A few months ago, I wrote about the elements of a successful project proposal. Unfortunately, I missed a crucial element. One that probably a majority of freelancers miss as well.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s the expiration date.
Thanks to the active members in the Freelance Folder forums, I saw the error of my ways.
Why Your Quotation Is Only Good for a Limited Time
Your quotation is like medicine and food. It has a limited shelf life. After a certain date, your circumstances have changed and your proposal is no longer applicable.
Think about it. Just two weeks from now, you would have gained more experience in your field. You could have acquired additional training. You could have filled up your schedule to a point where you don’t even need the project any more, or have time for it… in which case you’d have to charge extra and need more time to do the job.
Therefore, an expiry date is needed so your prospect knows when he or she can hold you, not only for the fees you set, but also for the delivery schedule you promised.
The Dangers of Not Having an Expiry Date
The consequences of not putting an expiration date on your proposal can range from mildly annoying to downright harmful to your business.
For example, TWO years ago, I posted a special offer for my services in one of the forums I belong to. Because I love that forum so much, I said my special offer had no deadline.
The problem was, my rates have more than doubled since that time! I actually received an inquiry a few days ago, based on that special offer. How my special offer came up two long years later, I’ll never know. However, forum posts are searchable and archived and probably last forever ;-)
Imagine the disappointment my prospect felt when I responded saying that, even with the discount I’m offering, my fee would be five times what it would have been when I published that post.
In effect, both the prospect and I wasted time and energy exploring this possible working relationship. Worse, this person now has negative feelings associated with me. Not exactly ideal.
An even worse scenario would be if a prospect came back to you two months after you submitted a proposal. If you need the project, you would feel compelled to stick to your quote even if you feel you’re already worth much more.
You’ll go into the project in a negative frame of mind, which could very well affect the quality of your output. You might even resent the project and/or your client. You could feel unmotivated to complete it. Finishing the project would be like swimming upstream; it would be a struggle every single day.
Why Risk It?
It’s very easy to avoid all this trouble and possible heartache. Simply add one line to your proposal:
This proposal is valid until (day, month, year).
How long should your proposal be good for? It’s totally up to you. Anything from two weeks to one month sounds reasonable enough. Longer than that and you may be selling yourself short.
You may have to be flexible with certain clients, though. For example, some companies and certainly government agencies have tedious and time-consuming approval processes to follow. Therefore, you may consider giving them up to 60 days or so.
I prefer to specify a date for the expiry rather than a period of time. For example, “This proposal is valid until October 1, 2010″ instead of “This proposal is valid for 15 business days.”
The former is exact and leaves little room for error or misinterpretation, which is good for both the prospect and the freelancer.
Also, please note that I’m suggesting an expiry, not only for the fees you quoted, but for the entire proposal, including your delivery schedule. As I mentioned, a couple of weeks from now, you may not be able to deliver the output in 15 business days after all. Consider this as well, when determining your proposal’s expiry date.
Are you one of us who have been forgetting to put an expiry date on your quote? Or, are you one of the smart and enlightened ones who’ve always known that this is the way to go?
If you’re the latter, what expiry period do you use and why? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image by paulandrews