The Purpose of a Design Proposal
Welcome to how to design a proposal with arianna orlin I'm your host for today here on creative live vanessa vf what they and if you didn't already know arianna is the mastermind behind paper jampress she's worked for many fortune five hundred companies such as yahoo instagram j p morgan chase amongst many others let's give her a big creative life welcome on stage arianna how are you doing? I'm good I'm good e I'm going give you thinking I'm actually super excited that you're interested in and we're gonna get a whole lot so I'll let you get started okay great awesome all right so how everybody um my name's area in orland and yes I run my own design consulting business and I am the founder of paper jam press on today's topic is proposals for designers and proposals are hard and I think that they can be really intimidating especially when you're first starting out so I hope that the information that we go over today is stuff that you guys find useful and you feel like when you get out of...
here that you know that you can you can write one yourself so let's get started um all right so let's talk about the purpose of a proposal first right? And I think um a proposal that we're all familiar with and maybe some of us more than others is a marriage proposal and in a marriage proposal what happens right? Somebody asks um, you to spend your life with him and the recipient of that proposal gets to say yes? No? Or maybe and I want you guys to think about that for a minute, because, you know, hopefully in a marriage scenario, you will have spent a lot of time getting to know that person and then agreeing to establish a relationship with them, but similarly, in business, you have less time to get to know the person, but you are embarking on a relationship. Um, and, you know, I don't think you're marrying your client, but but it is that level of seriousness and commitment, so and then we're going to talk about the components of a proposal. So what goes in? What are the basic pieces that you need? And then what are the kind of follow up pieces that air nice toe have or the pieces that would turn your proposal from a proposal into an actual contract? We're going to talk about some tips for making a proposal, the whole proposal process go easier, and we're going to hear from my friend j p, who runs that agency called solve on we're going to talk about winning and losing and what happens during during that kind of culmination of your of your work so let's see, um, eso part one, the purpose of a proposal um we're going to start by talking about what proposals are and aren't on doing some clarifying around that we're going to talk about the value to you and to your client's um I want to let you guys know how much time it actually takes and it is a time consuming process andi also we're going to talk a little bit about writing persuasively and why that's important so proposals what they are and what they aren't proposals are clarifying exercise, right? It's the first time you've had a lot of discussion with your client or maybe you haven't, maybe you've had one phone call and you're going to sit down and you're actually going to think through what it takes to do this project so it's clarifying for you and it's going to be clarifying for your client, but they're not easy to write and there are ways to make it easier for yourself over time, but I don't want you guys to shortcut the fact that you're gonna have to do some critical thinking and I don't know about you, but that actually takes me a long time. I'm not the kind of person who can sit down and just write something you know, and it just comes out beautifully the first time I have toe, you know, write it down and work through it and go back and revisit it um but their sales pitch on a marketing tool right? So you may have had a great conversation with a potential client and they really like you, but they're not sure you know how you're going to do the work and this is your this is your chance to teo win that business and convince them and you're going to have to put forth confidence and you're going to have to put forth you know, a real understanding tio get them to spend money but it's not a guarantee that you've won the job I think that's another thing that maybe is mystifying for people just because someone asks you to write a proposal doesn't mean that that you're working for them and in fact it's a lot of work up front but you're not necessarily going to get paid for the proposal writing part of it um the dictionary definition of a proposal is a plan or suggestion to be accepted or rejected right? So I heard you need a website here's how I would do that for you what what do you think? Right and it's not the final um uh project plan necessarily you may go through writing the proposal and hear from your client like, oh, I didn't think that that was you know how we were going to do that or now I realize I need something else and it's really the first kind of benchmark in a negotiation and you wanted to a lot of active listening up front so that when you get to the proposal it's like yeah that is exactly what I wanted not wait a second like I that's not at all what we were talking about um so to that point it is a negotiation right? So again this is what I think this is how I think the work is going to proceed what do you think about it? It is not ever finished after the first draft if you're a person who can write a proposal and one dropped I will hire you because it is it is it's a process onda last thing I want to say about that is it's really worth it it's always worth it to me because whether or not I win the work um I feel that I've really thought through how I'm going to approach a problem and I always find that that's beneficial to me at some point in the future and it maybe it's your first proposal on you're actually having to write down what you're designed processes and you never had to do that before so the next time you go through a proposal writing process you're already going to know that part and that's going to be done for you or something you can at least build off of um and they're not busy work there only busy work if you don't put effort into them and you're using, like, copy and pasting a bunch of stuff and just kind of throwing it together and not really committed to the actual act of making the thing. Um so does anyone have any questions so far? No. Okay, so the value of a proposal we talked about this, it clarifies your process, right? How am I going to do this thing? How am I going toe designed this logo for this person? How do I do that and convey that to a client? Because I'm selling them a service? I'm not just selling them here's your logo, I'm solving them the journey that we go on through making this thing and getting their buying along the way. It's also a place for you to establish a shared language. So in the beginning, especially in the design world and lots of businesses, there's a terminology and lingo, right that that we use that maybe your client is unfamiliar with they may use language that you're unfamiliar with. You know, one of the things that I like about being a designer is that I get to work on a lot of different businesses and companies, but then I have to go