How to Optimize Your Proposal Process

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Y’know that knot in your stomach when you get a new lead…you almost instantly worry they’re going to discover something about you that drives them away…

Y’know, that you’re a total imposter…

Well consider this:

If they didn’t want to hire you, those leads wouldn’t contact you in the first place.

Which brings us to your job: validating that they were right to come to you in the first place.

And you do that by optimizing your proposal process.

Not just your proposal.

But the whole freakin’ process.


Joanna Wiebe: Today what are we talking about? Proposals. Proposals for freelancers, now I know, I know people are like, I don’t want to do a proposal, but proposals are your sales page. They’re one to one.

They make the person that you just had a conversation with actually feel like you understand them, and that you are the person to hire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone, a prospect who turned to a client say, if you can write our copy like you wrote this proposal, we’re in good shape.

So proposals are a huge opportunity for copywriters if you’ve heard things like I hate writing proposals. You’ve probably heard it from someone who’s not a copywriter. Designers don’t like writing proposals, developers don’t like writing proposals, consultants don’t like writing them.

But copywriters know how to write persuasively. So it’s a huge opportunity now just writing a proposal is not going to be good enough. There’s a lot more to do than just writing a proposal which is why I’m just going to make those. Yeah, good. Um, we should be seeing my screen right now.

Chat me if you can’t. Um, but yeah, I was saying, which is why, and then I lost my train of thought. So we are just going to instead dive into this proposal.

What to Expect in This Tutorial [01:24]

Oh yeah, I was saying that’s not just about the proposal. It’s about all of the pieces around the proposals, so we can’t talk about all of them today because there’s a lot going on. But it’s time to refresh your process.

And oftentimes, when I teach, like the proposal process, people will say things like, oh, that’s cool, but I did it this way. I don’t want to hear about the way you did it. Too many people modify the proposal process. And then they’re like, I don’t know, client ghosted me.

I’m not here to teach you that anything you do is okay. It’s not okay. There are certain things that you’re going to have to do to get people to say yes to your proposals.

This is not about modifying. Modify only lightly, and I mean like extremely, lightly like start with this start with what I’m teaching you. If people are not saying yes to your proposals. If you find that you have to quote lower amounts in order to get people to say yes to you. And I mean lower than your standards, not lower than someone who’s doing $50,000 quotes out there but whatever your standard is, your expectation. If you have to quote lower than that in order to get someone to say yes to your proposals are broken.

We’re gonna fix them. Yes, Kate, such a badass! No, I’m serious. I was thinking today, like, oh, Jo, just go with the flow. Like what do people say it’s cool. It’s a hard time. However, I have to be honest. Ya, gotta follow the process.

What Do You Worry About When it’s Time to Create a Proposal? [02:52]

So when it’s time to create a proposal just chat really fast. The first thing that you worry about when it’s time to create a proposal. What goes on in your head, chat it over chatting to us and we’ll talk through some of the more common ones that I hear. Price. Kate said price. Is this too high? Dave said. Sonia says price. Is this too low – Sheena says. Barbara says appropriate price range.

Have I qualified the client on price range – from Mandy. Greg says negotiations. Debbie saying getting screwed with something I forgot to quote. That’s true. The right options and meeting their needs – from Katie. That I’m missing something, contingencies. How do I do this again?

Have I provided too much info? Did I ask enough questions to understand their problem? Are they just about to sign or still have many hesitations? So there’s a lot of things that everybody’s chatting over. Do I fully understand? They’re awesome. Keep going. If you have more ideas that you want to chat out there.

Common Concerns About Writing Proposals [03:50]

We’ve heard them all. How much should I charge? Prices are one of the first things everybody thinks about. What are some red flags for those potential clients or leads? Like, is this the right person to quote with? How do I get them to say yes? How do I charge more? What if they’re shopping around and I’m just one of like 15 copywriters they’re considering? What if they didn’t come by referral and they’re cold and they don’t really know who I am? When it’s time to present my proposal, do I even know what that’s going to be like? How will I do that? What questions should I ask before putting a proposal together?

And the list of questions goes on. And on, and on, and on. There are so many questions. We’ve heard from so many freelancers over the past decade. It’s crazy. Proposals are a huge source of anxiety. So we need to take control of those proposals.

The ONLYThing You Have to Worry About [04:36]

Now, before you worry about any of those. Things particularly worried about price you have one thing that you have to worry about. This is the only thing this is what you should always, always, always, always, always think about when it’s time to write your proposal.

