Recently I was involved in a discussion with fellow web designers and developers about charging prospective clients for putting together proposals. People on both sides of the debate made some valid points. We wanted to share them to help you make an informed choice when hiring a web professional.
Why Some Web Professionals Charge for Proposals
Building websites is a complex process and it’s not getting any easier. Web designers and web developers must deal with creating engaging multimedia experiences that look great across countless devices and browsers and that ultimate deliver more sales to our clients. We also have to make sure that the experience is accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.
To further complicate things, the technological landscape is constantly changing. What was considered best practice a year or so, can be considered bad practice today. Design trends and available tools are also ever evolving.
When it comes time to write a proposal for a website, designers and developers have to put some serious time into investigating the needs of the client and create a comprehensive scope of work that meets everyone’s needs. This process can take a few days, even longer and more major projects.
It is understandable then that web designers and developers want to get paid for that time, especially if those proposals don’t convert into paid jobs. Time is money, and most of us work very hard for it.
A lot of other businesses charge for initial consultations (like lawyers) or estimates (auto mechanics). Why shouldn’t web professionals do the same?
Why ZenPunk Doesn’t Charge For Proposals
We take a slightly different approach to this issue. More specifically, we adopt a slightly different business model. We are not saying the other business model (charging for proposals) is wrong or bad or less than. It’s just not the one we have chosen to adopt.
Ultimately, we take position that we are not in the proposal writing business any more than GEICO is in the television commercial business. Both proposal writing and advertising are costs of doing business. So as not to go broke, businesses average out the cost of indirect expenses and build them into their pricing.
That said, we also take steps to minimize these costs. For example, before we meet with prospective clients, we ask them to fill out a comprehensive form on the nature of their business and the nature of the project. We ask about their needs, their customers’ needs, style preferences, competition and even allocated budget for the project.
It takes prospective clients some time to fill this out. It helps us qualify who is serious about hiring a web professional. Those that choose not to fill out the form don’t get proposals. They’re not committed enough to the project for us to commit ourselves to writing a proposal. Let them waste someone else’s time.
Consequently, the number of proposals that we write that don’t ultimately turn into paid jobs is very low. Everybody wins.
Which Business Model is Better?
Neither one. Our attitude is that web professionals should do what works for them. If you find you’re writing a lot of proposals that don’t turn into paid jobs, charge for writing proposals. If you find that you can sufficiently qualify clients before it gets to the proposal stage (so that you’re not writing a lot of unsuccessful proposals), be like us and don’t charge. Not right or wrong, better or worse, just different.
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