Writing work proposals / quotations


Suz Anne

New Member
Hi all, I've just started being a fulltime self-employed graphic designer, having done some lower-key projects for smaller clients for years next to my main job.

I am writing a generic project proposal and price quotation to give to clients before I start to work with them, just to have a template that I can later adapt for the specific client. A few questions I came across:
- My hourly rate is £35, is this a fair price for a starter? I wanted to raise my rate to £40 when I'm in the swing of things and feel more experienced, probably in a year or so.
- I mostly want to give clients the full rate for the entire project. How do you estimate the amount of time the project is going to take, especially if you don't know if the client is going to want lots of changes made to the design? So far I have worked for clients that want a million little things changed after I thought I was finished, experiment with different colours, placements etc. All fair (is what I would do when I'd be a client), but it makes it difficult to estimate up-front how much time the project is going to take. How do you solve this?
- I sometimes work for friends or small local businesses and it feels fair to be more generous to them, especially if I know they are in a tight space financially. I know this is a slippery slope however, how do you deal with this?
 

sprout

Member
The only way to know how long something will take is down to your experience of doing it previously. You may spend a different length of time than I might on a given task. That’s one you have to learn for you.

As to the issue of constant amendments from clients. Write that into your Ts & Cs. I always state that for the fee, they get up to three sets of proofs. Over and above this, they will be charged by the hour. Ideally, get them to sign a contract. If not, at very least, make sure your Ts & Cs are on your proposal / quote and state that instruction to commence a project is deemed acceptance of them. That way, if a client knows they will pay more after the third proof, it will steel their minds and they quickly become efficient and focused with their corrections. All the time, it is open ended, you get all their whims and charges of heart, because they can. Further reinforce this when writing a proposal, ie,

• Design and production of 1/3 A4 6pp gatefold leaflet, to include, up to three sets of proofs and print-ready artwork. £XX

You could even asterisk the bit about proofs and ref this in the attached Ts & Cs, so there is no confusion. Making things clear at the outset avoids disagreement later and a client feeling that they’ve been done over.

As to your last point. I agree, you have to be a little flexible, but if you openly bend too far, you will undervalue yourself and won’t be taken seriously.

As to your rate. Your costs and expenses plus required profit margin, divided by hours worked, equals hourly rate. I think your rate is probably about right these days for someone starting out (depending on the quality of your work and service). When I first started, I made the mistake of considerably underpricing myself for fear of getting no work. I did get work and it was ok, but at the end of my first year, my accountant said, ‘Double your rate’ ‘What?!’ Says I. He was right (I had really lowballed it), by charging more, the assumption was that I must be worth it and I was taken more seriously. You have to be able to back the claim up, but if you charge intern money, you will be treated like one. That said, you can’t over-egg it, or you will be seen to be taking the piss and get no work. I think £35 is slightly on the cheeky side for a startup, but that’s not a bad thing. That depends where you are based, of course. In London, that may be a good rate or not – others will know better than me. it’s quite a few years since I left now, so I don’t know what the going rate is there these days.

The way I deal with the flexibility, based on a client’s ability to pay, is to have a full, commercial rate and the another discounted (50% in my case) rate for non-profits and charitable organisations. Naturally, that percentage changes depending on your commercial rate. It is unlikely you can do half price when you start out.

If a client is neither a charity or not for profit, but hasn’t huge budgets, you can tell them you will apply your discounted non-profit rate while they grow, which will be reviewed once they become more profitable. That way, you start to build a trusted relationship with them.

In addition, once you are in a position to be able to, in terms of personal finances, it is a good idea to give around 10% of your time to charitable and community based projects if you can (again, on a sliding scale).

It is good for the recipients and it benefits you, both creatively (you get far more creative freedom when money isn’t involved) and of course you get to put a bit back into society in a small way. It may just be a poster for your local school that would ordinarily have been done in Word with comic sans and clip art. It may be helping a local charity launch themselves with a brand identity. These are things that have no budget, so you are not doing paid work for free. You are, though, helping worthy causes in your local community by using your skills.