Now, anybody who’s taken proposal boot camp with me may know the answer to this. If you’re in the 10x Freelance Copywriter, you may know the answer to this. But what is the thing that you need to think about before you put a proposal out there? When you’re creating that proposal, when you’re thinking about the proposal.

The first and only the first, the middle, the last thing you need to think about is, Am I making this lead or prospects life easier, while making them look better?

I literally had a client, I was texting with him yesterday, and he’s trying to get a new project with us passed through this new organizational structure that they have. He asked me to make a change to the proposal and I only needed it in one place instead of the other place. There were two places where I had to make this change.

And I made it a one. I didn’t notice the other one. He was like, oh, do that here too. And I was like, Oh, I’m sorry. I should have totally caught that. And he’s like, he said to me, and I don’t actually have the text handy. But he said, “That’s okay. As long as you make me look smart for hiring you.”

That’s yesterday he said this to me. This is a thing that your clients are thinking, you’re not thinking this. Your clients know that it’s going to cost money. And if they don’t know it’s going to cost money, you are dealing with the wrong clients. Work with businesses, not with hobbyists. Hobbyists can’t afford you. Make lots of money working with businesses and then go to pro bono work for those hobbyists that you really want to work with. We’ll call it pro bono work.

But the real question you always need to be asking, because this is the one they’re asking.

Is my life going to get easier or harder with this person? Am I going to look like I made the right call or the wrong call bringing this person in?

Even when you’re dealing with very small teams. They don’t want to be like, the one other person they’re working with, oh my gosh, I don’t know what I was thinking, bring that person in.

They are always trying to ease their life up and look way better. That’s what you’re thinking about. That’s where you go to again, and again, and again.

And once you do this, your entire proposal process gets better and smarter. It’s your filter and your lens always say it like a mantra. Am I making their life easier and making them look better. That is the secret. You’re like, oh, the secret is, do it this way. This is the biggest secret. You need to do this because that’s how your clients are thinking.

Pop Quiz [07:13]

Okay. Pop quiz.

Introducing Yourself to Prospects [07:16]

When it comes to those things which of these will make you and will make your prospect look more pro for connecting with you? I want to hear an A and a B and I wanna hear them fast, please. A – rely on them and their team looking through your site to make a case to bring you in. Will that make them look pro? Or send them a shareable info pack featuring your best work and how to measure ROI. Awesome. Everyone’s got the right answer. Easy. Easy, easy. It’s B.

Proposing Dates & Times for Client Meeting [07:40]

Two. Which will make their lives easier? Send them your calendly link or propose three times that might work for them? A, B, A, B,A B, A, B, A, A, lots of A’s now. Some Bs. Everyone disagrees with me on this, but as a person who receives a lot of pitches, a lot of I do a lot of work with freelancers and I coach a lot of freelancers too. And I have a lot of friends who also bring in a lot of freelancers.

Sending me your calendar link puts the burden on me to go into my calendar compared to yours. If you say, hey, here are three times, do these work for you and then have a PS that’s like, and if none of those work for you. Here’s my calendly link if that makes it easier for you.

Confirming Agreed-Upon Time [08:26]

Next up, which will make their lives easier? A – send the calendar invitation for an agreed upon time with a zoom link in it. Or B, reply to their, I can meet you at two o’clock, with great see you then.

Everybody’s saying, A, which one of these are you doing? Are you always sending them a calendar invitation, or you like, cool chat with you at two o’clock and then wondering why they don’t show up. You’re making their life harder by making them go put that calendar invitation in there, or email you and say, like is there a link coming along? How do I call? How do I dial in?

All of this is degrading their belief that you are the pro, they should be working with. All of this is making it so that you are more likely to have to charge less. We want to make ourselves look like the pros we are, in every little way so that we can charge more.

Getting Your NDA Signed [09:20]

Which will make their lives easier? Send them an NDA to print and sign or send them a link to an NDA for them to sign online. A or B? It’s B. It’s not A, Sean. A or B? It is send them a link to an NDA form to sign on line. If I have to print and sign anything. Anything. I’m not doing it. If I have to print it. I’m not doing it. What print it? I sign it.? I scan it? What are you talking about? I’m not doing any of that work for you.

