Freelancers find themselves in lots of difficult situations. A client isn’t giving you enough time, your payment is arriving late, you don’t have any leverage to get your money, you’re being coerced into providing more services than you signed up for.
The vast majority of these situations can be prevented by creating an impeccable proposal.
A properly written proposal should be about two pages long. Enough detail to provide clarity and protect you from misunderstanding, but not so long that it’s intimidating. Done well, your proposal can eliminate the majority of nightmare outcomes. Your client will hesitate before asking for extra revisions in the middle of the engagement not just because your proposal outlined how many revisions are included in the price, but also because the proposal will professionally convey the fact that your time and services are in demand and valuable. This is good for them to know. They want to know it. It gives them comfort.
A good proposal sends two messages:
The first message is straight-forward. “Here is my understanding of the work you have asked me to do for you, and how much it will cost.” That part is expected.
The second message is more subliminal, and comes across in the beauty, language, and specificity of the proposal. That message is, “I have great value and I know how to deliver it on a specific timeline in exchange for precise amounts of money. You will be very happy that you hired me. Indeed, I have done this many times before.”
Depending on how long you’ve been freelancing, you may already have a proposal format you use. It probably contains:
- Your logo and business name at the top.
- A summary of the services you plan to provide.
- A total dollar amount you wish to receive in return.
If you’re a little more advanced, you might do these as well:
- Name the project, if the client hasn’t already. No need to get creative here. Client name plus two words describing what you’re doing for them. Under the name, in one or two sentences, summarize the needs of the client and what you plan to deliver.
- List the deliverables. This is everything the client expects you to hand off to them, and everything you need from the client in order to do so.
You can get away with just having the first three, or include all five to show you’re a serious player. But if you want to avoid all of the painful situations listed above, if you really want to wow your clients and build long-term relationships with them, and if you want to stand out in your field as the most professional freelancer imaginable, one who can command high rates because they make everything easier for their clients and leave nothing to doubt, you must add these to your proposal:
- Touch points—when will you check in with your client?
- Phases of work
- Pricing structure
- Scope of work
- Fee structure
Let’s go through those now.
As part of your proposal, list the touch points—that is, the moments over the course of the project where you (and/or your team) will engage in a planned conversation with the client (and/or their team). The purpose of these touch points might be to hand off the deliverables, ask questions, or give a general update on the progress. Over-communication is key, because, as James Altucher says, “Most people are 8-year olds.”
This is not an insult to anyone, it’s the reality of dealing with busy, stressed, insecure, distracted human beings, some of whom don’t care a lot about their jobs. You might be dealing with one person, or more likely, a team of people who don’t talk to each other. They are never listening as closely as you think they are, so you need to repeat yourself.
This might sound annoying. Get over that, and quickly. Just master it. It’s not hard, and it will reward you exponentially. Get in touch with the client over the course of the project, rather than waiting for them to get in touch with you. Even if there’s nothing to report, just say a quick “hi” and remind them what you’re bringing to the next touchpoint.