solution to reflect the benefit that the client will be receiving.

For example, if you are presenting a digital marketing proposal, your objective could be, “to increase client’s revenue by driving more traffic to the client’s website and converting that traffic into qualified prospects using digital marketing strategies including SEO, PPC and Social Media marketing.”

In this example you’ve stated the benefit you’ll be providing, and how you’ll achieve that objective.

Your objective section should be as brief and concise as possible, so that you don’t end up losing the client’s attention before he gets to the important parts of your proposal.

People have VERY short attention spans. Writing a page long analysis of the client’s business and including general statistics and graphs, might seem super corporate and “professional” — but the reality is that the client is looking for a service provider to solve a problem that he knows he has.

There will be plenty of time to provide strategic business consulting solutions down the road, once you’ve already been hired. You business proposal is not the place for that.

What you want to do is provide the client with the most concise presentation of what you are offering to provide, so that he can quickly digest it and accept it. Your objective could be as short as one or two sentences, but should not be longer than 2 paragraphs.

It really depends on the service your offering and the expectations of the client your pitching to. A smaller client might be happy with reading just a sentence or 2, while a large, Fortune 500, company might be expecting a longer objective section — just because it’s what they’re used to.

Scope of Services

The Scope of Services section of your business proposal clearly states the deliverables or services that you will provide for the client. It can either be in paragraph form or in a bulleted list. Bullets keep it concise and easier for the client to read.

You’ve already most likely discussed these services and deliverables with the client at a meeting or on a call. This is just a summary. You want the client to able to easily figure out what you’re offering so that he can make a quick decision. The more concise and structured, the easier you’ll make that happen.

Here’s an example of the Scope of Services section of a web design proposal:

    • Map out the page structure and architecture of the website.
    • Provide client with recommendations of content that should be created for website.
    • Create a user-friendly navigational structure that allows users to easily access the specific content they are seeking.
    • Create visual design that enhances and conveys the client’s brand and messaging, and that presents the website content in a visually appealing manner to increase its effectiveness.
    • Create fully responsive visual design to assure that website looks great on all devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.
    • Provide all stock images needed for the website design and optimize images provided by client.
    • Implement basic SEO best practices for each page.
    • Add capability to follow client on social media.
    • Install and configure the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) that will allow client to easily update and make changes to the website.
    • Optimize website for speed, to assure that all pages download quickly.
    • Install and configure security software to protect website from hacking and maleware attacks.
    • Launch website on hosting platform chosen by client.
    • Provide post launch support to troubleshoot problems directly related to the development of the website.
    • Train client in how to use content management system to add, modify or delete website content and how to maintain website.

Your Process

In this section you should explain your process, explaining how you will work the client to get the project done from start to finish. This can also be in paragraph or list form, but I recommend using a bulleted list, to make it easy for the client to read and digest.

Here’s a process section example from a PPC Proposal:

Our goal is to make the process of working together as smooth and seamless as possible.

  • Once we enter into a formal agreement, we schedule a discovery meeting to fully understand our client’s objectives and requirements. We will then create a project plan, and schedule additional discovery meetings if needed.
  • Based on our discovery, we will conduct all of our research and analysis, as described in the Scope of Services, and create a comprehensive PPC marketing plan.
  • Upon client approval of the marketing plan, we will implement the plan.
  • We will be in regular contact with the client to obtain any information required to perform our work and to answer any questions the client has.

In addition to informing the client of your process, it also sets clear guidelines for the client to follow if he decides to work with you. It also communicates what you expect of a client with whom you work, which can prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications down the road.

Project Timeframe

This one is pretty self explanatory. Give the client a timeframe that you a comfortable with sticking to.

And then finish ahead of schedule!!

Business Proposal Pricing

Here’s where you get to tell the client how much they’ll need to pay for the privilege of having you work for them.

You should ideally try to give the client 3 pricing options, each one providing more services. Research shows that doing this has both practical and psychological benefits — and makes it easier for the client to accept an option. To read an in-depth analysis of this pricing strategy, click here. 

Consulting guru Alan Weiss teaches to never frame your pricing as a “yes” or “no” choice; instead, present your clients with a choice of “yes’s.”

In other words, don’t force your client into choosing between YES and NO. Give them the opportunity to choose between YES, YES, YES or NO.

Everyone loves having choices. You walk into a clothing store and there are a dozen different kinds of jeans or shirts. You aren’t just presented with one style to take or leave.

You want to have options. It makes you feel like YOU are in control of your destiny, instead of the person selling to you.

Consulting company McKinsey has compiled statistics over the years that show how providing “different flavors of the same thing” can improve your firm’s chances of selling in a solution by at least 30%.

How do you create pricing options?

The simplest way is to first decide on the service that you’d ideally like to provide and that you believe to be optimal for the client. Make that option 2.

Then strip off some of the features of option 2 until you have the barest bones version, which is the minimum service level that you are willing to provide. That’s option 1.

Finally, add extra features onto option 2 to come up with your dream plan, which you would LOVE to provide your client — and you’ve got option 3.

The statistics say that your client is most likely to choose the middle option — #2 — in which case you’ve succeeded and gotten exactly what you hoped for.

The existence of option 3 makes option 2 look cheaper, so the client feels he’s getting a better deal. At the same time, the existence of option 1 makes the client feel like he’s getting more value (which he is) by choosing option 2.

 

pricing options

 

Here’s an example from website design and development:

When a client asks you to build a website for him, he looks at the project as a single entity with one deliverable.

But you know that building a website contains many different components including strategy, structure, design, development, content, seo, special features, optimization, launch, training and support.

What you need to do is break out these component and then combine them into your 3 options.

The first, and cheapest, option would contain just a website without any content or seo services. Even though you know that you could add tremendous value by providing the client with content and seo services, in the event that the client either doesn’t have the budget for or simply doesn’t grasp the importance of these vital services, you still have the opportunity to get the business with your option 1 pricing plan.

Your second option is going to include content and SEO, and possible other elements that you deem relevant. You’ll price this option at the number you ideally expect to make for this kind of project.

Then you’ll create a third option that includes extra features or additional content and seo or addition support and maintenance or a combination of any or all of the above. This is your exclusive plan that is more expensive than option 2. It’s the plan that you’d love to get, but you’d still be happy if you just got option 2.

Now it’s the client’s choice. And you win with whatever plan the client chooses.

You might initially think that offering pricing options won’t work for your particular service. But you should think twice, because while it might not work for every service, it will work for most. All you need to do is be a bit creative to come up with various options by breaking down your service into smaller pieces.

[For more information about pricing web design proposals, click here.]

Should you include a breakdown of your pricing by service or deliverable (like an itemized price list)?

Unless the client demands it, I highly recommend that you DO NOT give the client an itemized price breakdown. The reason is that it gives the client the green light to try to bargain you down on price by asking you to remove specific services — even when those services are integral to the project.

For example, let’s look at a $10,000 web design project broken down into its components:

price chart web design

Seeing this breakdown, the client might say, “let’s get rid of content, seo and mobile” to cut the project price in half. But you know that a website without seo, good content and mobile compatibility is worthless to the client — and not the kind of website you’re willing to build.

You can definitely breakdown the project pricing for yourself, but I would not show it to the client. Most clients just want to see the total figure anyway.

Of course, you should definitely explain to the client the various components of your project, but without price itemizing them.

Proposal Terms

This section includes payment schedule, payment form, cancellation policy etc.

Don’t go crazy with terms.

The last thing you want is for the client to feel like he has to get his lawyers involved. Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting Proposals says, “You want to stay out of the other person’s legal department because it will slow down the process and may stop the sale all together.” The less legalese in your proposal, the better.

Here’s an example of a Terms section from a PPC proposal:

  • Payment for initial month must be made in full upon signing of proposal, prior to project start.
  • Monthly payments must be made add the beginning of the month. Work will begin only after monthly payment is received.
  • Onrush Digital retains complete ownership of all deliverables until final payment is made and balance owed is paid in full.
  • Payments can be made to Onrush Digital LLC or via paypal to payments@onrushdigital.com.
  • This proposal is valid for 30 days.

Signature or Acceptance

You should always include a way for the client to accept your proposal. This could be a space for a handwritten signature or a field for an e-signature depending on what firm your proposal is in.

No need for a separate contract — your proposal is your contract.

Simple is better — and just as legal.

Here is an example of a signature section from a business proposal created with Propfire:

sign proposal

Notice the section title Next Step. It’s a clear call to action that tells the client exactly what he needs to do to accept your business proposal.

Template Design

Contrary to what proposal software companies would like you to believe, clients do not choose vendors based on the design or beauty of their proposals (unless you are a creative design agency, in which case design does matter).

As long as your proposal is professional looking and neatly laid out, it’s the content — specifically services, timing and pricing — that are going to make or break you at this stage.

Relationships, trust, service and pricing are what win proposal.

But, of course, you still want your business proposal to look great and make a positive impression on the client.

On the other hand, you don’t want your proposal to be over-designed — especially if you’re dealing with a client who want to print out your proposal (which is the case with many “old school” type of industries like manufacturing, distribution, construction etc).

Too many images, graphs and design elements can make printing challenging, depending on the type and quality of the client’s printer. And if the executive reading it wants to get to the important info, the images and design frill could get in the way and frustrating.

A business proposal template should contains the content elements we listed above, along with a professional design.

At Propfire we’ve created a series of templates you can use to create your business proposals with.

proposal templates

Timing is Important

Once you’ve created your proposal you need to get it to your client as quickly as possible. The longer it takes you to get it to your client, the more time he has to get busy with other things and forget about you. As the man said, “strike while the iron is hot”.

You don’t take a few days or a week to create a proposal — which is really easy to happen if you’ve got other work and distractions pulling you away.

If the client is ok with just viewing the proposal online, great. In most cases the client will probably want a PDF copy he can print out (another reason why lots of design elements and images is a bad idea).

