A fixed-fee proposal is a detailed project document that defines scope of work, process, schedule, and total price. It's a discussion document where the designer puts forward a recommended course of action for the client to consider.
Initial steps for you
Start with some general preparation that's relevant to all of the work done by your firm:
- Think about your creative process. Write down the ideal sequence of activities -- phases, steps and milestones -- that allow you to produce your best work. Your own creative process should be the framework that you use for planning and managing projects.
- Calculate a standard hourly rate. This is an important internal tool that you need in order to sketch out initial budgets.
- Research standard terms and conditions that are appropriate to the type of work that you are selling.
Now you can zero in on the particular project that you are bidding on:
- Gather as much information as possible on the potential project. If the client has provided you with an "Request for Proposal" document, review all of the details carefully. Beyond this, you may want to complete your own form of project questionnaire to make sure that no important details are overlooked.
- Now you're ready to prepare a preliminary project plan and budget. Use an internal planning spreadsheet to calculate a "suggested retail" price for the project -- this ballpark number has to be based on the scope of work required, your own step-by-step design and implementation process, the size of the team that will be required, an estimated number hours for each team member, and estimated outside purchases. Then you have to make a judgment call: adjust the totals as needed in order to reflect market conditions and the ultimate value of the work to the client.
- You'll also need to draft a preliminary work schedule that shows the number of work days or work weeks required.
This internal preparation and planning has been just for you. The next step is to begin drafting a document that the client will see.
Information that is sent to the client
The standard structure for a design proposal looks like this:
- An overview of the client situation
- A description of the scope of work and specific objectives for this project
- The detailed process that you're recommending
- A recap of the total timeframe, total fees and total expenses
- A billing plan
- Legal terms and conditions appropriate to the nature of the project
- Lines for authorized signatures
- A statement of how long the unsigned offer will remain valid
You may want to include some extra items, particularly if the client's approval process involves routing the proposal to an executive who has not met you:
- Capsule bios of senior team members
- Background information on your design firm's capabilities and your credentials
When finalizing a proposal package, always include a cover letter. It will be written last. Keep it short, professional and enthusiastic. Don't repeat any of the details that are in the proposal itself. The letter is simply an invitation for a follow-up conversation and it should indicate your willingness to update or revise the scope of work if necessary.
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