research that business like, maybe I don't really know a lot about financial services, but I'm certainly going to have to, you know, get a good understanding of it if they're going to be a client of mine and so in that process you're going to have to learn about your client learn about what they care about learning about you know what what's going on in their industry and you're going to start using some of their language and they're going to start using some of yours um it's going to frame informal has your point of view so you know, maybe a client says I need a logo by next week and you think ok, I can do that and then you sit down and you realize wait they don't even have you know, brand values they don't have any other deliverables any other assets, any other anything that expresses their brand they don't need a logo they need a whole identity system and so you know in the moment you might be really excited to take the project but when you start thinking critically about it you might realize that there's that there's things that that you know that you haven't even talked about yet right? So you're formalizing your point of view on and it's becoming clearer and clearer to you and it's also the real beginning of where the work starts to me you don't get paid for it but to me you're on the clock you're thinking how am I going to do this? What information do I need your starting to research and to me that's the beginning of ah project um it also sets boundaries so in in in in the relationship you're saying this is what I'm going to do for you and this is what I'm not going to do for you here's what's in here's what's out here's what you're going to pay me for here's here's what is not included in that right? So you're setting boundaries to protect yourself and depending on the level of complexity of the proposal meaning if it's truly a contract and those boundaries are really important, right it's like this is this is how much you pay me this is when you pay me this is what you pay me for and, you know, I think that when I first started I was kind of casual about that stuff like, oh, you know they'll pay me, you know, you know, I'm just starting out, but I don't think that you can be teo teo over the top about making sure that you're protecting your rights and that you are getting paid fairly and that you are clarifying that and communicating that information to your client s o that's what it does for you, but it also gives you an opportunity to explore what those boundaries are when do you want to get paid? How do you want to get paid to want money up front you know that's really common in project based freelance work is asking for a payment up front and you get to say that and that's a boundary um the valued to clients is it's a road map for what might be really unfamiliar to them maybe they've maybe it's a small business or an individual and they've never hired a designer before so thinking about spending one thousand dollars or three thousand dollars or five thousand dollars on something that you're going to make for them is a big deal, right? And so this is going tio help them understand this is what the process is like this is what this is, what you're going to get as part of that this is the experience that you're going tohave on dh it serves as a way to orient them into this relationship and it formalizes the communication so you know, I really like you you really like me great we're going to do this but now we have to go one level deeper and say, well, what are we going to dio and what are we going to do it by and how are we going to do it? Um they also for clients can uncover misalignment and I think that that's true for you too, but the misalignment that I mean is that a client might come to you and not be familiar with hiring and designer and say something like you know I need a logo and um and you're going to write a proposal on you're going to deliver them a logo but you realize that that that maybe they don't have a stationary system in place or a visual vocabulary or maybe they ask you to do ah stationary system and they don't actually have the logo and so when they get the proposal you have to flag to them that that you know what they asked for is not in total alignment with what they need and then they have to get their heads around their rights so that that misalignment is an education process for your client you're educating them on the services that you offer these of the the thing that they've asked you to d'oh um the next is it's a tool for internal alignment so depending and I mean internal laker plant so depending on who your client uh is if it's an individual then hopefully that's a non issue but if your client is like a couple let's say a couple has a business there to lawyers and you're going to dio you're going to d'oh business stationary system for them when they get that proposal it it may cause all kinds of conversations on their part about like that's too much money or you know well why do we need why don't we need letterhead? We don't actually like put anything in the mail on dso there once they see this outline of what they're actually, what they've asked for approach to get there and then what they have to pay to make that happen, they may say, oh, you know, that's not what we wanted, we need less we need more and that's what your proposal is doing for them. Um, so the next thing is how much time does it actually take? So set aside several hours, especially the first time yeah, several hours it doesn't have to be several hours all at once, but I don't want you guys tio underestimate how important this is for you, especially the first time and how important it is all the time in in pitching your work have you guys ever written? Has anyone ever written a proposal? Yeah, dude is along, do you? Have you struggled? I am wrote a proposal because the client asked me tio is a part of their business process so that they could pay me. Yeah, but I did not take it seriously at all. Why didn't you just wrote like one like a couple sentences? I mean, streak and a theory of how this is that I'm going to charge that was really it, yeah, so so that's an instance and we're going to talk about that later where, um where it's likely that the client uses their own paper, which means the client has contracts, they hire vendors a lot and on dh so you don't have to go through this lengthy process of developing all the content yourself they have a legal requirement where they just want youto like, say, a couple things and then that goes into into their document but that document is there are that paper that legal document is their business terms. So you're accepting all of their business terms by signing something like that unless you wanted to negotiate on those terms so s o you know, that may happen to you a lot, but I highly suggest that everybody tries to write like a full proposal at least once, especially the terms part because I think that's that's a really exercise in a way for you to to take responsibility for your business, you know, and it's kind of a next level thing like at first in my career, I was so excited to just get work that I'm like whatever you want like you a lot of those you're like, you know, like you won't pay me that much great like