How to Manage Client Proposals

Business development is a phase that happens before a project, the one where you have the first contact with a client. They tell you what they need, you tell them how much it’ll cost, and then you both negotiate. This first phase sets the course for the rest of your project. If you don’t do it right, the project won’t go right.

As a business owner or a freelancer, you have to communicate with leads to make sure you represent your business the best way possible. But that eats into your billable time, the time you could spend doing work for existing clients.

Even worse, saying yes to the wrong client will cost you a lot of money, time, and patience.

That’s why screening your clients early on, setting the right budget expectations, and taking the right projects are the foundation of every successful project.

Client Screening

Everything starts with a client. They need something (say a new website) and they’re interested in hiring you. But first, they want to know much it’ll cost.

After they tell you what they need, give them a ballpark figure. It doesn’t have to be exact or detailed. Just say it looks like a $15k project but you’ll need more details to get a more precise estimate.

The point is for the potential client to get over the sticker shock as soon as possible and anchor their expectations. Plus, if they’re not comfortable with that range, you can both save time and money from pursuing a relationship that’s not right. It’ll also give the client time to reevaluate their budget and expectations.

If they say they understand, the window-shopper becomes a prospective client who’s worth your time. Now you can start thinking about the project and invest more time in the relationship.

You have a limited amount of time so you have to manage it carefully between working with leads and your existing clients. Think of it like managing long-term and short-term goals: one is more urgent that the other, but they’re equally important; your job, besides working with the current client, is to keep the pipeline full and get be ready to jump on your next project.

A screener is the best way to quickly assess if both parties are right for each other. It’s a set of questions you give to your prospective client to determine if you’re the right fit for the job. You won’t name it Client Screener, but something positive, like Project Assessment (which, by the way, also functions to screen clients).

In it, you ask:

  • what the budget is and whether it’s approved,
  • the timeline and goals of the project,
  • and the requirements.

Based on their response, you’ll know if you can take the project and can start devoting more of your (billable) time to pursuing the business.

It’s perfectly reasonable to want to know client’s budget, not so you can say that number but so you can tell them what they can get for that money and guide them to an appropriate solution.

Once you know their goal and how many resources they can set aside for the project, you can tell them whether they can have all the bells and whistles their marketing team envisioned, or if something else would be more budget friendly (yet still aligned with their goals).


Read more on our official blog to find out how to create estimates, plus more tips.