Contracts Save Lives
If this is TL;DR then just one thing. Always do a proposal no matter how small the job is and get the customer to sign or agree to its contents. But onwards.
Leads that Turn into Customers
I have done work for 30 euro and work for 10K. For the smaller jobs I used to never ever write proposals. I thought it was embarrassing to have to put something in front of a customer for a job that was under 2-300 euro even.
This is a massive mistake.
It is super easy to have a template (or use a cloud service which I do) to create a set of standard documents that outlines what you are delivering to a client. Please don’t use email. It sucks and can get lost in translation.
My website proposals go basically something like this.
I will create a website for you, it doesn’t include training, lifelong support till my eyes belled and you pay me a deposit, interim payment and until you pay the last payment you don’t get a site. It will cost you XYZ.
It is more detailed than that but you get the gist. For smaller jobs I do the same. Some of my proposals are just one page with a link to my terms and conditions. I always drop my client a short email that ask “Did you read the Terms and Conditions?” Until I get the yes (and the deposit) the work doesn’t start.
There are many reasons but the most important one is to protect you and to protect the client. Also conversations, email threads and meetings get forgotten. If you and they have a document that says you will do A,B,C and that it will costs XYZ then everything is above board.
It also saves you from the situation where the client asks for something in addition to what you agreed. You can then point to the signed/agreed document and say it is out of scope and they have to pay for it.
We are all human and we tend to forget every single detail that we might have agreed on. Customers aren’t bad people but once you are working for them you are their employee of sorts and they demand that the job gets done.
If the job description or scope is not clear then the power is with the client.
You can’t whinge that you never agreed to that as even though it may be buried in some email or written in your notebook without a record it is hard to stand over it.
When the S**t Hits the Fan
Sometimes and rarely the shit hits the fan and there is a dispute. The customer says you didn’t deliver something or they refuse to pay. This is where you gallop to your proposal and terms and conditions and make sure that you are in the right.
You can then show this to them calmly and say this was the scope that they agreed to and the payment terms. In many cases this ends it. But if it does get legal you have the higher ground.
Writing Proposals and Ts&Cs – Yuck
When you see a new lead and the prospect of making the money is to skip the step of getting a proposal and agreement in place. Please don’t. It doesn’t take long and over time you will build up some boilerplate templates that will allow you turn out proposals really quickly for all style of jobs.
I have used a variety of cloud services and for the past 18 months I have used PandaDoc which now has about 7-8 different proposal templates in place that allow me create documents really quickly.
But I still take time every week to look at them, read them with a fresh eye and make sure that they are solid, clear and there isn’t any ambiguity.
You should to.
Don’t Come Crying
On a final serious note you are a professional and you should have professional processes. It doesn’t cost money to create professional processes, just time and a bit of thought. I pay a few euro for PandaDoc and it is worth every penny to be honest but you can be just as effective with MS Word or Pages (if a little slower).
Neglecting a written scope is really a HUGE mistake. It will save you money over time, perhaps make you money and show the customer that you are in control of what you do.
I still screw up even with this. I am not explicit enough in certain things and have to work it out. So even with this you need to work the process all the time. Imagine if your agreement was over a cup of coffee and a phone call.
I am more than glad to chat with anyone about how I create proposals and manage my customers. Just drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org