Follow up

Emailing your proposal to your client is not the end of the process. You need to follow up in a day or 2. If you’ve built a relationship of trust, it shouldn’t take the client long to accept your proposal.

But unfortunately, the client might have other, more pressing, concerns to deal with and your proposal might end up getting lost — which is why you MUST follow up at regular intervals.

Don’t stop until you get a YES (or a no)!

Prerequisite to Business Proposal Writing

The first thing to remember is that a business proposal is not a sales tool or pitch.

As Alan Weiss, the author of Million Dollar Proposals, says, “Proposals are not part of the sales process. They are part of the implementation process. The sale occurs before the proposal is ever written.”

Your business proposal should only be presented after you’ve already spoken with the potential client and have a meeting of the minds regarding the work that is required and the budget.

If you’ve done that, then the client has already bought into using you. Now he only needs to know:

  1. what exactly you’re going to do
  2. how long it will take
  3. how much it will cost.

The proposal is a summary of what you’ve already discussed.

Clients choose vendors based on skill, experience, deliverables, timeline, price and, most important of all, trust. Timeline, price and deliverables are laid out in a proposal. The other elements are developed during relationship building conversations and meeting.

If you haven’t developed any sort of relationship or trust with the potential client, then you’re better off asking for a meeting then simply sending a proposal that will be added to the pile of other proposals received. You don’t want to be in a pile. The chances of winning in a pile are very slim, unless you’re willing to be the lowest price in the pack or you already have a known reputation.

Let’s start from the very beginning and assume that you have never created a business proposal.

A better way

Propfire is built to help you do exactly what I just described in this post — create effective proposals faster and easier.

Try it free for 14 days — no credit card required — to see if it’s a good fit for you.

pricing packages

Agencies, consultants and freelancers put a lot of time and effort into pricing the services in the proposals they present to clients.

What are the factors that go into the proposal pricing equation?

1. difficulty of project
2. time it will take
3. quality of work
4. value to client
5. market competition
6. how much client will pay

To get a more detailed explanation of how to price web design and digital marketing projects, click here.

Whichever method you choose to come up with pricing for your project, you’ll most likely always feel nervous about presenting it to your potential client.

The reason is simple: you’re afraid they’ll say no.

You don’t want to end up charging too much and scaring the client away. You always know that you’re probably competing against a lot of other folks who might be willing to work for a lot less than you are.

So you feel like you’re in a no win situation.

On the one hand you know the value you bring to the project and how much you should be charging. On the other hand you don’t want to pass up the opportunity of making money, even if it is less money than you feel that you deserve.

So you come up with your best guesstimate, put it in your proposal, present it to the client and cross your fingers, hold your breath and pray that he’ll say YES.

Now the truth is that it’s quite possible that the client can come back to you to try and negotiate your price. But in many cases, if the client isn’t happy with your price, he’ll just move on to a different service provider and just not get back to you.

The idea that you have one opportunity to get the client or lose the business can wreak havoc with your nerves.

The problem with this whole scenario is that you’ve forced your client into making a yes or no decision. He can either accept your price or not.

No one wants to be forced into choosing between all or nothing. When faced with that decision, many client will leave the table unless they are 100% sure they want to accept your price.

Is anyone ever 100% sure? Rarely.

That means that more often than not, the client will bolt and you’ll lose the business.

Pricing Options

Consulting guru Alan Weiss teaches to never frame your pricing as a “yes” or “no” choice; instead, present your clients with a choice of “yes’s.”

In other words, don’t force your client into choosing between YES and NO. Give them the opportunity to choose between YES, YES, YES or NO.

Everyone loves having choices. You walk into a clothing store and there are a dozen different kinds of jeans or shirts. You aren’t just presented with one style to take or leave.

You want to have options. It makes you feel like YOU are in control of your destiny, instead of the person selling to you.

Consulting company McKinsey has compiled statistics over the years that show how providing “different flavors of the same thing” can improve your firm’s chances of selling in a solution by at least 30%.

How do you create pricing options?

The simplest way is to first decide on the service that you’d ideally like to provide and that you believe to be optimal for the client. Make that option 2.

Then strip off some of the features of option 2 until you have the barest bones version, which is the minimum service level that you are willing to provide. That’s option 1.

Finally, add extra features onto option 2 to come up with your dream plan, which you would LOVE to provide your client — and you’ve got option 3.

The statistics say that your client is most likely to choose the middle option — #2 — in which case you’ve succeeded and gotten exactly what you hoped for.

The existence of option 3 makes option 2 look cheaper, so the client feels he’s getting a better deal. At the same time, the existence of option 1 makes the client feel like he’s getting more value (which he is) by choosing option 2.

 

pricing options

 

Here’s an example from website design and development:

When a client asks you to build a website for him, he looks at the project as a single entity with one deliverable.

But you know that building a website contains many different components including strategy, structure, design, development, content, seo, special features, optimization, launch, training and support.

What you need to do is break out these component and then combine them into your 3 options.

The first, and cheapest, option would contain just a website without any content or seo services. Even though you know that you could add tremendous value by providing the client with content and seo services, in the event that the client either doesn’t have the budget for or simply doesn’t grasp the importance of these vital services, you still have the opportunity to get the business with your option 1 pricing plan.

Your second option is going to include content and SEO, and possible other elements that you deem relevant. You’ll price this option at the number you ideally expect to make for this kind of project.

Then you’ll create a third option that includes extra features or additional content and seo or addition support and maintenance or a combination of any or all of the above. This is your exclusive plan that is more expensive than option 2. It’s the plan that you’d love to get, but you’d still be happy if you just got option 2.

Now it’s the client’s choice. And you win with whatever plan the client chooses.

You might initially think that offering pricing options won’t work for your particular service. But you should think twice, because while it might not work for every service, it will work for most. All you need to do is be a bit creative to come up with various options by breaking down your service into smaller pieces.

Bottom Line

Including a few pricing options in your proposal will increase your chances of winning the project by giving the client choices — which everyone appreciates.

If you want a simple and quick way to add pricing options to a proposal, please check out Propfire.com, where we make the process super easy and intuitive.

 

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proposal or contract

A common question that freelancers and consultants often ask is whether a proposal that a client accepts serves as a contract, or do they need to include a contract in addition to their proposal.

The uncertainty probably results from the fact that most proposal software companies include separate contract templates in addition to their proposal templates. That assumes that a contract is needed in addition to a proposal.

Is this correct?

Do you need a contract in addition to a proposal?

To answer this question let’s first understand exactly what a contract is.

A contract must contain four elements to be enforceable:

1. Offer – One of the parties made a promise to do or refrain from doing some specified action in the future.

2. Consideration – Something of value was promised in exchange for the specified action or non-action. This can take the form of a significant expenditure of money or effort, a promise to perform some service, an agreement not to do something, or reliance on the promise. Consideration is the value that induces the parties to enter into the contract.

3. Acceptance – The offer was accepted unambiguously. Acceptance may be expressed through words, deeds or performance as called for in the contract. Generally, the acceptance must mirror the terms of the offer. If not, the acceptance is viewed as a rejection and counteroffer.

4. Mutuality – The contracting parties had “a meeting of the minds” regarding the agreement. This means the parties understood and agreed to the basic substance and terms of the contract.

Notice that nowhere does it say that a contract must be in writing. That’s because it doesn’t, unless you are dealing with the transfer or sale of real property (real estate), where everything must be in writing.

“To be enforceable, the offers and acceptances must be in writing (Statute of Frauds, Common Law)and signed by the parties agreeing to the contract.” — Wikipedia

What’s a proposal?

A proposal is a statement of the work or tasks you are offering to perform, how long it will take and the price you are charging.

Your consulting proposal can be presented and accepted verbally, by email, text, video … even by carrier pigeon.

By accepting your proposal, in whatever form you’ve agreed upon, the client enters into a binding contract with you.

While it’s common for contracts to be entered into by both parties signing them, the truth is that the client can also enter into a contract by clicking a checkbox (like software users usually do) or by simply paying you a deposit [the legal term for that is consideration].

For example, if you give your client a proposal that calls for a deposit of $2,000 for you to start work, and your client hands you a check for $2,000 — she has accepted your proposal and entered into a legal contract with you.

 

Proposal vs. Contract

Now that we’ve defined both a proposal and a contract, let’s see if a proposal is good enough to serve as a contract.

Again, let’s review the 4 elements of a contract:

1. Offer – One of the parties made a promise to do or refrain from doing some specified action in the future.

By stating the work you will perform, how long it will take and your price, you have made the client an offer. CHECK.

2. Consideration – Something of value was promised in exchange for the specified action or non-action.

You promise to provide the client a service and the client promises to pay your fee. Notice that all you need the “promise” of payment. So actually getting a deposit from the client is consideration par excellence. CHECK.

3. Acceptance – The offer was accepted unambiguously. Acceptance may be expressed through words, deeds or performance as called for in the contract.

Getting the client’s signature on your proposal is certainly an unambiguous way of proving client acceptance. But the client can also accept your proposal by saying so in an email, text, video — or verbally (but that’s hard to prove later on). CHECK.

4. Mutuality – The contracting parties had “a meeting of the minds” regarding the agreement. This means the parties understood and agreed to the basic substance and terms of the contract.

Refer to acceptance. CHECK.

Proposal is a Contract

Based on what we’ve just said, your proposal can most definitely serve as your contract, as long as it clearly states your offer and is just as clearly accepted by your client — either in writing, verbally, via signature or payment.

If you have specific terms you want in your agreement, you can include those directly in your proposal.

And you can include a signature area at the bottom of your proposal, preceded by a line saying that by signing the proposal the client is agreeing to the terms within.

Here’s how that looks on a proposal created using Propfire:

 

sign proposal

 

As you can see, by typing his name in the box and clicking on “accept”, the client is clearly indicating his acceptance of the proposal, including the price.

