How to quote and land a freelance project

The soft skill of landing work.

Hi Friends —This is a short guide on how to break down and create a proposal to land a freelance projects. This guide was first created for and shared with the Design Inc. community.

We will be using the following real world request for our guide:

We’d like some innovative user experience and mobile creative work for a new proximity based social networking app. We are a funded startup with a team of engineers and product manager building an app for easier collaborative sharing among friends and for creating new social connections. The team has experience building world class products at companies like Square and Facebook and we are looking for a creative partner to help create a new unique and creative social network.. We have a working budget of $5,000 — $10,000 and are located in San Francisco, we’d love to work with you in our office, if possible.

Seek to truly understand the project

  1. Read the project descriptions very carefully and pick out clues to what this person is asking for — re-read the request above and lets pick out some highlights — its for a social networking app being created by folks from Square and Facebook. Since they are ex Square and Facebook folks, then we should assume they have good experience building software, have a strong vision about the direction of their app and are truly looking for a designer to round out their team.
  2. A designer quoting this project can assume the team probably has wireframes and maybe even a prototype built , so the quote should take into that ground work already.
  3. This project will more than likely turn into something long term (they mention they are looking for someone local to San Francisco). Most startups would prefer to hire a designer full time, but many turn to contractors when they fall short in snagging a full time hire.
  4. They started at a budget of 5k to 10k, but given their past work experience ,they should know darn well how iterative and hard product design is — I would take this budget as preliminary and something to get started with, not a ceiling.
  5. Try to make sense of how they describe their project. For me, when I read “innovative user experience” coupled with “collaborative sharing among friends” and “proximity based social networking” then I start thinking about apps which combine location and social networking like Foursquare, Highlight, (the classic Gowalla) as well as apps like Cluster or the shared albums feature on iOS. Try to get into the head of the person making the request and see past their buzzwords to the heart of what they are seeking.

Write a personal quote focused on their needs

  1. Restate how you can solve their problem and repeat what they ask you for. If you’ve never actually worked on a project like this, then I would try to highlight and share something related from your past. For the example above, perhaps you’ve never made a social network before, but have plenty of mobile app design experience you can share.
  2. Clearly tell them how much you want to charge and its perfectly ok to answer back at an hourly rate or a flat fee. If you’re going to send a flat fee for the project then I would suggest writing out in detail what you will provide. If you quote hourly you can get away with being more general about your scope. I will write a follow up to this post an share the perfect engagement letter I have used for 15 years which is a hybrid project and hourly approach.
  3. Include specific design examples relevant to their project
  4. Include a link to your work history, like your LinkedIn profile.
  5. Include a link to your general portfolio — Behance, Dribbble, personal site — share everything.
  6. Recommend other services you can provide, such as coding, photography, icons, video work, motion design — many designers are multifaceted but forget to share their other skill sets.
  7. Avoid writing a canned quote — everyone can feel when an email is half-hearted or phoned in. Give the note personality.
  8. Take care to call people by their names (and please make sure you spell their names correctly).
  9. Make contacting you dead simple — cell, skype, google hangout, etc. — make it easy for them to get a hold of you, write everything out in your signature, including writing your email again (this makes it easy to cut and paste on mobile devices).
  10. Ask questions about the project to get a response back and start a dialog so you can close the deal.
  11. Be generous in your quotes — you’re trying to get $10k — thats a big chunk of money — Share some knowledge and try to add insight and value from the get go.

Generating a quote should be fairly quick — you don’t have to write a novel, but you do have to be personal, address their project directly, and explain how you will solve their problem.

Quote example — how I would quote the latest project:

(btw I tend to write too much and be too verbose, so if you get some value out of this outline great, otherwise, you do you :)

Hi Janete!

Cool to meet you and thank you for giving me a chance to share a bit about how we might work together.

When I read your project I immediately thought about the use case of sharing memories from a wedding, or even recently at Thanksgiving — we had a ton of family and friends over and I would have loved an easy way for those in my home to share their photos, videos and experiences together — thinking more publicly, I could see a newsworthy use case like take the Dakota Pipeline issue — what if there was a way for folks within a geofence to be able to be constantly sharing video and photo of what was going on there, and others were able watch and witness what was going on — Twitter does some of this but lacks the constraint of only allowing those in the location to post and share.

Some innovative design I have seen includes the latest VSCO app and the recent changes to Snapchat and Instagram stories, oh, and have you seen the new Facebook Events app? they are doing some cool recommendations based on location, perhaps there are some cool things inside their app we can learn from.

I would love to hop on the phone with you 925–330–4428 or meetup over google hangouts or in person when you have a moment to hear more about how your thinking about this project. I am curious to learn more about what you mean by collaborative social networks and how you plan to use location as a feature in your app. I’d also love to learn more about the team and hear a bit about your funding and your long term plans

As you know, product design is iterative and frankly never finished, but I can appreciate trying to get to an MVP as quickly and affordably as possible. I can definitely help get you there. I noticed your budget range of 5–10k — I’d like to recommend working together at my hourly rate of $xxx. We can work closely against your budget and prioritize the key screens of your app first. If we find we like working together then perhaps we move to an ongoing relationship — but lets not get a head of ourselves :)

Here are a few mobile apps I have designed with core social networking features:
<link to app designs 1>
<link to app designs 2>
<link to app designs 3>

You can find a variety of work I do here:
deisnginc.com/yourname
personalsite.com

I love to write about my process here:
medium.com/@username

And you can learn about my work history here:
linkedin.com/yourname (this allows them to passively look you up and do a little social proofing on their own)

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Marc Hemeon
925–330–xxxx
desinginc.com/hemeon
marc@designinc.com

I really hope this post helps you, I would love to hear about your tips for sending proposals and quoting and landing work.

You can follow me on Twitter here or send me an email.

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