Like when you finished your budget, once you finish your proposal there are a few finishing touches you need to make so that unexpected things do not happen. What do you need to look out for? Author Richard Harrington discusses the importance of other people reviewing your proposal and other tips so there are no surprises with your proposal.
- Once you think your proposal is done and ready to share with the client, I've got a few tips to avoid any surprises, or unexpected things happening. I recommend that you let it be proofread by two additional people, who have a fresh view, meaning, don't have your colleague who's been working with you all hours of the night to finish this, look at it. Rather, hand it off to somebody who isn't working on the project, if possible. If that's not an option, perhaps it's a spouse, but find somebody who's gonna look at it with fresh eyes, and flag things that sound like jargon, or are confusing.
I always recommend reviewing a hard copy with a red pen. That might sound old school, and it's clear that I've got a journalism background, but, to me, looking at the printed page makes it easier to spot changes. I go in with something that's in high contrast, like a red pen, to circle things as I find mistakes. Personally, it's a lot easier for me to miss things if I'm looking at it on the computer. If I typed it wrong, I'm more likely to glance over it on the computer, but looking at the physical copy shows me any potential errors, or places where the layout isn't working.
I recommend that you start this internal review process early on. Once you think you're just about there, or even halfway there, send it off to somebody to take a fresh look. Don't wait until you've done all of your checking and finalizing to start the review process. If you're working with internal folks, make sure that they take a look at an early draft. If you've done a budget, you can send the draft budget over to the client, and ask them to sign off that this is the right target, or give you feedback. If you're working with an internal group, make sure you share something with them right away.
You don't wanna go through all the effort of a full writeup in a creative proposal, only to find that your budget was three times more expensive than they ever would've gone for. Have those conversations early, or at least agree to do some thresholds. One approach I'll often do is ask the client to give me a not-to-exceed number. That might sound strange, because clients don't like to tip their hat, but I'm pretty straightforward. I say, "Tell me a number you don't want us to go over, "and don't worry, I'm gonna give you at least "one other option." Usually I'll do a good, better, best, and the best is the client's not-to-exceed number.
If the client's budget's really low, then I'll take that not-to-exceed number and make it my middle budget, giving them something a little bit lower that gives them confidence, and then showing them that if they stretch things a bit, what they could accomplish, but these things are things you need to lock down early, not at the end of the proposal. I also recommend getting to a different location. Don't sit at the same desk and review your proposal. Don't look at it on the same laptop screen that you've been staring at for six hours. Change locations, use this as an excuse to run to your favorite coffee shop.
Go ahead and get some fresh air. I also look for things like strange line breaks. I have a bit of a background with print, but I always look for things that are typically referred to as widows or orphans, strange line breaks, bad hyphenation, a sentence that gets spread across multiple pages, when it doesn't need to. Consider adding hard returns, and improving readability. Additionally, make sure things like page numbers are turned on, so budgets don't get out of place. or pages don't get shuffled in order, leading to confusion.
I will look for things that are garbled, any print problems, or any areas where there is bad character substitution from a copy and paste error, or formatting issues. I then recommend making a PDF file, and sending it to everyone. Remember, the PDF file is the way that the client will likely get it, if it's digital, and this will show any errors that might pop up when you go to print. I recommend if you do have to make printed copies, test it early. I've seen people get to the very end, rushing to make a deadline, having to FedEx something, and they go to print the proposal, and that's when they realize that they're out of ink, or that the toner's gone bad, or the printer's failed.
Print out that first draft, make sure it looks good when you print it, make sure that your printer is working. If you're required to deliver hard copies, you don't want to have a surprise at the very end. Also, determine if there's any binding, a lot of times you have to deliver hard copy proposals and budgets in a bound container. This can be done at a local print shop, or you can have these sorts of things, or folders, internally, to make it easier. I don't recommend handing off at the very end. It's very tempting when you're tired, to just say to an administrative assistant, "You take care of this," or, "Hey, can you deliver this for me?" I get very nervous, the weakest link is where all things get destroyed, so when it comes time to getting this out, either do it yourself, or make sure that there's a trusted person on your staff doing it, and stay involved in the communication thread.
Make sure you're included in the send on the CC line. Make sure you check back in. As communications professionals, we sometimes aren't the best communicators, so it's essential that at the very finish line, you don't drop the baton. This is where I always say, "Ensure personal delivery." Sure, it's tempting to call up a courier and rush it over, or to just simply drop it into a service and send the attachment, but I get a little nervous. I've seen couriers screw up, I've seen Dropbox links go to spam.
Whether you're making digital delivery, or firsthand delivery, make sure it gets there. With digital delivery, I will always send an e-mail from my address, as well as make a phone call that just says to the client, "I've just sent the proposal to you, "I just wanted to make sure that the attachment "didn't go to your spam folder, "and that you knew that it was on its way." And, I'll also call and leave the same message, asking them to confirm that they've received the budget and the proposal. You don't want the client thinking you're unresponsive, or miss a deadline, all because something got bounced from an e-mail box because they couldn't receive your attachment because it was too large, or it got shifted into a spam, or junk, or bulk folder, because you used a service like Dropbox.
Make sure that it gets there, whether that's a personal delivery that you drop off firsthand, or calling and e-mailing until you have a response that the proposal was indeed received and opened. Don't leave things to chance. You don't wanna lose a job all because you couldn't get it to the very end of the process.
- Evaluating outsourcing and partnering options
- Setting your rates
- Incorporating material and overhead costs
- Scoping the project
- Estimating the production time
- Collecting data with time tracking
- Creating a quote or proposal
- Setting payment terms
- Creating an invoice with Word or Pages
- Dealing with billing and collections