Elance Tips: Making Every Proposal CountElance_Keith | Mar 31, 2011
You've already read our 7 Tips To Win More Jobs on Elance and know that a great proposal is key. Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills on Elance, but in many cases, the first (and possibly the last) impression you’ll make on a potential Client is through your bid proposal.
Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you’re looking for only one outcome—to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:
Check Out Clients Before Submitting a Proposal
Some Clients have already posted numerous jobs. Peruse through their past jobs (see screenshot below) to get a feel for their businesses, the skills they tend to need, the scope of previous projects, and the budgets they are used to working with. Also, check their feedback, both given and received, to learn their preferences regarding work habits, communication and final deliverables.
Looking at a Client’s history can tell you what’s most important to him or her (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking questions early in the project), and help you spot “red flags” – signs that this may not be the right Client for you.
Price Your Services Logically
Pricing services is harder than pricing products, because most Clients know that product sellers calculate their prices by covering their overhead costs and adding a “markup” – while keeping an eye on what competitors are charging.
Pricing services, however, means you must also determine the perceived value of your services to the Clients. This involves some subjective thinking, since the prices buyers are willing to pay for your services may not “sync” with the amount of time and effort you need to deliver them. Pricing services is more art than science.
That said, the best way to establish your hourly and fixed rates is to:
- Figure out your overhead costs
- Set the profit margins you want to make
- Research the rates recommended by your industry's professional associations
- See what other Elancers are charging
- Negotiate prices
One approach you can consider to be more flexible in your negotiations without simply reducing prices is to try packaging your services like products. For example, American Express packages its credit services in different tiers. A recent college graduate will receive an offer for the basic (“green”) card, which entitles her to a charge card that must be paid in full every month. People with good credit histories, however, receive offers for the gold card package, platinum card package, and so on – with the higher tiers featuring more features and benefits.
There’s no reason why you can’t package your services in tiers. An accountant could sell bronze, silver and gold packages. The bronze package might be limited to basic tax-preparation services, the silver package might include investment and money-saving consulting, and the gold package could include the services of strategic partners such as lawyers and wealth managers.
One seasoned Elance Contractor uses the tier technique when Clients want to hire him but are concerned about price. For example, he recently told one prospect that he could reduce his editing fee by offering her a “gold package” instead of a “platinum package.” The only difference between the two is that the gold package requires the Client to do the final proofreading – which is something the Contractor does with the platinum package. (Eventually, the Client agreed to buy the platinum package.)
Use Workroom messages (see screenshot below) when you submit a proposal to ask questions, and get clarification and additional information from buyers. This will help you better understand the project, and you’ll start to build a relationship with the buyer.
Customize Each Proposal
You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don’t. Every Client and every job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Many Clients ignore proposals that appear to be generic boilerplate. Although it’s fine to use a template to avoid inputting basic information in every proposal, the bulk of the proposal should be tailored to that Client’s needs. It should demonstrate how you plan to solve this Client’s problems and achieve his goals.
The proposal should contain with one or two sentences that describe your credentials, experience and skills. Then, outline how you’ll apply your skills, knowledge and processes to achieve the Client’s objectives – step by step. Remember, your proposal isn’t about you – it’s about the Client. The Client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. Don’t waste space giving the prospect your complete CV. Instead, include a “Call to Action” at the end, which invites the buyer to visit your profile and contact you to discuss the project in more detail.
Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do – and when – and use facts to support your claims. Attach relevant samples or links to previous work—the more relevant, the better. For example, Clients can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure that you created. If they need a website created, providing links to the sites you’ve designed will be much more effective than merely talking about them.
Let your personality shine: Share your enthusiasm for the project or the Client’s business. You and your Client will work together on this project and (potentially) many more. Show them that you’re polite and professional, but also give them a sense of you.
Review Your Proposal As If You Were the Client
Put yourself in the Client’s shoes. How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you’ll receive? Do you feel confident that the Contractor can deliver? Do you get a sense of the Contractor’s excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line: would you hire this Contractor?
Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic. Focus instead on what the proposal actually says about you and what you will do. Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after finishing. In that case, take a few minutes to review your old proposals. They won’t be as “fresh,” so you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you’ll find things you wish you’d done differently. Apply what you’ve just learned to your latest proposal.
Modify your proposal, when necessary: It’s not unusual for Contractors to update their job postings in response to Contractor questions and/or new developments – e.g., if they need to add new requirements. Elance now allows Contractors to modify their existing proposals instead of having to submit new ones. Monitor every project on which you’ve bid to see if buyers have updated their job descriptions. In some cases, you may have missed something in the RFP during your first read – something that could affect your price or delivery timeframe. In other cases, you may have missed an opportunity to sell yourself. Don’t be afraid to modify your proposals in response to new developments or altered circumstances.
What other ideas do you have for creating winning proposals? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or visit our Facebook page.