Proposals: shitty to super-fantastic

Most Proposals are like:

Most freelancers give a rate like $65 an hour. This means nothing to the client other than you're about a $85,000 employee. Yawn.

Instead, give them 3 options. The idea is to turn their choices from "yes/no" to "which option should I pick?". It's subtle, it changes the conversation, and it works fantastically.

Each option solves their problem, just in different ways, and with differentiators based on what they "want" not "need".

The end-goal for you is to sell the middle solution by bracketing it based on what's missing from the lower solution and the high price of the upper solution.

Bracket on Automation

How do you take your current estimate of effort and bracket into three different options?

  1. Take 2 items out of your target solution and only put in the agency plan.
  2. Add 2 things to enterprise that could be cool, but might not be needed. Automation is perfect for here.
  3. Also add things like HIPAA, access logging, and an SLA to enterprise. Because enterprises.

Sample price differentiation

Name Price


Add support to your offering. List it as 20% of the plan, per year. It will include the ability to ask you questions, security upgrades, and fix bugs that you agree are your fault. Exclude new features.


Include the ability to add small features and experiment with the app with a package. WPCurve enables this for Wordpress with huge, mega success. Allow the same for your bespoke application, and encourage the owner of the app to a) love it and b) pay on a frequent basis.

This should be the price of an employee * 60%, monthly.

$3500 is a popular price. Invoice yearly for big companies, monthly for small.

Proposal Software

There are many proposal systems out there, with some working as a lead system. You don't need all that noise. What you want is a system that allows you to create proposals easily, reducing you from 2 days to 2 hours (or fewer) on sending them out.

My favorite proposal system (at publication time) is Nusii. Nusii rules, gets out of your way, and encourages re-use of portfolio's.

Proposal Flow

  • Who Client Is
  • What Client's current problem set is
  • How you can help the client
  • Social Proof (other client's testimonials)
  • Bootstrapped Option
  • Funded Option (everything in bootstrapped plus x,y,z)
  • Enterprise Option ($$$)
  • Support
  • Retainer

View Sample Proposal generated by Nusii.

Cutting Your Prices (Don't)

If your client only has $20,000 to spend, but wants a $30,000 application, the client has two choices. Neither of which include you reducing your rates.

Possibility Number 1: They cannot afford they app they want to build
Possibility Number 2: You should reduce $10,000 worth of effort from the job so they can afford it. (optimal).

The best application I've seen for the budgeting stage of an application is PlanScope. You're able to enter each line item, give it a price, and grant your client access to it. They'll then choose which items they want, and which lovely features they NEED are not needed at $5,500.

Reduce the scope to match the budget, rather than reduce your price to match the budget. Win, Win, Win.

The Book

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