Why You Shouldn't Just Give a Quote to Potential Clients

Can you give me a quote for this project? If you’re a freelancer, you probably hear or read this statement almost daily. What’s your response like?

a) It’s $X,000; or

b) It would cost around $X,000 to $Y,000; or

c) I think it’s best that I meet or talk with you first, so we can discuss what your needs are. What is your budget for the project?

I’ve used all three approaches for a variety of projects. Although responses (a) and (b) have their place, I’ve gotten the best results from variations of (c). More often than not, quotes haven’t really worked for me or my clients, and here’s why…

It’s incomplete. Your quote is just a number. Your clients can’t surmise all the information they need from that number. Apart from the primary services you provide, you should also give them your advice. Oftentimes, what a client really needs is different from what they think they need. In this case, an assessment of a client’s business and project, followed by a proposal, is the better approach.

Sometimes, when a client wants a website redesign, they mean they want something more pleasing to the eye, or something in a different color, or a copycat of another website. But will this really work for them? You need to make suggestions – you’re not just a service provider, you’re also a consultant. For this, it helps to reference some statistics or case studies within your proposal so that your clients know that your ideas are quantifiable. These things aren’t included in a quote.

If a potential client insists on some numbers, then give them a very wide range. Let them know that these numbers aren’t concrete and that there are several factors affecting the final price. Offer to discuss it with them better so you can give them the best value for their money.

It’s vague.
When a client asks you for a quote, especially a new client, odds are you’re not talking about the project in the exact same way. For example, they don’t know how many working hours it will take and you don’t know what results they expect.

A proposal defines the project in black and white. This makes proposals just as important as your contract. Whenever you or your client are in doubt about the scope, expected results, or objectives of the project, you’ll always have the proposal to consult.

It sets expectations. Some clients look at your quote and think that it’s all they’ll ever have to spend on the project. When they ask you to do an additional task you haven’t factored into the quote, they might be disappointed that they have to pay extra. A proposal breaks down the costs of each aspect of the project, showing your client exactly how each dollar is spent.

Since a quote is incomplete, vague, and sets expectations, it may lead potential clients to a largely uninformed decision. Most clients need – and even appreciate – being informed about the stages, costs, and requirements of a project.

When does a quote work? A quote is simple and straightforward, and it works on an equally simple and straightforward request. This includes scenarios like a request to write a 700-word movie review, resizing a banner you made for a previous project, or installing a widget on your client’s blog. A quote can also work as part of a response to an ad – provided that all the necessary project specifications are already listed and outline by those doing the hiring. However, for larger projects involving several stages, a proposal is best.

In the end, it’s up to you to choose between a quote and a proposal. They each have their own benefits and their own disadvantages. Just remember that the next time someone emails you requesting a quote, ask yourself if a proposal is better for this situation before you hit the “Reply” button.

How often do you use proposals? Do quotes work for you?

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