Making Money, Not Starvation: Part 2

He’s probably trying to sell her an explainer video.

Business Proposals and Marriage Proposals have similarities. They are both an offer that will hopefully lead to a leap of faith in the form of a “yes” on the proposee’s part.

The proposer puts thought into the presentation and tries to emphasize the positive in order to influence a “yes.”

When saying yes to a marriage proposal, the target is trusting that you will be awesome to be married to and that you will not waste the life you are requesting. And in a project proposal, the target is trusting that you will be awesome at completing the project you are proposing and that you will not waste the money you’re requesting.

Before any money changes hands or work starts there needs to be a proposal at least. The proposal is like a contract, only it’s more informal. I tend to use proposals, but if I were dealing with larger projects where my risk is greater I would use a contract. Contracts often require a lawyer to write, review, and negotiate, so the expense can be greater. For a proposal you just make sure it says the stuff that needs to be said.

How to start using a proposal in your sales process

So- you’ve met with a potential client. You’ve talked about the project and you have a pretty good idea of what they want. Then they ask you how much.  This is a good place to say that you’ll prepare a proposal for them (BTW I never give people numbers off of the top of my head, I always go back and think about it because there are a lot of moving parts in a project- preparing a proposal also gives you time to go through it and think it all out).

So you go back to your place and make a nice little proposal.

Not only is a proposal a written record of what you will be providing to the client, it is also a sales tool- the client can send it to their best friend or their business partner and the proposal should have all of the info in it that those people will need to decide that you are trustworthy without them ever meeting you or seeing you. The more money you are charging, the more they will want to know about you as well.

Be a killer sales ninja like Ron.

What’s in a proposal

1. Your name or company name, contact info, your website

2. (Optional) A bio, client list, testimonials that show that that you’re not a charlatan

3. Project Summary- This section is a description of the project as you understand it.  For example “This proposal is for a 1 minute 30 second animated pilot introduction in the style of 1960’s Hanna Barbera Animation.”

Don’t forget to specify the duration of the animated piece you are providing in all proposals!!

4. Included in Budget- this is where you break down what you will be doing in order to complete the project. Some places itemize this stuff by the hour, but I just put a list of stuff. This not only creates a record of what you will be providing, but it also serves to remind them of why they’re paying you so much.  So for example:

Included in Budget:

  • Script Writing
  • Script Revisions
  • Storyboarding
  • Storyboard revisions
  • Animatic
  • Layout
  • Character design
  • Prop design
  • Background design
  • Animation
  • Compositing
  • Edit

5. Not included in budget- this is a place to specify things that your client said they don’t need- for example if your client will want to provide the voice over then this would read:

Not Included in Budget:

  • Voice Actor talent fees
  • Audio Recording fees

6. Cost- This is how much it costs

7. Payment Schedule- This is where you explain when in the process you will be expecting payment and how much that payment will be.  (see more about this below)

8. Additional Information- This is a kind of catch all section for other details.  Some things that would appear in this section:

– The number of revisions that are included in the project price

– How much it will cost if the number of revisions is exceeded, and how you will charge for it if that happens

– A note saying that the client agrees to be available for decisions as needed and that failure to do so will alter the due date, budget, or both

– Something specifying that any artwork or others materials that client provides for your use are property of the client and that the client holds you harmless if a dispute arises over the ownership of something they have provided you.

– Specify what language the project will be in, if subtitles or anything else like that is included (or not included)

– What happens if the project gets cancelled before it’s finished (this matters especially if you turn down work in order to focus on a project thats cancelled or if you need more from the client just to make up for the work you have done on it to the point of completion)

– Any other details you can think of.


9. A signature area- Once your client and you sign this it is your agreement and you can refer back to it in case any confusion arises. The idea is to hone your proposal so that everything that could happen is covered. Always make sure they sign +return it. Some people don’t- if they don’t then don’t do the project.  If they request changes to it, listen to them and see what you think about the changes.

10. Client’s contact information- Have them list their main methods of contact like email, phone, mailing address so you have it all on record.

And then you shall have a proposal.

The Payment process

From my experience I highly recommend getting a deposit before starting work because it shows that the client actually has money and is actually aware that they will be spending it if they hire you. I always tell clients that I start work when the deposit is received, not before.  This is because it’s not fair to put aside the work of someone who has paid for someone who hasn’t.

The most common way to handle this that I have seen is to either break it into 3 payments or 2 payments depending on how long the project will be: 1 payment in order to commence work, the 2nd payment in the middle somewhere (like, after the animatic is approved for example, or after sketches are approved) then the 3rd is upon completion.  If the project is short then two payments will do- 1 up front, the 2nd upon completion.

Also specify how much each payment will be.

Where to get more info

A good resource for this stuff is The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines which is available in bookstores and online. They issue a new edition each year. Beware their pricing guidelines run high. They also have sample contracts and other issues to consider for graphic design, illustration, animation, licensing, etc.

Missed Part 1 about invoices and checks? That’s cool, you can read it here.

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