Whereas if you send me a link. All I have to do is click the link. I probably already use a tool like this so that my signature is already ready to go and that’s it. Job done. I feel good that you know what you’re doing. I know Andrew’s like what’s the printer? Literally, it’s the thing collecting dust with books stacked on top of it in the back corner of most offices.

Getting Your Proposal Signed [10:13]

Which will make their lives easier? Send the PDF proposal to print in sign or send them a link to an online proposal, they can sign instantly? We’ve all got to get this one right. Sean, I’m watching you. Sean, I want to see it. Sean’s hiding now.

Client Interview [10:14]

All right, which will make their lives easier? Give them a new client questionnaire or get on the phone with them to ask questions? We got an A, we got some Bs, mostly Bs. Why is that? Everybody sends new client questionnaires. I get them all the time. I don’t fill any of them in.

Ever. And I would never send one to a client, either.

It may feel like, oh, it’s a lot of work, though if I have to get them on the phone, you go ahead and coordinate all of that stuff. Get them on the phone. All I have to do then is answer your questions, you’re hitting record on this. So all you have to do is ask me the questions and then you or a transcription service can go fill that in later. Not my job to tell you how to serve me, you should know how to serve me.

Sending Invoices [11:18]

Now, which will make their lives easier, and make them look more pro, super smart, better? Send invoices to your primary contact or ask who on their team to send invoices to? Ask, who on their team to send invoices to, but are you doing this?

Is this part of your process too? Ya gotta do this. You can’t just send it right to the person you’re connected with because they’re gonna have to follow me, like, oh no, can you actually send it to accounts payable? Here’s the email address. If you had just asked that, you would have made their lives easier, and make them look smarter.

Payment Options [11:50]

Okay. We’re finishing up here which will make their lives easier? Send them your invoice with one or two payment options clearly laid out, or send them your invoice. This one makes me the maddest. A, A, A, please no Bs. Please, no Bs. Now, nobody’s typing. Everyone’s like, I don’t know what to do. It’s A.

The reason you’re not getting paid is oftentimes, because you’re not making it easy for your prospect to pay you. If I have to follow up with you and say, how do I pay this which I’ve done a million times, I’m already like, oh, this person is going to be a pain in the ass to work with. Don’t put that idea in their minds.

Calendar Invite Details [12:29]

Let’s finish off with which will make their lives easier? I make them look more pro? Including the agenda and every calendar invitation, or send title only calendar invitations. Gotta do that agenda.

Alright, always the filter, always the lens, always the question in your head. Am I making his or her life easier when making them look better?

The Process [12:49]

Now here is the process we’re going to dive into the next five minutes, I’m going to fly through these. The replay will be available in a couple days. I will move swiftly through these, if you’re not following this process, it is time to take notes really, really, quickly.

Follow this process. And if you have a process, try modifying the process to introduce this and if you don’t have a process, if your processes like, well a lead reaches out to me they fill in a form and I like, email them back. Well, it’s not a whole process. So let’s work on that.

Step 1 – A Website Visitor Fills In a Form on Your Website [13:19]

A website visitor fills in a form. This is how you turn a lead into a paying customer. This is your entire job outside of them delivering on the work

Joanna Wiebe: A website visitor fills in a form on your website. Make this form easy. Do the work it has to do, whether that’s qualifying because you get a lot of leads coming in, or because you get a lot of bad fit leads coming in.

Or having fewer fields as well. That’s a, that’s a different option for you if you don’t get that many leads and the ones you do get are typically good fit. So we have our own forms that we use. I have a cat meowing at me. Hi Lil. I’m sorry, I’m busy.

Step 2 – That Completed Form is Sent to You by Email. You Review it. [13:59]

Number two. That completed form is then sent to you by email. Okay, so you review it. If you use Typeform, then you get a notification. You can put the notification in there. If you’re using Typeform, I talk about type form all the time, because if you’re going to pay for any tool that is for forms and surveys, pay for Typeform.

The completed form is sent to you by email, you then review it. So an email comes in your inbox, you look through it. Are they a good fit? Should you hop on a call with them? So something like this.

Step 3 – Reply to the Email [14:26]

Then you get to either reply that you’re not a good fit. So you might say something like, oh sorry when I get that right now. I’ve got like a six month waitlist. Or you can be more specific than that, say, thanks but fundamentally, not a good project for us or anyone we know.

This was my slightly harsh response to someone who was asking for help writing the worst product imaginable. Almost the worst product imaginable. It was awful. I was offended that this person that we would write for them. So no, you say, no, it’s not a good fit for us or anyone we know.

