How we handle: Sending proposals

Annnnnd we’re back for our monthly “How we handle: _______” series. You guys really loved the last series on how we handle file management, which tells me you’re as into neurotic organizational tips as I am :).

Today I wanted to chat a bit about sending proposals to prospective clients. There are a million ways to book clients and wow them with your proposals, and I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. Let’s hop to it!

How to send project proposals | Spruce Rd. | There are a million ways to book clients and wow them with your proposals, and I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. What software to use? How to build in urgency? Here’s exactly how we send quotes to prospective clients.

Make it easy

#1 lesson I’ve learned in my years of freelancing is to make everything as easy as possible for our clients. Back in the day I used to send a beautifully designed PDF proposal that I customized for each client. A sample of my work was included, the entire process, about our studio and almost as a footnote the investment for their project on the final page. To book the project they would have to reply “YES!” and then I would send them an as beautifully designed contract for them to sign, scan and email. Ugh. The amount of frugality in those early months is embarrassing. This type of proposal will work for some higher end clients, but for majority of my clients they prefer less homework.

Guess what? Clients just want to move forward to work with you and not go through numerous steps to do so.

Enter: 17hats (or any other quote software… there’s so many options).

Now it literally takes me a few minutes to send a prospective client a quote, contract and invoice, and takes them one minute to approve, sign and pay. I’ve experienced first hand the conversion from paying for quote software. Yes, it doesn’t look as beautiful. But, I’d rather book clients than have pretty proposals. We on the same page?!

Templates are your friend

For each packaged service that I offer, I have a template setup in 17hats. The correlating contract and payment schedule is included as well. Having a template (even if you are sending a PDF) will save you an immense amount of time! They are your friend, so buckle down and pull one together.

Customize quotes for your client

Once you have your template locked and loaded, it could be easy to just press send without touching a thing other than the start date. This is where automation needs to take a back seat. (insert record scratch here) YES — though it seems the internet world is preaching “automate everything,” good customer service can’t be completely automated.

Your potential client is unique, and though you might have packaged services I highly recommend tailor-fitting them to your client. This is also a chance to add a la carte services that interest them.

Here are a few ways I’ve found success in customizing for my clients:

  • Do some research first! Share with them that you’ve taken the time to look into their competition, and how you’d love to come alongside them to stand out.

  • If your services align with it, offer a critique of their current brand. (I’ve booked a coach because she provided an in-depth analysis of my business without me even asking for it. The girl knew her stuff, and her critique did the convincing for me!)

  • If you offer branding, I’ve customized the social media collateral to match their business. Are they on Etsy, YouTube, Instagram? Get specific in the quote and don’t leave it as default “social media.”

  • Add a la carte services as add-ons to the quote that are specific to their needs (as shown by this 17hats preview). This is where I love to get creative with my research and offer services they might not have known they needed! Find a software that allows for your clients to add services to the main quote — it’s a great way to provide a more holistic experience for the client, and “upsell” a bit.

Build some urgency

To increase conversions in sales, you need to build some sort of urgency — a discount percentage, limited availability, or a deadline to name a few. If you send a quote to a client without any sense of urgency, they don’t feel compelled to book quite yet. They’ll respond with saying they will keep your prices in mind for their budget later in the year. (aka, I probably won’t ever book).

Let me tell you something — I’ve spent countless hours courting prospective clients who never booked because I didn’t have any sense of urgency. We’ll revise the quote, create timelines, set up phone calls, all for free!

I started building urgency in my quotes through providing a 7-day deadline (as shown in this 17hats snippet). My printer does the same for me in his quotes stating that he can’t guarantee their prices indefinitely. Totally makes sense! So now when I send a link to the project quote, I mention that it expires in 7 days. I also let them know ahead of time on the consultation call, so they don’t feel too panicked.

Through providing urgency, I avoid potential clients circling back a year later requesting the same pricing. These clients want to work together, so I just guide them into that decision with no regrets!

The follow up

But what do you do if you send a client a proposal, and then… crickets?! It happens, so don’t feel like you are alone! Some people are price shopping, or maybe something came up, either way you need a game plan for the follow up.

I have a very simple non-intrusive follow-up plan for clients who go silent after the proposal. It’s important to note that I only send proposals to potential clients who I’ve already had a consultation call with — so we already know each other. It’s a “warm” email, never “cold.”

If I haven’t heard from them in 4 days, I’ll reach out and see if they had any questions or are ready for next steps. I keep it light, brief and personal here! If they respond to this message that they aren’t ready to book, I reply back and let them know we’re here for them whenever they are ready! Then I drop it and move along. You’ll get inquiries in your inbox that never book. And that’s okay.

If after I send the 4-day follow up I still don’t hear anything, I’ll follow up a week or so after the deadline expired one last time. Just to make sure it didn’t slip through the cracks. Pretty simple and straightforward here! No complex, automated or annoying sequence, just a friendly reminder.

And there you have it! A look into how we handle project proposals. Sending quotes is such a huge part of any service-based business, so I hope it was helpful to hear our process! I know I always love a look behind the scenes into the tools + systems other businesses use :).