Anyway, that’s just my take and how I deal with charging. If you apply a full commercial rate and then openly bend, it will be expected of you next time.

That said, when it comes to invoicing, once all added up, we sometimes quietly reduce a bill, because you get to know what your clients expectations are and it is better to have them happy and back again, than squeeze them for everything on a one time deal. Repeat business is the goal. Loyal customers who tell other people, means that, in the long run, you don’t have to advertise.

Hope this helps
 

Paul Murray

Moderator
Staff member
- My hourly rate is £35, is this a fair price for a starter? I wanted to raise my rate to £40 when I'm in the swing of things and feel more experienced, probably in a year or so.
£35 is actually what I've been charging for the past few years, it's about average for the freelancers I know. It all depends on location and the field you work in. If you're specialised you can generally get away with charging more for that particular expertise. I tend to mainly charge in blocks of days (£280) or half days (£140) and keep the hourly rate for adjustments or small changes. It's generally more appealing to a client to know exactly what they're paying rather than to work hourly. For larger jobs I'll also offer my time out for a week (£1000) or for a month (£2000), though this is mainly for agencies and larger companies.

- I mostly want to give clients the full rate for the entire project. How do you estimate the amount of time the project is going to take, especially if you don't know if the client is going to want lots of changes made to the design? So far I have worked for clients that want a million little things changed after I thought I was finished, experiment with different colours, placements etc. All fair (is what I would do when I'd be a client), but it makes it difficult to estimate up-front how much time the project is going to take. How do you solve this?
This just comes down to experience. I find I'm generally pretty good at estimating time and cost and I'm often able to deliver what my clients want first time round, but this just comes from experience. Eventually you'll get a feel for how long a certain job will take. If I underestimate I tend to just take the hit rather than trying to up the budget half-way through, but if the client starts moving the goalposts then I'll let them know that we'll need to re-quote if they want those things. Often you'll find they're happy without those additions if it means upping the budget.

Always add a little bit of time on to the budget to account for tweaks and changes. I find it's better to get a higher price at the start than to charge extra time afterwards for 'tweaks'. Whilst charging hourly is a good way get a client to actually make a decision, some clients don't understand why you're chargin them on-top of the agreed amount. For a smoother project, account for the changes in the original quote and complete the whole job within the budget.

Don't be tempted to quote a lower price at the start to secure the work. In all my years experience, the clients who want the cheapest work are the ones who expect the most. I've never regretted not winning a job as much as I've regretted those I got because I was probably the cheapest option. I never offer a discount for new clients, this sets alarm bells ringing to me if they ask. Don't expect a client that was paying a discounted rate to be happy to pay more in future. Chances are they'll just find someone else.

Use your rates and project quotes as a filter to weed out the cheap clients who will be a pain the arse. And if you're speaking directly to a client, either face to face, over the phone or through email, start talking about budget and costs straight away. To be blunt you need to know if they can afford your time to know if it's even worth continuing the conversation. You're running a business so you need to be thinking like one.

- I sometimes work for friends or small local businesses and it feels fair to be more generous to them, especially if I know they are in a tight space financially. I know this is a slippery slope however, how do you deal with this?
I do jobs for family and friends, and basically tell them they'll get what they want after my paying clients get their work. Generally it's smaller jobs like flyers or stationery, and friends are happy to just have you do something for them and are OK with it taking however long it takes. I tend not to charge for these things since it's normally just a couple of hours of time. If however they want a larger project such as a website, then they have to book me out because it's a considerable chunk of time. If budget is tight I'll work out some options they can afford or give them free hosting for a year or something as a means of offering a discount.
 

Suz Anne

New Member
@sprout and @Paul Murray thank you so much for sharing your insights, this is very very helpful!

I'm off to complete my T&Cs and to make quotation templates, I've done a few clients without but it's great to build some foundations underneath the work I've been doing and to create some clarity!
 
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