E-Signatures vs. Digital Signatures

In general, when it comes to online signatures or acceptance, there has been a lot of different opinions.

According to an article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

“courts favor finding a binding agreement where the user engages in affirmative conduct acknowledging the terms of a TOS. For instance, a genuine clickwrap agreement, in which a service provider places a TOS just adjacent to or below a click-button (or check-box), has been held to be sufficient to indicate the user agreed to the listed terms. In these cases, requiring the user to click “I Agree,” after calling attention to the terms and affording the user an opportunity to review them, demonstrates the user agreed to the terms. However, courts generally do not require that you actually have read the terms, but just that you had reasonable notice and an opportunity to read them.”

In short, clicking that little box that says, “I accept the terms of service” is totally legally binding.

According to an article on the legal website Nolo.com:

Federal legislation enacted in 2000, known as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), made most e-contracts and e-signatures just as legal and enforceable as traditional paper-and-ink contracts and signatures.

All states have adopted either the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) or their own e-signature laws that establish the legal validity of electronic signatures and contracts in a similar manner as the federal law (ESIGN). The combination of federal and state laws ensures that most e-contracts and e-signatures are valid regardless of where the parties live or execute the contract.

According to the same article, “An e-signature is a digital file or symbol—such as a scanned pen-and-ink signature or a typed name—that someone attaches to or places on a contract or file to show that person’s intent to sign the contract or file.”

In addition to an e-signature, there’s also something called a digital signature, which provides digital identification to authenticate the signer. The signature is then electronically bound to the document using encryption.

The benefit of a digital signature over an e-signature is that a digital signature could prove that the signature was signed by the actual person bearing that name.

So, in theory, if you had to take a client to court and they disputed the validity of the signature on the proposal or contract, you would have a better chance at proving your case with a digital signature.

But let’s be real for a moment.

Have you ever taken a client to court?

Do you think you will ever be in a position where it will be worth taking a client to court and risking to negative publicity that goes along with that?

I didn’t think so.

So getting an e-signature on your proposal is going to be just fine for you.

Some of the proposal software on the market includes as a feature the ability to attach digital signatures, which some, like Propfire, allow an e-signature.

In 99.999% of cases, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. They are both just as good.

Proposal ARE Contracts

Based on what we’ve said thus far, it’s clear that proposals that are accepted are just as valid as “contract”. In fact, they ARE contracts.

There’s no need to give the client a contract in addition to a proposal.

All you need to do is include a signature section at the end of your proposal.

Why Contracts are bad

On the other hand, including a contract in addition to your proposal could have major negative impact on your chances of winning a project.

The last thing you want is for the client to feel like he has to get his lawyers involved.

Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting Proposals says, “You want to stay out of the other person’s legal department because it will slow down the process and may stop the sale all together.”

When you present a “contract” to a client, he will feel the need to have it reviewed by a lawyer. And once a lawyer gets a hold of a contract, you know he’ll be making changes to it. It’s what lawyers do.

Clients usually don’t ask their lawyers to review proposals — unless maybe you’re dealing with huge fortune 500 companies with legal departments that need to stay busy.

For most freelancers and consultants, the less legalese in your proposal, the better.

It can also be very overwhelming for your average client to have to make it through both a proposal and then a contract.

Imaging that you’ve presented your proposal to the owner of a small manufacturing company, and he likes what you’ve said. He’s ready to pull the trigger and give you the business…but then he turns the page (or scrolls down) and sees the contract.

Of course it’s one of those contracts filled with the legal jargon and clauses that are supposed to be in contracts, and that only lawyers usually read.

So you potential client has a choice. He can either try to read through your contract, which he does not have the time or patience to do (seriously, who does?), OR he can let his lawyer read it.

The only thing you know for sure is that he’s not hiring you do to the work NOW.

Maybe he will, after the lawyers get done with the contract. Or maybe he’ll want to change some of the terms (as lawyers often do).

In any case, you’re kicking yourself for including a contract instead of just a signature section at the bottom of your proposal.

Be smart.

Ditch the “official” contract and just use your proposal as your contract.

Bottom Line

A signed proposal is just as legally valid as a signed contract. So there’s no need of presenting both a proposal and contract to your client. In fact, it can actually hurt your chances at winning the business by getting lawyers involved and slowing down the acceptance process, or destroying it altogether.

 

Try Propfire Free for 14 days! (no cc required)

 

how to price a web design proposal

Proposal Pricing Models

How to price a web design proposal.

Let’s say there’s a company who wants you to build them a new website. How do you charge for the project?

There are several different pricing models you can use. Some of them should be combined while some should not be used at all.

[To read more about the challenges of selling web design services, and how to solve them, click here]

Let’s go through each pricing model and decide whether, and how, to use them.

Time Based

In the time based pricing method, you’d estimate how many hours it would take to complete the web design project and multiply that by your rate. If it will take you 25 hours to build the website and you charge $100 per hour, then the total price will be $2,500.

Here’s why I don’t like using this method.

If you’re an experienced designer and your building the website on WordPress (which is a common scenario), then you’ll probably be using a template that you’ve used many times before and are super familiar with.

That being the case, there’s no way it’s going to take you more than 10 hours to build the website. In fact, if your creative engines are flowing, you might be able to do it in just a couple of hours. At $100 an hour, that’s way below the original $2,500.

The easy way around this is to simply quote the client the number of hours that gets you to the number you’re looking for. So you can say the job will take 40 hours at $100 an hour for a total of $4,000.

The problem with the time based web design proposal is that it leaves you open to having the client question your time estimate or rate. The client might say, “there’s no way that it’s going to take you 40 hours to build a website” or “$100 an hour seems a bit high for a web designer” — and she might have a point.

So now you’re in a position where you have to prove the veracity of your numbers, which you might or might not be able to do.

I don’t ever want to be in that position, and neither do you.

The fundamental flaw with time based pricing is that it doesn’t take into account your level of expertise and experience.

For example, let’s say you’re hiring a singer to perform at a concert for 1 hour. You reach out to James, the local wedding singer, and to Billy Joel. They’re both singers and they’ll be performing for the same 1 hour. Do you think their price will be the same? Of course not!

The same is true for web design. The reason you can do a web design project in just 5 hours, which would take someone else 25 hours, is because you have a decade of experience and learning behind you.

You are the Billy Joel of web design, so the fact that a gig takes you an hour is irrelevant. You need to be paid for your experience and expertise, not just the actual time spent on the project.

You should never charge by the hour or give an hourly estimate. And if the client asks you simply explain that you don’t charge by the hour because you’ve been doing this work for a long time and have a lot of experience, which allows you to work much more productively and quickly than others.

But in most cases you won’t have to explain yourself, because just saying that you charge by the project and not by the hour should be sufficient.

Competitive Web Design Pricing

In competitive pricing, you find out what your web design competitors are charging and charge the same or less.

The only way to do this is if you can find out what your competitors are charging for the particular project you’re vying for. And the only way to find out is to ask, if you get that opportunity.

The problem with copying your competitors pricing is that unless you know exactly what services and deliverables they are offering for their price, you can end up charging way too little for way too much work.

And the only way you’ll find out exactly what they’re offering is to see their web design proposal, which is extremely unlikely to happen.

You also don’t want to get into a race for the bottom, as we discussed earlier.

However, using your competition as a guideline for your own pricing is a useful tactic (if you can get that information) and should be integrated into your pricing strategy.

Client Web Design Budget

Since we’re discussing competitive pricing, I think it’s a good time to talk about client budgets.

You always want to find out what a client’s budget is, or what they’re expecting to pay, for the project that you’re bidding on before giving them a web design proposal.

The best, and really only, way to find out is to ask — “What is your budget for the project?”

If they say they don’t know or don’t have one, you can give them some options like, “are you thinking of 10k or more like 50k?”

You can also ask how much they paid for their current website (if they have one), to give you some perspective. Or you can ask if they’ve gotten any other quotes, and what the range is.

If you push a bit, in a nice way, you will get an answer.

Here are a couple of examples from my own experience:

Example 1:

I was meeting a potential client for the first time and pitching them on our web design service. It was a company that had a website but wanted it totally rebuilt with a new look and functionality.

After I had heard everything they were looking for I thought to myself that I would quote them around $12k, maybe $15k. Luckily, I kept this to myself and instead, asked them what their budget was. They replied that they didn’t really know and wanted me to tell them how much it would cost. So I asked them how much they paid for their old site and…bingo, they said $24k.

Hello!!

Once I heard what they spent on their old website, I knew that I could charge at least that much. But since I wanted to close the deal asap and avoid competing with other firms, I quoted them $20k on my proposal and won the gig.

Had I not asked them about their budget and what they had paid for the old site, I would have left between 5 and 8 thousand bucks on the table (for the same work).

Example 2:

I pitched to a large real estate company looking to redesign their website. It was a significant amount of work. The meeting went really well. My initial thought was to charge around $25k, but I knew better to go with my instincts alone…so I asked, “What is your budget for the project?”

They said something like, “in the tens of thousands, but not hundreds of thousands.” They even told me that they had gotten a quote on the high end for over $100k. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I gave them a proposal at $65k.

No, we did not get the gig, but it was not because of pricing. In fact, they went with a more expensive agency because they had some capabilities that we didn’t.

The lesson is clear: always ask clients about their budget and expectations before quoting them a price.

client budget

Client Expectations

I discussed finding out what the client’s expectations were related to paying for a web design project in the previous section. But I want to go one step further with how client expectations should affect your pricing.

Individuals, sole proprietors and really small businesses expect to pay as little as possible for a website (and any service). Larger businesses expect to pay more for stuff. In fact, the larger and more corporate the organization, the more they expect, and are willing, to pay.

Therefore, if you’re pitching a web design proposal to a company with revenue in the millions and above, you need to jack up your prices just to seem credible. If you are too cheap, they’ll disregard you as either being too small or inexperienced.

