I’ve been listening to the 2Bobs podcast a lot lately. David and Blair do an exceptional job, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the creative industry.
One of Blair’s big pushes is that proposals and contracts are two different things. Proposals should ideally simply be a way to reach a soft agreement, and people put way too much tangible effort into them. You should certainly make sure things are tight in the final contract, but you should become much more casual in your approach to proposals.
I was reminded of this quote regarding Christianity, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
His point is pretty obvious, but not something people think of. Everyone assumes that to “preach the gospel” you need to speak, but really you can let your actions talk for you.
While I’ve not heard Blair say this, I could see him saying something similar about proposals and people’s assumptions that you must have some grand “proposal”, like this:
Have discussions that lead to great proposals. When necessary, use paper.
Don’t build fancy slide decks about how great you are. Don’t create a 20 page document to outline your options. Don’t take turns “presenting” to one another. Just have a conversation and work out the details. “Based on what you’ve said we can do x work for $y. Do you agree?“
That said, at GreenMellen we often propose a few options, so we typically list those options on paper at the proposal stage, but we keep it very simple. This isn’t a place to sell ourselves or give timelines, but simply to make sure we’re on the same page.
Your contract should cover everything else. We’re in the process of rewriting some of our terms of service (to make them more friendly to our clients), as it’s important to keep your contacts tight.
For proposals, though, don’t overthink them. Have great discussions with your potential clients, and if necessary, use paper.