let's do this because you're wanting to build your portfolio but over time that may change for you and you may want o, you know, have more control over the ownership of the things that you make and you may want tio, you know carve out different different rights that are important to you as a business, so quality over quantity, the proposal does not have to be long, it really doesn't. Um, I know I'm making it sound like you have to tell us research then you have to, like, talk about all this stuff and, you know, you have to write an essay and it's, like, so crazy, but, you know, a two page proposal is absolutely fine. Uh, you know, it could be two pages, five pages, ten pages, you you it's not, um, intended for it to be like a phone book it's intended for a top of really valuable, clarifying information in it. So if you could be concise, even better plan on several revisions. S o we talked about this a little bit already, you're not going to do it and that you're not going to nail it in the first draft, maybe you did it that way because it was really is you're like, look, I'm making a business card and you're going to, you know, get layered files or whatever, but but plan on several revisions and also plan on several revisions as a back and forth with your client, um, so yeah, okay? And then next is nobody likes a form letter, so in the kid in your case, it's absolutely fine that's what the business asked for and and you didn't have to spend all this upfront time because you already have the job. Um, but but in the case where you don't already have the job, nobody likes a form letter, right? Like, you get that thing in the mail and it's like congratulations, like you've, you know, you can now come to this, you know, real estate of opportunity or something like that and it's like the home, and nobody likes that. So when you talk to your client, even even before the president proposal process begins, do research, right? So I didn't I don't know a lot about financial services, I don't know a lot about, you know, lots of different businesses that my clients are in, and I certainly don't know a lot about their companies and it's really important tio to, you know, spend an hour online and just kind of see, is there any latest news like what's what's going on in the space because that shows commitment and it shows interest, and it shows like a genuine concern for the things that that your client cares about, um I also think it's a good idea to use their language right so that's gets back to this shared vocabulary you know, your client might start talking about their business and use a lot of acronyms like on the prd and the you know, the our ally in the l a and all of these things that are just like, wait, what is that? I have no idea what that is and I think it's perfectly ok to ask your clients to clarify that for you like, you know, like I'm not familiar with that what does that mean? But when you start to to develop a conversation with them over time, start using their acronyms it's absolutely fine teo teo create more familiar ground that you're building this relationship from never use generic content so you know, I don't think a winning proposal is filled with lots of vagaries about about what the work is going to be like um I think you have to be genuine, right? So we talked a little bit about this this is about the research part and and I always find that no matter what project I work on, I have to find something that I really care about in the work to do the work like if I don't care about it meaning like, uh, you know, whatever that's a real estate company and I don't care about real estate and who wants to do a business card anyway that's going to come across in everything that I do and how I put myself forward, so I try to develop at least a baseline curiosity, like what's going on in real estate, you know, like, what? What is this business trying to solve? You know, uh, maybe maybe it's, not even about the industry, maybe it's, that I really wanted put more more business cards into my portfolio in a stationary system, so so I'm, like, really excited that, like, it kind of doesn't matter who the client is, but I'm just really, like looking forward to creating a complete design system that I know is going to be portfolio worthy. But you have to find something that that you really care about, and obviously you're not going to communicate to your client like I don't care about real estate, I just want to do business cards. Eso I think you have to, in the client relationship, established something that that you can connect to, um, and having a point of view, right? So that's all about the research and being genuine and an understanding the work and embarking in the work and having a point of view about it s o about the writing persuasively, I just want to do two examples with you guys, so the first one is the proposal logo update will enhance the existing marked by making it more on brand. We will map this work to your company values and work with you to ensure success sounds fine, but sounds like insert company name here, right? This is what I do for every client, like I'm going to make your thing, and I'm going to make it well and it's going to deliver for you and that's it right? The next one is language that was actually in a proposal to me, and I'll read that one for you guys to. So the proposed local update should be one of evolution, reflecting a fun loving, humorous, approachable and geeky cool company that strives to convey that the strives to convey brand values a play, connect, build and share. So in my conversation with the agency that we hired, we talked about evolution and revolution, I think that's a really common way to think about when you're designing something for a client is how far do you want to go do like what you have, and you just want to make it better? Or do you really want to blow the doors off and do something totally different, right? But I use that comparison evolution and revolution in our conversation and the fact that he's quoting me back. And the fact that he's got our company brown values in there makes me feel like he really gets it he's really getting me he listened to what I said and he's repeating that back to me but it resonates and you know we hired him because I felt like he really understood what what I needed or what we needed as a business eso don't do the top one if you can avoid it yeah based off of what I'm hearing do you ever hire a copy editor to kind of look over your worker or what you d'oh so I've never hired a copy editor I would love to hire a copy editor um I am a terrible speller and like a really bad type er eso later um I remind you guys and I will remind you again that have at least have somebody else read what you've done and at least you know, check your spelling but working with a copywriter in my experience is like one of the most glorious things you can ever dio so if you have friends that are willing to trade or you feel like you want to make that investment in this proposal writing process I would absolutely do it unless you know you're an amazing writer and you're like I got this but always having someone look over your work and help you with grammar and help you be more concise I think is massively valuable