If you’re pitching even a basic WordPress website to a larger company, you should not price it for less than $10,000. Trust me, they won’t bat an eyelid.

The bigger the company, the higher you should price your services.

The only caveat to this is that you must present yourself in a highly professional manner to back up your price. Corporations want to work with skilled professionals who will get the job done efficiently and effectively — and they’re happy to pay a premium for that.

If you can’t look and act professional, then you should stick to the $1,000 websites. The bigger money is for professionals who can inspire confidence in their work and abilities and can provide clients with an efficient and non stressful high quality experience.

Value to Client

Another pricing strategy is based on the value that you are providing to the client. In other words, how valuable is the website to the client’s business?

Websites that generate revenue for a client are going to be more valuable than brochure or informational sites.

That’s why ecommerce sites, in addition to their greater complexity, can be significantly more expensive than non ecommerce sites.

If you’re using WordPress with Woocommerce to build an ecommerce site, it might not take you that much longer to build than a regular site. But the fact that it is an ecommerce site and will generate revenue allows you to charge much more for it, because the client clearly sees the value in having it. The site will generate tangible revenue, as opposed to a corporate site that might have long term benefits, but no direct revenue.

As another example, a website for a business that is solely online has more value to a client than an informational site for a brick and mortar.

Taking the value of the website to the client into account when pricing your project is definitely a practice you should incorporate into your pricing strategy.

Part 3 – Adding Value

At this point you should have a better idea of how to price your web design proposal by using and combining some of the pricing strategies we’ve laid out.

But at the end of the day, even with the greatest pricing strategy, there’s only so much that you can charge for a website. That price will vary greatly depending on the type of client and complexity of the project. But if the only service you are offering is web design, you will hit a price ceiling that you will find almost impossible to break through.

Clients are not stupid. They know how to use Google (at least most of them do).

It isn’t very hard to Google how much a website should cost and come up with dozens of posts with various prices. Or they can look at the sites of other web design agencies that have price quotes for all to see.

Of course you can’t expect to be held to price quotes from offshore web design agencies, and every project is unique and there are lots of other factors that clients need to consider.

That’s all true.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that clients can easily get a ballpark idea of what the price range is for the website they’re looking to develop. And unless you are a major, brand name, design agency, you’re going to have to play within that general range in order to be in the game.

Clients are also usually going to get multiple quotes. If those quotes are ranging between $1,500 and $3,000, you’re going to have to make a compelling case of why you want to charge $5,000 or $10,000.

In this section I’m going to show you how you can charge $10,000 for a website that others are charging $3,000 for.

It’s really quite simple and intuitive: adding value.

Most of the US based web designers out there that are charging low prices are providing only one specific service — web design.

Well, isn’t that what the client wants — a website?

Absolutely not.

When a client asks for a business website, what they are really looking for is a tool to achieve their business objectives.

In the case of an ecommerce site, that objective is clear — to sell more product.

The goal of a corporate website could be to enhance the reputation of the company or to provide customers with relevant content or to get more exposure via search.

In order to charge more for building a website you need to provide the client with the elements necessary to help him achieve his business objectives.

 

add value to web design pricing

 

When you do that, you become able to charge not only for the web design, but for all those other elements that the client needs.

Here are some of those elements:

Planning and Setup
You need to meet with your client for one or more discovery sessions to understand their objectives and what exactly they’re looking for in a website. You might also need to inventory their assets, like logos, images, written content etc.

This stuff is a given to you, but it needs to be broken out as a service you are providing. Your time is valuable and you should be compensated for it.

Marketing strategy
Every website must be based on a marketing strategy that defines the client’s business objectives and how the website can help achieve them.

It should include things like customer persona, competitive analysis, content and functionality requirements.

You should be offering marketing strategy as part of your web design package.

Seo
Every business wants to get found more on Google, and SEO is the way to make that happen. Most designers ignore SEO. You shouldn’t because it’s something that clients will find valuable and be willing to pay for.

The elements of SEO that you should included in your web design package are:

  • Keyword Research and Selection
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Onpage SEO for each page
  • Google Business Page
  • Bing Business Listing
  • Basic directory links (you can use an outside service for this and charge extra for it)

Content
A website without good content is worthless. Most clients don’t know what content they need and how to structure and create it.

Recommending what content they should have and structuring that content on the website is something that most web designers can’t or don’t do. By doing that you are adding value to your service, which you can charge for.

If you’re capable of doing so, you can also offer to write the website content, or at least edit the client’s content.

A great tool to use for streamlining the process of getting content from clients is contentsnare.com.

Functionality
Any functionality that the client wants to add should be charged for, even if all you need to do is add a plugin to make it happen. The client doesn’t need to know how easy it is for you to do. All they need to see is the final result.

Some common functionalities that are pretty easy to implement include:

  • Live chat
  • Email capture and adding to list
  • Content upgrade
  • Exit popup
  • Interactive form

Social
Adding social media sharing and liking capabilities to the website might seem like a given to you since it’s pretty much just a matter of adding a WordPress plugin, but clients see it as an added value, and they don’t know how hard or easy it is to implement. They just want it done, and will pay for that.

You can also offer to create their social media profiles on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc.

Mobile
Every website should be mobile responsive. Doing so should be part of your normal operating procedures. But it’s not always easy to implement and involves planning and skill. Not all web designers are careful to implement mobile compatibility. But you are.

Clients understand the importance of mobile compatibility, and are willing to pay for it.

Launch
You should be developing your client website on your own development server or host so that you maintain full control over it until you get your final payment.

When you’re ready to launch, and get your final payment, you’ll need to move the site over to the client’s host — unless you’re providing hosting as an added service.

Moving a site to a different server could go smoothly, or could be a nightmare. That’s why you should be charging for it.

Training
You need to teach them how to use their new website admin. This can be done in person or via screencast.

Post launch support
You’ll be there to fix anything that’s broken because of your work and to answer their questions. If they want an ongoing maintenance plan, you can give them one as well.

Now that we’ve gone through all of these value added elements, let’s see how it affects your pricing.

Here’s one example of how a $2,500 web design proposal turns into a $10,000 project:

 

price chart web design

I do NOT recommend showing the client this breakdown unless he specifically demands it.

The reason for that is that I don’t want to give clients the opportunity to start bargaining with me by trying to delete individual services. That’s because I believe that every service I’ve listed is integral to the building of a website.

You can’t have a website without SEO or content or strategy or optimization etc. So if a client tries to say, “Ok, get rid of the SEO” I’ll tell him that it’s going to be detrimental to his business and take much of the value out of the site — and that for those reasons I don’t build websites without SEO.

Breaking down a website project by its tasks and services makes it easier for you to justify your pricing to yourself. Then you can more confidently present your total price and explain the different components that you include in a web design proposal — without giving him the specific prices for each line item.

Here’s how a conversation might go after you present the client with a $10,000 quote:

Client: This is way more than other designers have quoted me.

You: How much have they quoted?

Client: $2,500

You: I also charge $2,500 for design. But to create a website that is a tool to achieve your business objectives, you need more than design.

Client: Huh?

You: You need strategy, content, SEO, functionality, mobile etc. I don’t just design websites. I create marketing tools that help you get more business.

Client: Ok, I get it now.

If the client says he doesn’t care about any of that other stuff, and that all he wants is a website, you can either do the site for $2,500 or move on to bigger and better things. The choice is yours.

But if the client has the budget and is serious about business, he will get the message.

He might still try to negotiate, at which point you can press your value case, offer a discount or a payment plan. But you will be negotiating from a place of confidence.

Beyond the specific services and deliverables you are offering, your value case should be based on your professionalism, integrity, experience and customer service.

Good clients are willing to pay a premium for a provider whom they can trust and depend on to complete the project and be around to support it.

Pricing Options

Research shows that people like to have options. It gives them a sense of control instead of feeling forced to either accept or reject a single offer.

I recommend that, whenever possible, you give the client 2 or 3 pricing options in your web design proposal.

For example:

Option 1: Basic website package without extra functionality – $10,000

Option 2: Website with additional functionality – $13,500

Option 3: Option 2 + additional SEO and support – $16,000

You can play around with the options and pricing to come up with something that works for you.

The point is to make the client feel like he’s in control of his destiny.

In most cases the client will go for the middle option, or you might even get lucky and get option 3. But if you price it properly, the worst case scenario will be pretty darn good for you as well.

You win either way and the client feels like he won too.

I believe in pricing options so strongly that I integrated it into my proposal software Propfire. So when you create a proposal on Propfire, you can easily add pricing options. (To try Propfire for free, click here.)

Here’s an example:

propfire pricing options

Warning Signs

As much as we all want to win new web design business, in some cases it’s probably to your benefit to pass and move on.

I know, it’s really hard to pass up a new client.

From my experience, the clients that are willing to pay your full price without too much of a fight are usually not going to pose a problem.

It’s usually the ones that bargain you down and force you to significantly discount your price that end up being the most trouble.

So before you cave in and agree to do a $10k website for $2,500, please take a moment and think carefully about these things:

How easy is it going to be for you to work with this client?
You can usually see the warning signs right off the bat. Working with an asshole is not fun. It will drain every ounce of your strength, destroy your wellbeing and make you miserable. No money is worth that.

Is the client indecisive?
If the answer is yes — the client is indecisive, then you should probably pass because you’ll be asked to make design after design while she continues to tell you that she isn’t sure that it’s right yet. The process will be endless and even if you specify limits in your proposal, you’ll find yourself working on the same project for years. Literally. Are you ok with that?

How enthusiastic is the client about getting the project done?
If a client doesn’t really care when the project gets done then he will get busy with other things and not be responsive to your requests for assets (like content, images etc.) or reviews and approvals. He might even disappear for a year or more before reappearing again … maybe.