Or the second half is, if they are actually someone you might want to talk to, you’d like to set up a time to chat. Do they have 15 minutes today or tomorrow at these two times? Try to get that in faster. Now, I know, years ago I wrote a post called The Diva List which was all about becoming a freelance copywriter. And in that I strongly recommended that you wait before you actually reply to somebody.

And that can be a very good strategy. It makes it look like you’re very busy, especially if you are very busy. But then there are times when a really good lead comes in and you actually do want the work and you just want to, like, move on it, so set up a time to chat.

Do they have 15 minutes today or tomorrow at whatever time? Great. Those are the emails, something like hey there so and so, I hope you’re well cool to hear from you. We’re big fans of their product around these parts.

Are you free to hop on a 15 minute call to chat through what you’re looking for, Re: conversion copywriting. Feel free to send me your Calendly link or if any of these times works for you. And then I put that in there.

Step 4 – Schedule and Have Your First Call [16:03]

Okay, number four. You then schedule a time to call and set, preferably and to have your first call. This is going to be a 15 minute call. So you’ve looked at the lead, they’re good looking lead you have this 15 minute call. Now, sometimes that call will be you running the call. Other times it will be your VA running the call.

If you have the strategy in place to use VAs for services like this or like, actually getting in there and vetting clients for you, feel free to use the VA. Save your time. No one is looking out for your calendar, but you. So, if it’s something you can hand over to your VA. Cool. If you don’t have that in place, it’s going to be your 15 minute call and sometimes it will be a 30 minute call.

Allow yourself room in your calendar for things to go over because if they’re a good lead and you really get to talking about things you don’t want to cut the conversation off just because you booked 12 to 15 minutes in your calendar.

Step 5 – Send Follow Up Email [16:57]

After that you send a follow up email covering what’s necessary for moving forward. That includes things like, here’s the link to our NDA. Also, I asked you for these different pieces of information before we move on to the next call, so send me a link to that Google Drive. Or here’s the Dropbox. If you can add that information in here but you want to do this follow up email right after that 15 minute call.

If you’ve decided after the 15 minute call that a productized service is a better fit for this client or this lead, send the link to it in this email. So you’re not going to send the NDA. You’re not going to send the hey can you put that research over here for me to review. You’re going to send the link to it, like, hey, as we discussed, it looks like a website audit is probably the best place for you to start. So here’s how to go purchase that online or get that online.

Make sure you’re writing it persuasively, make sure they know what’s inside that website audit. What’s like, fundamentally great about that website audit. And what’s really good fit for what they’ve told you.

Step 6 – Schedule and Have Your 60-Min Pre-Posal Call [17:55]

Six. You schedule and have your 60 minute pre proposal call, at the end of which you will have discussed timing, pricing, scope, etc. So if you’re like, when do we talk about price? You can talk about it in that 15 minute call if you’re particularly concerned that they may not have the budget or if you’ve been raising your rates and you’re trying to kind of gauge how people are reacting to this higher rate.

Can I sell this? Do I have what it takes? You can do that in a 15 minute call or you can do it in a 60 minute call. I prefer to do it in the 60 minute call in most cases, because the 60 minute call is effectively a consult that you’re leading this prospect through. And along that process of that 60 minute cal,l you form more of a relationship with the person they better understand who you are. They most likely want to work with you, they get that you know what you’re doing.

That you have the questions they feel like they’ve opened up to you a lot of times, and they were able to just basically connect with somebody that they might not have thought or expected that they would.

People deal with a lot of freelancers and a lot of freelancers don’t do any of this. So, for you to be that person who’s on the 60 minute call asking them good questions based on what you read, in what they sent along, what they’re telling you in that conversation. If you’re that person doing that. If you’re like the consultant in this case, then when it gets time to talk about price, you’ve already increased your perception of value. If you talk about price too soon, they get to set their expectations, their perception of your value and they’re not going to want to set it high. They’re more likely to, like, I hope that this person goes for this.

By the end of a 60 minute call, when you start talking about timing, pricing and scope when you’re like the 45 to 55 minute part of the call. They’re already like, Okay, first is probably the real deal. They are probably going to be a little expensive. I’m kind of scared of what they’re going to say.

