How Much Time Should You Spend on a Freelance Proposal?

Putting your best foot forward with each freelance proposal is certainly a critical piece to your ability to land clients. Equally important, however, is the ability to allocate just enough time and effort to each proposal so that you give your potential client sufficient information to push your proposal through to the next stage, but not so much that you end up with diminishing returns on your time. I explain this in detail in the following video.


Full Transcript:

Laura here from Better Biz Academy with your freelance tip for the week. This one is all about proposals. Once you have convinced a client that it's a great opportunity to work together, whether you are on Upwork, cold pitching somebody or you met somebody at a conference and you need to follow up with a proposal for actual work, a good question to ask is, "How much time should I spend on a freelance proposal?"

 

Be guided by the scope of the project you are pitching for

(The amount of time you spend on a freelance proposal) really depends on the scope of the project. I am not going to spend that much time on a proposal to write one or five blog posts for a client. If it is a retainer project, however, or if it's really in-depth and you need to break progress down into several different pieces, I am probably going to spend an hour or two on the proposal.

So, I will share with you what I mean by this. When I go to do a proposal or a general suggestion of cost for a client for a shorter or smaller project, I am just going to break it down and make it as easy as possible. I am usually not going to provide pages and pages of material and data supporting the fact that we should do this project overall. Ideally, by the time you are at the proposal stage with the client, you have already discussed the benefits of blogging, or white papers or a brand-new logo or whatever it is that you do as a freelance service. So, when you get to the proposal stage, we're really talking about bigger projects. One client that I wrote a proposal for, as an example, was somebody who needed an entire online course created. This included the script to be written, the PowerPoint slides made, the PowerPoint slides recorded, uploaded onto a website where they were going to host their course, finding images, creating handouts, quizzes etc. That was a really in-depth project so it only made sense to create a proposal because otherwise you are just throwing numbers out at the client. They don't know what that includes, they are going to come back with a bunch of questions, "Well hey, does that include the quizzes or do we have to make the PowerPoint slides ourselves?" So, a proposal for a really big project or something that is in-depth is well worth your time because it shows the client that you have thought about what needs to go into this particular project.

 

Give the client enough to Know what it is like to work with you without overwhelming them

Don't go above and beyond if they haven't signed a contract yet. Most of the time when you are in the proposal stage, you are kind of giving them a preliminary look at what you might do. But, let’s go back to my example of the online course. I am not going to tell the client in the proposal stage every lecture that I'd recommend going into the course, because I don’t want to put my time and energy into creating this proposal and then have them try to shop around somewhere else with my ideas.

So, what I usually do is give them enough information and perhaps one or two sample lecture topics so that they can see what it is like to work with me, how I would approach this project overall, and then let them decide. You don't need to tell them everything in the proposal and you'd be surprised how many clients really don’t care about the process that's involved. They just care about that end result. A great example is me with my Pinterest VA. I don’t know that much about Pinterest so my virtual assistant does all of it and that's what she is great at. So, I don't really care how many hours she spends doing it, I just care what the monthly retainer is and generally what that includes to make sure that all of my blogs and videos and all that are being shared on Pinterest as well with the best practices in the industry. So, you don't have to go too much into detail of, you know, if you are writer you don’t need to say, "well I am going to spend two hours researching every post and then spend three hours writing it and then I am going to spend another hour editing it and running it through CopyScape." Your client doesn’t care about that. So, don't go into too much detail on your proposal. It confuses the client and overwhelms them and just makes them more likely to say "No." Instead, what you want to do is provide enough information about what it is like to work with you without overwhelming them, without going into too much detail and you are kind of giving it as a teaser, like here's part of my proposal. Here's part of what I would do in this phase of the process but until they have signed the contract and moved forward, you don't need to give away everything that you would intend to do. So, that's something to keep in mind and consider as you approach the proposal process.

 

Take the time to put out a quality proposal

I usually spend between one and three hours on a major proposal and I am talking thousands of dollars are involved in the project; that is something that you would want to do probably a timeline to explain what your process would be, whether you are going to need to hire other freelancers to help you with this, the order in which you'd recommend completing these things in - that is worthy of a proposal. And you want your proposal to be free of grammar and spelling errors. You want it to look professional. You want it to be clear for the client. So, it is a good idea to write the proposal, step away for a while and then come back and proofread it, once you have had a chance to let things gel in your mind a little bit.

 

Consider having a generic proposal template for smaller projects

For shorter projects, your proposal really shouldn’t take that long. I have known people who are submitting bids on Upwork where honestly time is of the essence and you have a much better chance of getting a client's interest if you reply immediately after they post the ad rather than taking three hours to write a response. By that point, they might have already hired somebody else. So, have a generic proposal template for your service that you can tweak a little bit based on the job posting.

As an example, I have one generic proposal template saved on my desktop, which already has two paragraphs of information ready to go based on the services I offer. Then based on the job post, I will specialize and customize it just a little bit. And, don’t spend so much time on customizing proposals on Upwork. I don’t understand why people do that. You do not need to spend an hour replying to one job post on Upwork, unless it's a $50,000 project and you need to get this client on the phone. And even then, your primary focus should be getting them on the phone, not submitting a proposal and waiting to see if you will hear back. You want to prompt them to action with that proposal.

So, base the time that you spend on the proposal on the depth of the project and how many other people are potentially competing for it. If you had a call with the CEO of a company, you are going to want to spend more time crafting that proposal than submitting a blind ad to something on Craigslist or Upwork whether there are multiple other people competing for that one position. But if you met this CEO at a networking event and he said, "Hey send me a proposal" after you have talked about your freelance services, definitely put the time in to show that you did the research about their company, what they need and how you would approach the project.

I hope this helps to clarify the importance of the proposal process but also why it makes sense to adjust the time you spend based on the type of project at hand. 

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