When a project drags on for months (or longer), it can have a significant negative effect on your ability to manage your time and plan and work on other projects.

Is taking on this client going to benefit your overall reputation and brand?
I once met with a potential client who reached out to us about doing some digital marketing work. It turns out that the client owned several men’s spas — the kind where treatments “end happily” (wink wink). There was plenty of ongoing work to be had — all paid in cash, of course.

We actually did a small project as a test — and getting 12 crisp $100 bills didn’t hurt one bit. But after some serious discussions and soul searching, my team decided that we just couldn’t get involved with this kind of work. Besides the moral hesitations, we also didn’t want to become branded as the agency of the “underworld”.

The money might have been great, but it’s not the direction we wanted to take, both on a personal and business level. So we passed on the happy ending with that client — but we’ve never been happier for making that decision.

Bottom Line: Just because someone is willing to pay you for work, does not mean you have to accept it. Think carefully about how the client will affect you personally, and your business, before accepting any work that comes your way.

choose your web design projects carefully

Conclusion

I hope you’ve gotten some useful guidance and practical tips about how to price your web design proposals to make more money.

Choose the strategies and tactics that work for you, and implement them on your next potential client. You can always discount your prices if necessary.

But if you’re confident in the value you bring to the project, and you clearly communicate that value to your client, there is a great chance that you’ll get the price that you want, or close to it.

You do great work and have invested a lot to acquire valuable skills and knowledge that clients need.

It’s time you started getting compensated appropriately for your web design work.

Use the strategies and tactics you’ve learned here to make that happen!

To try Propfire for FREE for 14 days click here.

best proposal software

Proposal software is something that freelancers, consultants and service providers don’t know that they need, until they actually need it.

When you’re first starting out in business as a service provider and get to that exciting point when you need to create a proposal for a potential client, you most likely will search Google for a proposal template, copy it into a Google doc and get busy modifying it.

You quickly realize that creating a proposal, even with a template, is not as easy as you thought it would be. Before you know it you’ve spent a few hours formulating your scope of services, deliberating on your pricing and trying to format the darn document to make it look presentable. Next thing you know it’s a few days later and you still haven’t sent off your proposal because you’re worried that it…sucks.

Once you finally get the proposal out you figure that the next one will take you no time at all to create.

But surprise! The next proposal actually takes you almost as long as the first. Frustrating.

Why is creating proposals so hard?

Before I get to the software choices, let’s clarify why creating proposals is so challenging in the first place.

There are two aspects of proposal writing that make life difficult for consultants and service providers: format and content.

Proposal Format

Many freelancers and service providers simply have no idea how an effective proposal should look. How should the proposal be formatted?

This is the point in time when they go off in search of the perfect proposal template. The problem is that there’s a lot of garbage out there in the Google-verse, and since you don’t have a clue about how a good proposal is supposed to look, you can end up with a subpar proposal template — which is the last thing you need.

Proposal Content

The second challenge freelancers and service providers face is knowing what content to include in a proposal. Even the greatest “template” won’t do you much good if you don’t have the right content to populate it with.

Even some of the best freelancers who have the expertise required for a project simply don’t know how to express that expertise in proposal form. And they also don’t know how to effectively present their pricing structure.

Here’s an example from my own personal experience:

A friend of mine who has been designing websites for well over a decade asked me to look at a proposal she was going to present to a potential client. I was shocked when I saw it. The formatting and look was sloppy and unprofessional, and the content was neither clear nor concise. It was a disaster! I couldn’t believe that a freelancer of her experience and skill did not know how to create an effective proposal.

Top Proposal Software Tools

Luckily, there are software tools that service providers, including freelancers, consultants and agencies, can use to create their proposals with.

What are the best proposal software tools?

1. Propfire
2. Proposify
3. Better Proposals
4. Google Docs
5. Bidsketch
6. Pandadoc
7. Proposable

Propfire

Finally, proposal software built for freelancers, consultants and small service providers and agencies — not large enterprise teams.

With Propfire you don’t need to design anything, period. It’s all done for you, so there’s a huge time savings. The content that comes along with the beautiful templates is professionally written and can be used out fo the box, as is, or as a very effective guide to writing your own content. Having relevant content can save you tons of time and give you the building blocks of a polished, professional proposal.

There are two ways you can create proposals with Propfire. The quickest way is to select one of its professional templates and modify it. That should let you create an effective proposal in minutes, as opposed to hours or days.

One of the greatest features of Propfire is that it lets you embed your proposal into your own website. That gives you true branding control, since your proposal will live on your own site as opposed to the proposal software company’s.

Here’s the pricing:

Proposify

proposal software

Proposify is one of the largest proposal software companies in the market. They have lots of templates, but are primarily geared towards large teams — not freelancers or consultants. In fact, the copy at the top of their homepage speaks to “modern sales teams”. Are you a “sales team”?

After selecting a template, you’ll need to work inside the company’s own design editor to modify it, which can be pretty annoying if you’re trying to create something quickly, without hassle, since there’s a bit of a learning curve.

You also will need to write or insert all of your own content, because the content that comes with the templates is not really usable by most freelancers, unless perhaps if you’re pitching a project to a Pepsi or IBM type of mega company.

The software has a lot of features which freelancers will probably find irrelevant. Do you really need analytics and metrics for your proposal? They’ll either accept it and pay you a deposit, or not. How many times they look at it online is irrelevant. In most cases freelancers will probably be emailing a pdf proposal copy to a client, and you can easily track the email to see if and how many times it was opened.

The tool is not cheap. Here’s the pricing:

Bottom Line: Proposify is a sophisticated proposal tool best suited for large enterprise teams, but it’s overkill for the average freelancer or consultant. It’s also a bit pricey for most freelancers.

Better Proposals

This is another proposal software product that is apparently targeting large teams, and trying to directly compete with Proposify.

Their features are almost identical to Proposify, so you’ll need to navigate another clunky design editor and deal with content that just has no relevance to most freelancers.

Another challenge to using this software is that it only allows your proposal to be viewed online and in sections. So a client can’t just scroll down to view your entire proposal in one shot. They’ll need to click into different sections.

You can read more about Better Proposals here.

Here’s the pricing:

proposal software

Bottom Line: Better Proposals is almost exactly like Proposify, but not quite as polished or sophisticated. While it claims to be made for freelancers, it seems to have its eye on the larger team and enterprise market — not freelancers or consultants.

Google Docs

proposal template google

It’s impossible to talk about proposal software without highlighting Google Docs. Almost every freelancer has used this free tool to create a proposal, and many continue to use it as their main proposal too. It’s easy to use, most already have it, and did I mention that it’s free?

The downside to using Google Docs for proposals is that it doesn’t provide you with a guide or template, so you need to know exactly what you want in your proposal and how you want it to look. Managing your proposals is also a pain, even if you create separate folders.

Bottom Line: Hey, if you like using Google Docs and it’s working well for you then by all means continue using it. Don’t mess with something that isn’t broken! But if you need more structure and guidance then you should definitely use Propfire or one of the other proposal software tools mentioned above.

Conclusion

No Proposal software tool is going to satisfy the needs of every single user, from solo freelancers to large enterprise themes. Any proposal software that claims to do that is probably not going to satisfy anyone really well.

There’s an ancient teaching in the Talmud that says, “If you try to grab too much, you end up not grabbing anything.” This holds true in the case of proposal software too.

If you’re a large enterprise theme you’ll be better off checking out Proposify and its direct competitor Better Proposals.

For freelancers, consultants, and smaller service providers and agencies, your best choice will be Propfire.

And of course…there’s always Google Docs. 😇

 

Try Propfire Free for 14 days! (no cc required)

This is the story of how I built a SaaS product — Propfire — without being a developer, or hiring one. The reason I’m writing it is to give non technical founders a blueprint to follow (or at least some hope) in their own startup journey.

Propfire is proposal creation software that I built using html, css, javascript, php and mysql.

I didn’t use any frameworks such as Laravel (php) or React or Vue (javascript) — not that there’s anything wrong with using a framework. In fact, using a framework would probably have been a smart idea and possibly made my app better in some ways.

But the reason I didn’t is simply because I would have had to learn a framework on top of the basic php and javascript code — and I wasn’t prepared to invest that kind of time to build an MVP. I wanted to do it as quickly as possible (I’m sure you do to).

Now, the first step to any development process is obviously having the idea of what you want to create. But for the purposes of this post I’m going to skip over why I chose to build Propfire and stick with the process of developing the actual software. You can read about why I decided to create Propfire in a market already crowded with competitors here.

Who am I

Before I dive into the details of my development experience, I need to tell you a bit about who I am and the skills I brought to the table when I began my development project.

For the last 7 years I’ve been building WordPress websites and providing SEO and content marketing services for companies. The website development part of my services entails working with a few professionally designed templates that I’ve gotten very familiar with over the years, and modifying them with basic CSS.

If you’ve ever worked with WordPress you know that you do not need to have any development or coding skills to create a beautiful website. All you need is the ability to organize information (no simple task) and work with whatever website building engine your particular template provides. There are even tools that will generate custom css code without you having to know how to write it.

But I don’t want to portray myself as a total coding ignoramus. Back in the years 1999 – 2000 I had learned how to code html from a book and then ridden the dot com wave to get jobs at a couple of internet companies (which are long gone) where I had the opportunity to perfect my html and learn ASP (not the same as ASP.net) and some SQL (on the job). For those of you who don’t remember ASP, it’s very similar to PHP.

While I in no way became a coding expert working at those companies, I did have the opportunity to learn from more experienced developers the basic structure of a web app — how to set up database tables and how to move data from a web page to the database and extract and display data back on the page. Once you know how to pass information to and from web pages and into and out of a database, you’re well on your way to creating a data-driven web app.