But they’re ready then at that point, to hear from you. And then when you actually do talk about price, that can be like, they might actually feel relief that you’re not as expensive as they thought you were. Or they might feel like yep, she/he is expensive. I kind of expected that they actually know what they’re doing.

Do I want to buy once, cry once, or do I want to waste my time with a freelancer who doesn’t have this level of expertise that this person has.

Step 7 – Draft Your Proposal [20:16]

So you’re going to schedule that. After that call then you draft your proposal and you at this point, should have every single thing you need to write that proposal. They’ve told you their problems, they’ve told you what’s driving them to look for someone like you, they’ve told you all of the things that it takes to write the hook for a long form sales page. And your proposal is effectively a long form sales page.

Step 7b. – Send a Bullet-Point Proposal [20:37]

Now there is a second part to this. You can also just send a bullet point proposal along first, like, hey, just checking in. This is an example. Hey, just checking in. Here is what we talked about. How does this sound again? I know we already talked about this price, but how does this sound? And you go through and then you get them to say yay, so that you can actually put a proposal together without wasting time on it.

Because even if you had a really good call, sometimes when there’s separation between the call that you had and the proposal being delivered, there’s a bit of a gap or a disconnect or something happened that your prospect forgot some of the things you talked about. So it’s good to send that bullet point proposal along

Step 8 – Briefly Connect With Client Before You Send the Proposal Over

Okay, so. But first, before it comes time to actually present your proper proposal. After the bullet point is like, you got a thumbs up from that prospect. You’ve got this bullet point proposal all in place, and now you have your full proposal in place, then you don’t just send your proposal over.

If you’re sending proposals without guiding your prospect through them, little wonder you’re being ghosted. What you want to do is text, call or email your clients. Say that you have something quick to discuss with them before you send the proposal over. This is an important moment. If you have their phone number, texting them is great. It’s very personal feeling like, Hey, you got a second? I just want to chat with you about something.

Then you hop on a call to tell them the final price, timing and schedule that you’re about to quote. Following which, you send an email with a proposal attached and bonus points for including a video of you walking them through the high level stuff for it. So, Loom video is a very easy thing to create.

Alternatively, for this flow. You can instead go back to Step eight. Arrange and schedule a call with the client to walk them through the proposal live. Which is where you’re like, I need to put 25 minutes in your calendar to walk you through this proposal, make sure I’m covering everything you’re looking for, make sure we’ve got all the dates hit, etc.

Step 9 – Present the Proposal [22:34]

Then you present it. You share your screen, you present it. You go through the proposal from top to bottom, making sure that they are hearing all of it. Remembering that you don’t skip past the stuff at the start. You want to open with the problem they have. You want to make sure that they’re hearing that problem again.

You want, because it’s more comfortable for you, you feel like, Oh, I should just like really quickly get down to the price and the timing. No, if you’re going to present your proposal, walk them through it like you would present your copy.

Step 10 – Send Email With Proposal Attached [23:17]

And then after that, after they’re like okay this all sounds good, send it on over to me. Or hey, you actually, we need to add in this little line item, and that might, does that change scope? And you can have that conversation at that point.

Step 11 – Get Signed Proposal Back and Call to Answer Further Questions [23:20]

Either path leads us to getting that sign proposal back or hopping on a call to answer further questions.

Step 12 – Confirm Team Involved and Time for Kickoff Call [23:28]

Then you connect with the client about the team to involve like. So, who should be involved in this? What are their email addresses? I can look them up on LinkedIn if you just have the links to their LinkedIn profiles.

And the best time for a kickoff call. Are you good next Monday at 11am? Then you send the intro email to team members and a calendar invite with call info, and an agenda for that kickoff call.

Step 13 – Send Invoice to Appropriate Team Member With Payment Details [23:48]

Following which, after you start seeing people accept that kickoff call, you send the invoice to the appropriate team member with payment details.

Step 14 – Run Kickoff Call [23:51]

And then you run the kickoff call. That is it.

That is the proposal process. That is what we need to be doing, not just whipping together a proposal, wondering, what price should I charge? But are you making their life easier and making them look better. Lily, do you agree? Yeah, I know, she’s so right. She doesn’t know. It’s like she gets it, it’s fine.

Okay. Ange, thanks so much. Everybody in chat, thanks so much. And we’ll see you all next Tuesday for tutorial Tuesday on beginner copywriting if you’re down for that. Alright, have a good rest of your day to stay safe. Bye everyone. Lily says bye too!

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