A modest proposal
July 14, 2008 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I designed a couple of websites just because I know how and now someone wants to pay me to do exactly what I did for free. She wants a proposal and I have no idea what to ask, how to write up a proposal or even a one sheet invoice. Anyone out here have experience with this?

I could use sample invoices etc. if anyone knows where to find these. I searched but couldn't find anything to meet my needs.

posted by Sophie1 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Sophie, I use Freshbooks.com to track my time and generate invoices. It's free for up to three clients if you want to try it out.

As far as proposals go, I can't release any of mine because they contain a lot of proprietary information about business processes, but they're basically just "I will do this and this and this, and this part is touchy because it's dependent on what I've had for breakfast this morning and the price of tea in Beijing China so it makes up 50% of the cost of the final product. I can deliver the final product for between $X and $Y; my hourly rate is $Z. If I hit X before finishing, I will stop work and consult with you before proceeding to the maximum of Y. I should be able to complete the project by the second week in August 2008."
posted by SpecialK at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

If you don't want to use an invoicing system, all you should need is a sheet of paper with: your contact details; the client's contact details; title or info about the job; the date; an invoice number (make it up to look like it's one of many rather than put #1); and the price you're charging. Oh, and any other terms such as 'please pay within 30 days' or whatever. Make sure you keep a copy.
posted by hatmandu at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2008

A proposal is (in most cases) the same thing as a quotation for the work; it explains what you propose to do for the client, when you plan to do it, how much it will cost, and who has responsibility for various things (design, content, hosting etc.) and numerous other things.

It's usually the first formal step in the process - the proposal is submitted to the client, some discussion occurs and the proposal gets refined into a specification, a document used to set out precisely what is actually going to be done, and when, and by whom. This process helps both you and the client understand each other's responsibilities, and can be used to settle disagreements later.

Help and examples here, here and here.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:11 AM on July 14, 2008

You can get a free copy of Quickbooks Simple Start that will generate beautiful invoices. And it's really easy to learn, which was a huge plus in my book.
posted by fusinski at 8:12 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I usually present a proposal which details the scope of the project and payment schedule. Most of the time, that's half down and half on completion. Larger projects might have a schedule based on milestones. The level of detail is dependent on my relationship with the client. With people I already know and have a level of trust with, I don't go into as much detail as with a new client I have not dealt with before. I make my time estimates based on when the client gets info to me. I at least include a line that explains the project is a collaborative process, and the client's role is to get content and requested information to me in a timely manner.

If the scope of the project is less certain than normal, I will often submit a "draft proposal" which to me means something like "ballpark estimate." This just allows room for flexibility.

For actual invoicing, I use a simple invoice form. You can use a Word template. I have columns for date, description, and totals. I put the date of the work (sometimes it might have just the month and year) a brief description ("Preliminary design work on website"), the number of hours and the hourly rate, then the last column totals the hours x rate. I add as many lines as needed to cover other aspects of the project (logo design, hosting fees, etc.) then total everything up.

I don't think you have to get too fancy or worry too much about specific form. The key is to have clear communication, so that reading the proposal and invoice are as self-explanatory as possible.

Congratulations, and good luck!

Also, I'll send a sample of mine to your e-mail address in your profile.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:14 AM on July 14, 2008

My website (link in profile) has a long article on setting fees, writing a sales proposal and examples of invoices. They are generic.

Please, if you do any work, get a deposit and a written contract. Even if it's for a friend.
posted by acoutu at 8:15 AM on July 14, 2008

SpecialK nails it. The proposal needs to spell out what you're going to do - broken down into terms that are almost (but not quite) insultingly simple.

If the project looks like its going to be complicated (they all are), or you think that the client is going to be difficult (they all are,) or you think there is any grey area between what you've understood the brief to be, and what the brief actually might be (there always is) you should think about adding some things that you're specifically not going to do.

For example, "The Homepage will present a phone number, an email address and a picture of my hairy ass, however, the text will not be editable by the end user."

The proposal, above all, is your protection against the inevitable ever-shifting needs of the client.

(And get it signed off, or its just a thing you wrote.)
posted by Jofus at 8:28 AM on July 14, 2008

A proposal isn't really a good contract unless it outlines the scope, deliverables, time line, payment terms, other terms and conditions, grounds for termination, etc.
posted by acoutu at 8:59 AM on July 14, 2008

You don't have to worry about the invoice until you've done the project and want to get paid. Since the client has approached you to do the work, you don't have to do much selling or pitching in the proposal. Provide a project description (company x is launching a new line of violin strings), some goals (build a website to promote the new violin strings to music stores) , timeline (when you will finish the project), costs, payment (typically 50% initially, 50% on completion) and your company or contact info.

It's not a legal contract, but more a common sense agreement. It's a readable document that outlines what you are going to do, when and how much it will cost. It's a great tool to manage client expectations. Don't go overboard. One page, maybe a page and a half. Give just enough info to be descriptive but not too much that the client can then take the proposal and use it as instructions for someone less-knowledgeable (and cheaper).
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:31 AM on July 14, 2008

Didn't read the above - but all you need to do is estimate your tasks and hours times wage for your estimate. Since you've already done most of the work - you may want to pretend you are doing it from scratch. Or, give her a really good price and explain that you have a leg up.
posted by xammerboy at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008

First thing you will need to do is ask questions about what the client wants. What kind of website, how many pages, what colors, do they have logos they want to incorporate, how soon do they need it done, will they expect on-going support or is this a one time project, do they have accessibility requirements, etc.

Once you have an idea of what the project is and what it entails, you'll send your proposal. This is basically your contract stating what you will do, how you will do it, and when it will be done. It can be anything from a casual email to a formal mailed contract, but basically it will include:

- Your name and contact info
- A description of the project as you understand it
- The amount of time you expect the work to take you
- The rate ($) at which you will complete the work
- Any deadlines or milestones
- Payment terms
- Any other conditions not mentioned already

I've heard some great things about Freshbooks (haven't used it myself), but if you're just looking for something easy to get the job done, Microsoft Word has invoice templates that I've used for my freelance jobs. Usually clients ask for an invoice just to have a paper record of where the money went. On my invoices, I make sure to include:

- My name, address, contact info
- The client's name, address, contact info
- The date the invoice was issued
- The amount (hours, usually) of work done at what rate ($) and the dates it was done
- The total amount due

You may need to tweak the Word templates a bit to fit your specific information, but it should be a good general guide.

Also, FWIW, here's some general freelancing advice I wrote a few years ago, the first bit of which is to always write up a contract.
posted by geeky at 11:33 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that the request for a written proposal is made because your contact no doubt has to present your proposal to one or more other people for approval. It may help to include some screenshots as an indication of the type of work you have done. (You don't have to tell anyone but us that you did those for free.)
posted by yclipse at 2:43 PM on July 14, 2008

An additional note to my above info:

Maybe not with your current potential client, but certainly at some point in the future, you may need to add a paragraph to your proposal explaining the difference between a proposal/estimate and a competitive bid. All designers (and many others) have had an experience with giving someone an estimate for, say, $2000, and have the client go with someone else because "they will do a website for $500." It's certainly an apples/oranges situation, but many clients are not aware of this.

So, very often I will include something like: "Please note that this proposal is an estimation of costs based on current information, standard practices, and my own recommendations. If you require a competitive bid, please provide a Request for Proposal detailing the specifics of the project." I always make sure to talk to the potential client about this as well, and try to make sure they understand. Sometimes I use the metaphor of a car. One person can sell you a car for $40,000, and someone else has a car for $30,000. Which one do you buy? There's no way to know which one is better for you without more information.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:12 PM on July 14, 2008

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