Structure vs Implementation

The most important part of the development process is understanding the flow of your application. You need to map out exactly what happens on each page or screen of your app. Once you know what data you want to get, manipulate and display, and where you want to do that, the task of writing the code to make it happen is something that you can either figure out yourself or pay someone a relatively small amount to do for you.

The most expensive (and probably least effective) way of developing an application as a non developer is to come up with an idea and then hire a developer (or team) to turn that idea into a functioning product — unless you just want to copy an existing product. For example, if you decide you want to create a Tinder clone with your own branding, you can find developers who can do that pretty efficiently by simply copying the original. That’s because the structure and flow (and UX) of the app already exists — and that’s the hard part.

A lot of the time I invested into developing Propfire was spent figuring out the UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) of the application. I wanted to create a way for a user to build a proposal in a way that was faster and more intuitive than the way all the competitors do it (via design templates).

I began by drawing the individual screens of my app on sheets of paper (one screen per sheet) and put them in order. Then I went through each screen  as a user (over and over) to determine the most user friendly and intuitive experience.

I’ll admit that my knowledge of basic database table structures helped by through this phase, because as I was moving through the screens I was also mapping out how the information being entered would be efficiently stored and accessed.

Understanding how to store data in a relational database has more to do with organizing information than with coding. You don’t need technical skills to organize information. But you do need a basic understanding of how a database and data tables work, which I got from a book around 20 years ago. The principles of storing and managing data haven’t changed.

You do not have to be a database guru to create the data tables for your app. All you need our the basics, which you can learn from books, tutorials or online course. Again, database design requires the ability to organize information — not technical or coding skills.

So up to this point I had not written a single line of code, but I already had the the UI and theoretical functionality of my app. And like I said before, once you have this, the actual writing of the code becomes a technical task that can be outsourced or done on your own.

Type of App Matters

Stop for a second. I need to clarify something important.

This post is referring to an application that uses existing technology to accomplish a task. The innovation is in the design of the application — figuring out a more efficient and effective way to accomplish the desired task. That’s why the coding part fo the application development is something that any skilled coder should be able to do quite easily.

However, if you want to develop new technology or a sophisticated algorithm to accomplish a complex task, then you are going to have to get expert programmers to work on developing that technology — and that’s way beyond the scope of DIY or ordinary outsourcing.

Just keep that in mind :)

Development Path

My plan from the start was to create an application for as little money as possible. I just wanted a functional MVP (minimum viable product) to test the market. I could always build more features after I’d found product market fit.

If I could create the flow of the application and all of the screens, I knew I’d always be able to find a developer to code it (although I never actually priced it out).

Of course, there’s a wide range in quality when dealing with developers, and the price you pay is going to be directly related to that quality. If you need a developer to do the thinking for you and create the application flow and screens, then you’re going to have to pay a lot more than if you’re just looking for someone to code up your screens.

Building without code

After a few months of thinking, mapping, rethinking and rethinking again, I had all my screens and knew exactly how I wanted my application to work (at least version 1). Now all I needed to do is build it!

Like I said before, I didn’t have a big development budget to play with. Even if I did, I believe in the MVP model, especially since I had no idea whether people would actually want to use (and pay for) my product. So there was no way I was mortgaging the house or selling my son’s Xbox to pay a developer to create my MVP (you probably shouldn’t either).

I needed to build Propfire, or at least most of it, myself.

How was I going to build a data driven application?

My first thought was to see if I could find a way to create my app without having to code, at all.

In the past I had played around with a very cool program called Bubble, which according to its website “is a code-free programming language that lets you build and host web applications without engineers.” In other words, Bubble lets you build stuff visually (like using a website builder tool), while creating the actual code behind the scenes.

Sounds great, and it really is. You can create lots of very cool stuff using Bubble.

One of my hesitations in using Bubble was that you can’t modify or export the underlying code. It’s created in the Bubble framework and has to be hosted on the Bubble platform. If at some point I’d want to hire developers to improve or expand the app, they would need to rebuild it from scratch in whatever language they were using.

But this wasn’t a deal breaker for me. The Bubble folks claim to have a very stable and scalable hosting problem, and the price was ok. And if at some point my app was so successful that I needed to rebuild it, then I’d be able to afford the extra development work.

The reason I did not use Bubble to build Propfire is because I found the platform to be constraining. I tried building it on the platform but I found that I couldn’t perform some of the data operations I needed to. Now that could be totally my own fault, for not fully understanding or implementing the Bubble capabilities.

For all I know Bubble might absolutely have the capabilities to do everything I needed to do and more. But I did spend a decent amount of time trying to figure it out and it just wasn’t happening, for whatever reason. At the same time I new that these data operation could be easily done in a few lines of code.

So despite the allure of being able to visually develop an app without writing a single line of code, I opted to try it the good ole way — writing code.

[Again, I don’t want to downplay the power of Bubble and other code free platforms. People have been lots of functioning apps on them and there’s a whole sub-industry of Bubble developers available to help you build yours. Depending on the complexity of your app, using Bubble or an alternative might be the smartest way to go.]

Choosing a Language

The first thing you need to code is a language to write it in. Google something like “what language should I code my web app in” and you’ll find an ongoing debate as to what language is the best and easiest and neatest etc. The bottom line of the debate is that it depends on what you want to build and what language you already have some familiarity with.

Web applications require HTML to display the pages on a browser, CSS to style to pages, and at least some Javascript or Jquery to make stuff happen on the page without having to refresh the browser window. If the app is data driven, you need a language that can send and retrieve data to and from the database from your web pages. You can accomplish that with different languages, including javascript (nodes).

Remember I told you that I learned ASP around 20 years ago and that it’s similar to php? Well, it just so happens that php is probably the most popular scripting language to build data driven web apps with. Some of the most famous apps built in php include WordPress (which includes the hundreds of millions of websites built on the platform), Yahoo and Wikipedia.

The reason PHP is so popular is because it’s relatively easy to learn and use. And there’s plenty of documentation and code examples available. So since I already had some basic knowledge of the language structure, I chose to go with php.

Setting Up

Before writing any code, you need some prerequisites to get started.

  1. Code Editor
    All you really need to write is code is a basic text editor like textedit (mac) or notepad (win). But if you want some help, in the form of highlighting, formatting, auto-completion and other useful tools, then you’ll need to use a code editor. There are lots of them available for either man or pc, and free or paid.I chose Visual Studio Code by Microsoft — the mac version (since I use a Macbook Air) — because it’s free and I liked the feel of it. You can also try Atom, which has lots of great reviews.None of these editors are going to actually write the code for you, although they’ll let you know when you’ve made an error and sometimes save you some typing by providing code snippets you can use.Don’t spend a month trying to figure out which code editor to use. Just pick one and grow to love it.
  2. Local Server
    To view the results of your HTML, CSS and Javascript code, all you need is your browser. To view php (which is a server-side scripting language) you need a server. Macs and PCs come with a local server, but you need to set it up and get it running properly.Setting up my local server on my Macbook scared the hell out of me. It almost discouraged me from continuing. Luckily, I found this article which had very clear, step by step instructions on how to get the job done.
  3. Local Database
    Since my app was data-driven, I also needed to set up a local database. The most popular choice is MySQL, which you can download for free here. The same article that showed me how to set up my local server covered the MySQL installation and the installing of SequelPro, which is a tool to manage MySQL with a visual interface.

To clarify, the development environment I just described setting up allowed me to code and view only on my computer (local).  I would eventually need to host the app with a hosting company, to get it “online”. But for the time being I was fine working local.

Start Building

I had my code editor and my local server and database setup. Now I had to actually start writing code!

There are 2 parts to a web app: the functionality and the presentation. In other words, what the app actually does behind the scenes and how it looks to the user.

You can start on the functionality and leave the interface for later. I personally wanted to have a concrete idea of the app interface would look before diving into the functionality.

As I explained before, web pages are built primarily with HTML and CSS, along with some Javascript or JQuery for doing certain tasks in the browser window (without refreshing the page) like manipulating images and text (and tons of other cool things).

Since I knew how to write HTML and (some) CSS I could theoretically code the web interface from scratch. To make things easier I could use Bootstrap, which is “a free and open-source CSS framework directed at responsive, mobile-first front-end web development. It contains CSS- and JavaScript-based design templates for typography, forms, buttons, navigation and other interface components.” (wikipedia)

But building a web interface from scratch, and making it look awesome (on both desktop and mobile), takes a lot of time and hard work. There’s an easier way: I found a free html web interface template built on Bootstrap.

You can find these html templates with a simple Google search, or on Themeforest. An html template comes with lots of different page templates and elements that you can pick and choose from to find the right ones for your app. It also comes with CSS stylesheets and various Javascript and Jquery functionalities to choose from.

Setting up an html template can be a bit difficult at first and take some time, but once you understand the structure and set it up, the work is done and you’ve got a beautiful interface for your app.

After my interface was in place, I created my database. A database is made up of tables that store different data. The tables relate to each other. That’s why they call it a relational database. I can’t teach you how to build a database, but again, it’s all about organizing information, not programming or coding.

Google is the answer

While I had some basic knowledge of php, I couldn’t actually code an application from scratch. However, I could look at existing code, figure out what is was doing and modify it.

That’s where Google came into the picture.

In theory what I should have done was to take a course on to learn how to write php cod, from A to Z. And I have gone through some “Learn PHP” books over the years. But the learning from the bottom up route would take me a very long time, which was something I absolutely dod not want to do.

My goal was not to be become a php developer. All I wanted to accomplish was to build my app. So instead of searching for a course or book, I went on Google and starting search for the php code that would accomplish the specific task I needed at that moment.

And because of my familiarity with php and how web apps are supposed to work, I knew just enough to know what to search for. There are LOTS of resources out there on writing code, in pretty much any language. My focus was php, Javascript and jQuery.

For specific questions, Stack Overflow, a forum where developers ask questions and other developers answer them, was a Godsend. Any question I had, no matter how specific, had already been asked and answered on Stack Overflow. Another great site with tons of code for the taking is phppot.

