For large or complex projects I encourage prospective clients to consider a Project Evaluation instead of asking me to do a proposal. The reasoning behind this is both simple and complex.
First things first, it’s a process
Something fundamental to get out of the way first is that when someone comes to be for a website, for help with content strategy or an email campaign, they are paying for a process. These projects can’t be quoted or understood the same way one might look at an addition to their house. When I build a website, there are no raw materials, it is all encoded in intellectual resources. They may be on my computer in code ready to be deployed or in my head as something that I will develop myself. Making something out of those intellectual resources that is of value to you is all about the process.
Unique product calls for a unique process
So, if a client comes to me and asks for a website just like another one that I’ve built, I’ll have a very good idea of the process for that project. There might be different pictures, text and colors but it will be pretty similar path to get there. If a client is asking for something unique then it will take a unique process to build it. Doing a Project Evaluation, or as hubspot calls it, a Client Discovery Process, is all about determining the shape and form of the process that will take us on a successful journey.
Exactly what is entailed in a Project Evaluation will, predictably, vary from project to project. In general it corresponds to a lot of what is needed in the research phase of most any communications project. We need to determine things like your goals (revenue, program, communication…), which of your communities is it most important to impact most directly and what content and channels are best to reach them. All this information is vital to determining what set of tools I am going to build for you, how we will get there and, finally, what it will cost.
Project Evaluation bottom line
The project evaluation itself is a project for a fee. In my mind this is the most compelling reason for it being a superior way of pitching a project than a proposal. Looking at a proposal from the freelancer’s point of view: I am creating this document to sell my service to a prospective client, who may or may not know me, have any confidence in my abilities or affinity for my perspective. It is in my best interest to make it flashy and exciting (rather than insightful, because I really don’t know enough about the client to draw any insight) and to complete it in as little time as possible (to offset the risk of investing time and not winning the job). Completing an evaluation means that the client and I get to know each other a bit across a couple phone calls and meetings. At the end I can produce something that is insightful and carries its own value for the client. Since they’ve already paid me for it, it mitigates the risk on my end and any feeling of obligation to hire me on their end. I am also able to present a very detailed suggestion for what to build and exactly what it will cost.