It’s really quite amazing what you can find out there. Sometimes I found examples of code that I could copy and slightly modify. Other times it was small snippets of code from Stack Overflow that did the trick.

The bottom line is that you can pretty much copy and paste your way to a complete, functioning application. All you need is just enough knowledge and familiarity with the language and the basics of how an app works to modify the code to your own needs and to know where to place it.

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that you can easily throw together an app by just copying and pasting. You can’t. You need to understand enough to know what code you need and then how to integrate it into your app. You also need to weed through a lot of search results and code that isn’t right or doesn’t work for you before you find the code that does work.

BUT — if you can educate yourself enough, you can hack together something that really works!

Putting it online

It took me about 2 or 3 months of off and on coding (which still doing my other digital consulting work) to complete most of the code for the app, which was still living on the local drive of my Macbook. In order to use certain online scripts, set up my registration and payment process and see how the app looked on a mobile device, I needed to move it to a website hosting platform.

There are loads of hosting companies to choose from. I use Pressable for all of my WordPress sites, including the Propfire marketing site. But since Pressable focuses exclusively on WordPress and my app wasn’t WordPress, I decided to go with Cloudways. It’s cloud based, inexpensive and very scalable for when my app gets huge :)

Cloudways also lets you easily create a staging site, which is important to have in order to test changes before pushing them directly to your live app. In other words, you write your code on your local machine, test it on your staging server and then push it to your live server.

Accepting Payments

If you plan on charging for your app, you need a way of accepting and managing payments and subscriptions. I chose to use Stripe as my payment processor, but there was no way I could integrate it into my app (or even if I could, it would take me much too long to figure out how).

I found a few services that provide a ready made integration with Stripe that you can just add to your site. I chose Servicebot (because it was the cheapest option), which lets you easily create nice pricing tables and handles the subscription registration and billing via Stripe.

Servicebot costs me $49 a month, whereas simply using Stripe is free. But I would have had to pay a developer to integrate it for me and it would have been difficult to manage on an ongoing basis. With Servicebot I still had to pay a developer a small amount to integrate, but now I can easily change my pricing tables and manage my users and subscribers on my own. And it also handles the login/registration process on the app.

In general, I always try to keep things as simple as possible so that I don’t need to rely on developers for most tasks. Servicebot makes my life easier, so I’m happy to pay the monthly fee.

There are lots of other subscription management providers, with different features and at different price points, to choose from, so do some research before picking one.

Using a Developer

Since I mentioned using a developer to integrate Servicebot, I’ll make a couple of quick points about working with developers.

Unless you’re well funded, you’re probably going to use a freelance developer. I found mine on Upwork several years ago when I was working on another project. He’s located in South America. I’ve also used an offshore development shop before.

I personally prefer working with a solo developer over a firm because I can communicate directly with him instead of going through a project manager or some kind of management tier. But there are pros and cons to either, so go with what works best for you.

The most important thing is to work with someone you feel you can trust.

An offshore developer is going to be much cheaper than a US based one. In some cases the cheaper price might reflect less experience or lower skill level. But there are plenty of very experienced developers, especially PHP developers, who will do an awesome job for a fraction of the cost of a US developer because of the lower cost of living in their native land (and because they really want the work). The trick is finding them, and that is often a process of trial and error or just pure luck.

When you’re sending your developer a task, you MUST include specific instructions — the more detailed the better. Some developers will be able to figure things out on your own or read your mind. Most will not. The best way to avoid costly misunderstandings and screwups is to communicate CLEARLY, preferably in writing.

A really good developer will tell you if you’re what you’re asking makes no sense or won’t work as planned. But when you’re dealing with someone halfway across the globe, for whom English is a second (or third) language, you have to anticipate the possibility of communication difficulties and therefore be extra careful in created clear and detailed specs and instructions.

Also, you can’t expect to get an immediate answer from a freelancer in a different time zone. That’s why it’s best to be familiar enough with your code to troubleshoot in an emergency.

In my case, I’ve had to troubleshoot the few snippets of code I got my developer to write. And the few tasks I give him tend to take longer than expected. But as far as I’ve “hacked” on my own, there are still some difficult tasks that are simply beyond my pay grade and I’m not willing to spend the time it would take to learn enough to do them. That’s when I’ll turn to my developer — when I simply can’t (or won’t) do it myself.

At some point, when Propfire is making lots of money, I’ll hire a good developer and fly from there. For now, i pay only for the stuff I can’t figure out on my own.

 

Support Center

One of the things I put a lot of effort into was crafting the copy on my app to make sure the instructions on each page were clear enough for new users to follow without asking for help. But there will always be question, so I needed to create a support center.

There are several major help center software tools on the market. I chose Zoho, primarily because of its free plan. You can check out the Propfire support center here.

Then I got to work writing knowledge base articles.

In addition to the support center, which is a separate site, I wanted to provide users with help directly on the app pages. To do that would entail manually coding hotspots in different places and showing relevant help messages upon hover or click (in Javascript). It would take a good deal of time and work to create, and I was not looking forward to it.

Just as I was stressing about it, as if by Divine intervention, Appsumo offered a lifetime deal on tooltip.io, an app that makes it super easy to add and manage in-app messages of all types including tooltips, slide outs, popups and lots of other types. Huge problem solved, for only $49 (lifetime). Thank you Appsumo!

If you’re building or planning to build something, you should definitely be following the Appsumo deals because you’ll find some real gems which will (at some point) make your life easier for a heck of a lot less than you would otherwise have to pay for them.

Next Steps

Taking your app “live” might be the end of your development journey…well, at least phase 1 or it. Unless you’ve performed the most thorough testing possible, you’re going to find bugs and things that seemed to work really well at the time, but now don’t seem that great anymore and need to be changed.

You also should always be trying to improve your product. New use cases will arise that will motivate you to tweak the way the app works. Maybe that tweak will turn into a major change.

And now that the development is done for a while, the real hard work begins: marketing (i.e. getting paid users!). I’ll be writing another post about what I’m doing in that regard real soon.

I hope this post has at least given other non technical founders the courage and motivation to try their hands at developing their own SaaS product.

Feel free to reach out with questions :)

Oh yeah…try Propfire free for 14 days!

proposal software

Why did I create another app to help users create business proposals, where there are already at least a dozen existing proposal software products in the market?

Great question!

Let me explain.

The Problem

As a digital marketing consultant and small agency owner, I have to write a lot of proposals. Since I provide a variety of services including web design and development, seo, content marketing, social media and PPC, my proposals are often different depending on the project.

When I had to write my first proposal I did what most people in my shoes would. I turned to Google and started looking for examples of proposals that I could use. After lots of learning, copying and innovating, I put together a proposal in a Google doc I thought was pretty good. Then, each time I had to create a new proposal I would duplicate that one and make changes.

Overtime I continuously improved that original proposal until I got it to a level I was (and am) happy with. The problem was that I now had loads of proposals of all types and quality levels cluttering my Google Drive folder. So when I needed to write a new one, I had to make sure I was using the latest and best version. And of course, I had to then go into the document and make changes.

In the event that the project was exactly the same as a previous project, I’d only have to change the proposal title, client name, date and possibly the pricing. In most cases, even the projects that were similar to previous ones still had minor differences either in deliverables or terms that I’d need to modify and update.

In a best case scenario, creating a new proposal that needed minor updating could take an hour or 2, from start to finish. Proposals that required a major or complete overhaul could take up an entire day or 2 to get exactly right and ready for sending.

Once the proposal was done, I would usually save it as a pdf and email it to the client. I also would create a quick wordpress page with the proposal to share with the client, which would also take some quality time.

Beyond the actual time it took to do all this, it was the interruption of my normal workflow that really made the proposal process unbearable.

There had to be a better way.

Potential Solution

I thought I found a solution in an AppSumo deal that popped into my inbox. It was for proposal software by a then new company and it was $49 for a lifetime subscription — so I figured it was worth a shot.

I was excited, until I actually got into the software to try and create a proposal. It was pretty much like working in wordpress: choose a design template and then modify it. But I was already familiar with the wordpress template I always used, as opposed to this new interface and template I now had to learn.

Then there were the limitations. I wasn’t allowed to make changes to the basic layout of the proposal template, so I was stuck using their idea of the perfect proposal — which unfortunately didn’t match my quality standards.

Also, the proposal content contained in the template, that was supposed to be proven to win huge six figure deals, didn’t seem to be relevant to the kinds of clients and projects I was pitching to.

Maybe their proposal templates were geared towards huge companies and multi 6 figure deals. But for the small to midsized companies I was pitching projects that ranged from $10,000 to $60,000, their templated format and content just didn’t make any sense.

My clients didn’t want images and graphs and mission statements and testimonials. They already knew who I was because I’d already had at least 1 or 2 meetings or conversations with them to build a relationship of trust. We had already discussed their needs and I had already explained to them what I could offer them and given them a ballpark price to make sure we were on the same page regarding project cost.

They had already bought into the idea of working with me. The only things they needed to know now were the details of what I would do for them (deliverables), how long it would take (timeframe) and how much it would cost (pricing).

As Alan Weiss, the author of Million Dollar Proposals, says, “Proposals are not part of the sales process. They are part of the implementation process. The sale occurs before the proposal is ever written.”

So after wasting some hours trying out the proposal software I now had a lifetime subscription to, I went back to my Google docs and wordpress template. Granted, for someone who doesn’t know how to easily throw up a wordpress page and make it look good, using the existing proposal software might be helpful. It wasn’t for me.

Feature Heavy

I also tried other online proposal software in my search for a better way. But they were all pretty much based on the same concept of providing wordpress-like templates and requiring that you then modify them. But I could already create my own wordpress pages for free, so what did I need them for? And like I said before, the content in these proposal template was not relevant to the type of clients and projects I was pitching.

But wait…there were other features that these software providers had:

1. You could see how many times your proposal was opened and what pages they were looking at the most.

The reason they could give you that information was because the proposals lived online on their platform. So it was basically like adding Google Analytics to your proposal.

Why wasn’t I excited by that? For a couple of reasons:

  1. I already tracked the email in which I sent my proposals to clients (using mailtrack), so I could see when and how many times they opened the email and clicked on the link. I could also track an attached pdf copy of the proposal. I didn’t need to pay extra to do that.
  2. More importantly, it didn’t really matter to me how many times my proposal was opened if they didn’t sign and accept it. Once I sent my proposal I would follow up whether I knew if they opened it or not. If the client didn’t accept my proposal within 2 weeks tops, I would still follow up until I got a definite answer, but for the most part I knew that the deal was dead. Being able to track your proposal and see when someone is reading it sounds really cool, but I don’t think it changes anything in the real world. But it’s still helpful to know that your proposal is being opened and read, and the easiest way to do that is to simply track the email you sent it in.

2. Clients can sign your proposal online.

This is a tricky one because it sounds super sensible and in many cases it might very well work. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get a client to sign and accept your proposal. And some clients will take advantage of that opportunity.

In my experience in dealing with manufacturing and other “old school” companies of that sort, the decision maker (usually the owner or CEO) is going to want to sign a piece of paper and have a hard copy of it. That means I would put my signature on a pdf copy of the proposal and they would print it out, sign it and mail it back with a check.

ONLY giving the client the option to sign your proposal online is not the way to go. You can give them the online option, but you also must give them the pen on paper one too.

The truth is that as nice as it is to get your client to sign your proposal, it doesn’t mean ziltch until you’ve got their payment in your hands. And while I’m not a lawyer (not do I play one on TV), I’m pretty certain that the payment made is at least as good, and probably even better, than a signature if you take it in front of a judge.

But let’s be serious here. When was the last time you heard of a small digital agency taking a client to court over a dispute related to a project? It’s not going to happen (other than in the rarest circumstances). Most disputes are going to be worked out through negotiation and possibly arbitration. But you certainly don’t want to be known around town as the consultant or agency that sues clients. That is definitely NOT helpful in getting more business.

Bottom line: Is the online signature option nice to have? Yes (which is why it’s included in Propfire). Is it required to get business. No.

3. You can chat with clients within the platform

First of all, the high level decision makers who are the ones signing my proposals are not chatting. Period. If they have questions they’ll most likely email them or call. In the even that a client likes using chat, they usually already have a favorite chat tool which they prefer, be it hangouts, slack, messenger or skype. I honestly don’t get the purpose of a chat feature in a proposal app, other than it being a cool looking feature to display and charge for.

4. Hundreds of Templates

I hate going to a restaurant that has a hundred items on the menu. Give me your best dishes to choose from. Don’t overwhelm and confuse me. Less is more.

What on earth are you going to do with hundreds of design templates other than waste a truck load of time trying to make sense of them and find one to actually use?

Unless you are selling creative services to large Fortune 500 companies, where the agencies have teams of designers working on creating stunningly designed proposals, you don’t need to worry about design. Yes, your proposal must look professional. But like I said earlier on, clients care about what you’re going to do, how long it’s going to take and how much it will cost. Imagery and colors are not going to help you win an engagement.

For example, I once had to create a website development proposal for a large real estate company in NYC. The deal would be worth around $70,000, which is no small potatoes for a small agency like mine. At the time I had just brought in a VP of Development who had spent 20 years working for large advertising agencies. When I walked through the proposal with him and put it together right there in front of him he was pleasantly surprised. He said that at his old agencies they would have assigned a team of designers to spend a week or two creating a proposal. And here I was creating a proposal with no images (other than our company logo) and saving it as a pdf to email to them!

The client must have liked the proposal because we made it to the finals of the decision process. We did not end up winning the business, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the design of our proposal. The client decided to go with a much larger agency that had capabilities that we simply did not. And no, I have no idea how their proposal looked :)

5. Team Collaboration

I can’t really speak to this one because I don’t have a team of people collaborating on a single proposal. Large agencies might need this feature. Small ones probably don’t. Consultants and freelancers definitely don’t.

6. Companies can pay you online

This sounds awesome — get paid immediately, right into your bank account. And if you’re charging a few hundred dollars for a small freelance gig, then it might work fine. But companies spending thousands of dollars on a service do not pay online by credit card. Companies pay by checks, signed by an owner or officer.

This might change in the future, but for the foreseeable future, companies paying substantial sums for services will only do so by check. That’s why I didn’t include online payments in Propfire. If things change, online payments can always be integrated down the road.

For now, if you are in a situation where your client wants to pay you online, just send them your Stripe or Paypal email (if you’re willing to eat the transaction fee).

 

A New Way to Create Proposals

I tested almost all of the proposal software out there and I found that they were all almost exactly the same. They all offered design templates that would then need to be modified. The prewritten content they provided didn’t fit my way of doing business, even though they were supposed to be tailored to my services (web design, seo, social media, digital marketing, development etc.) The other features they offered weren’t really important or relevant to me.

I didn’t want a tool that basically mimicked what I could already do in wordpress; build pages with design templates. What I really wanted was a tool that would let me create a proposal so quickly and easily that I could even do it at a client meeting.

Just image having a great meeting with a client in which you have a total meeting of the minds regarding how you can do what he needs done. He’s ready to make a deal, but you first need to get him a proposal that clearly spells out what you’ll do, how long it will take and how much it will cost.

But to create that proposal you need to get back to the office and start either going through your drive to find a similar proposal that you can then work over and modify or start redesigning and modifying a design template. While you’re doing a whole list of other work related tasks pop up which you need to address.

By the time you finally create the proposal and send it to the client, it’s almost a week later. And guess what? The client isn’t as hot on you as he was at the meeting. He’s moved on to other pressing matter, and now you have to win back his attention. Maybe you can, and maybe you lost your chance at some new business.

Now imagine being able to create a proposal in just a few minutes right after your meeting and either showing the client your proposal on the spot or sending them a copy right then and there. Striking when the iron is hot. How awesome would that be!

That’s what I wanted. A tool that would let me create a proposal at a client meeting.

To do that it couldn’t be based on design templates, which are too cumbersome to be modified on the spot, especially when you’re sitting across the table from a client.

I imagined just clicking a few boxes to generate a proposal, that I could then easily modify with a basic text editor.

So I started mapping out the basic workflow and screens of a tool that could do exactly that.

Making it happen

I’ll talk a lot more about how I, a non developer, was able to develop Propfire pretty much on my own in another post. Rest assured I had to go back to the drawing board several times before I finally came up with a workflow for Propfire that made sense.

But even when I had pretty much completed the tool development phase, I still had my doubts about whether people really needed a proposal tool. The fact that there were major competitors in the space helped calm me a bit (it proved that there was market for proposal software). But I had never paid to use any of them, and I had made this far by using Google Docs, so maybe everyone else could do the same?

Then I had the opportunity to work with another digital marketing consultant on a potential web design and digital marketing client she was trying to win. She specifically needed help in creating a proposal. She told me she had been working on one for a few days already, and wanted me to look it over and make changes, if needed.

Now before I continue the story, I need to tell you a bit more about this consultant. She had been in the business for at least 10 years and had done her share of consulting work. But apparently, the jobs she did were gotten despite her proposals. When I looked at her Google doc proposal I was truly shocked. This smart and experienced professional had no idea how to organize or write a basic proposal.

That’s when I understood. Not everyone can create a good proposal. Just because someone is great at social media, or sales or design or development does not mean that they are also good at creating an organized and effective proposal, without help.

I developed Propfire to help awesome professionals create winning proposals to help them close more deals and make more money.

I want business people to be able to create proposals without having to deal with design templates.

I want them to be able to create custom proposals faster and easier than they ever imagined, in a more intuitive way than the old fashioned design template modification process.

That’s why I created Propfire, even though the market is filled with competitors.

Because Propfire is different than all the competitors. And better :)

Start a free trial today

If you’re a digital marketing agency owner or a freelancer or consultant offering digital marketing services, you probably have a list of different services you offer, including web design, seo, social media, email marketing, content marketing…and more.

When you sit down to create a proposal to present to your client, the content of that proposal will vary based on the needs of the particular client. Some clients might only want seo, while others might want all or some combination of your services. This makes using a single template for all of your proposals impracticable. And you definitely don’t want to have to create a proposal from scratch for every new client.

What you really need, as a digital marketer, is to have a way to easily select and include the specific services your client wants and automatically generate a proposal from it.

As a digital marketing consultant and agency owner myself, I totally understood the need to mix and match specific services for different client proposals and I felt the pain of having to spend hours or even days creating these proposals on Google Docs.

That’s why I created a way for digital marketers to easily select the services they want to include and then generate a proposal automatically.

Here’s how it works:

You initially input each of your services and categorize them. For example, you would create the category of SEO and then input something like – “Perform extensive keyword research.” I call these content snippets.

To speed up the process I’ve created a whole set of content snippets for digital marketers that includes web design, seo, social media, content and ppc. You can easily import the relevant content snippets with a click of a button and then modify them as you like.

Once you have all of your content snippets inputed, you are ready to rock.

When you find out what services your client wants, you simply check off each category (like SEO, Wed Design etc.).

You can then select or eliminate specific content snippets within each category to make sure you’ve got the right services for the client.

After that you’ll only need to add a timeframe and pricing, and BOOM…you’ve got your customized proposal!

Of course, you can then print it out or share it as a pdf or as a link.

But best of all, you can actually embed your proposal into your own website by just copying a few lines of code and adding it to one of your web pages. Then you can share a link to your own domain with your own branding.

It’s really that simple.

Here’s a video that quickly goes through the process:

For more videos please go to our support section here.