Quoting 101 - How to Bid on (and Win) Freelance Design Work

By Clancy Clarke

While browsing projects in DesignCrowd's list of graphic design jobs, you'll see an avatar wearing a green shirt (Freelance Job) and you might wonder what that is all about! This icon (Freelance Job) indicates that the project is a traditional 'freelance job' and not a 'design contest'. For these jobs, you will need to send the client a 'quote' that includes a plan of action and how much (in dollar terms) you'll charge them - that is, a fixed price quote. The client will then choose which designer they want to award the job to.

On DesignCrowd, we see dozens of these projects and hundreds of designer quotes every day and we've noticed 3 trends: 1) some clients don't award a job to anyone because there are too many poor quotes (which means designers are missing opportunities to earn money) 2) that many designers don't do themselves justice when they submit quotes and 3) the quality of a quote has a big influence on whether or not you win a job.

In this article, we cover Quoting 101 and includes 8 Tips on How to Pitch for Freelance Design Work and an Example of a Killer Quote. In a nutshell, this article should help your quote stand out from the 'crowd' of people vying for that one designer spot.

PART A - 8 Tips on How to Pitch for Freelance Design Work

Here are our tips to submitting a great quote:

#1 - Find / Read a Brief

Once you've searched our design jobs and found a freelance job that you like (for example this Church Bulletin project). The brief tells you what you're being tasked with. This might be obvious, but read it carefully. From the brief you can do some further research (highly recommended) and you can list some keywords (also highly recommended).

Know your client, and they will want to get to know you.

Example - in this article, we'll use a real project on DesignCrowd as an example (a print design request 'Church Bulletin'). I will put my thinking in italics to describe my thought process.

Here's an excerpt from the brief:

We would like to start having our bulletins professionally designed on a quarterly basis. These bulletins would have the quarterly emphasis and seasonal information. These should be slick finished and preferably an unusual size and layout. (Meaning something different than just a bi-fold or tri-fold - however, we do need to consider what type of paper would fit as an insert - don't want too much cutting work for the secretaries). We would print and in-house insert for current events and weekly announcements.  This is our first experience hiring an outside artist - so someone will really need to walk me through the process as we get started.  Work load has a great potential to grow depending on costs and working relationship ... Read the full brief

#2 - Check the Client's Budget

When you are figuring out how much to quote a client, it can be hard to determine how much to charge. They aren't going to give you a budget as they want to get the cheapest price out of you. This negotiation can be a hassle and it can take time. With DesignCrowd, part of that job has been done for you, as the client gives you a ballpark amount from the beginning. You just need to pick a specific number.  It might be higher or lower, but typically, if the client's initial budget is 3 or 4 times smaller than what you have in mind, then don't bother quoting.

#3 - Submit a Custom Quote

You can just go with the flow and quote for the budget the client has specified, but I would advise against it. It can look as though you aren't putting a lot of thought into the amount of money that you are getting and can look a little lazy.

First thing that I would do is figure out how many hours of work the budget is equal to. As a freelance designer, it's common to work based on an hourly rate. If you're fresh out of the gate and taking on your first jobs ever, a good place to start is at $20 an hour. If you've been around the block you know your rates.

Once you've figured out what you are worth by the hour, divide the client's quote by your hourly rate to figure out how much time you can allocate to the project. For example, I work for about $25 an hour. This is because I'm in Australia and I'm relatively inexperienced.  In other countries, my hourly rate could be a lot less and, on the other hand, people with more experience in the US, UK or Australia might charge more than me.  Horses for courses.  

Generally, the cheaper your quote, the better but some clients will be looking for quality and might perceive higher quotes as coming from higher caliber candidates. You'll need to position yourself in a way that suits your experience and how hungry you are for the work.

Another consideration is the client's budget - for example, if the client has allocated a budget of $100 or less, so this job should take me about 4 hours to complete.  Ask yourself if you can get the job done in that time. If that were a logo design, I know it would take me at least one hour to do the research and another hour and a bit for the 20 or so thumbnail sketches that I do. If it looks like an impossible task, modify the amount of time you spend on each step so that you can get it done in the time allotted, boost the price up a little so that you are not cheapening your work or don't submit a quote at all.

#4 - Provide Contact Details

Kind of self-explanatory, don't you think? Do make sure that the number you provide is suitable for international clients. Know your international phone codes, or at least do a quick Google search. DesignCrowd is an international company, in which clients are found all around the world. If you give them a bad phone number and they cannot contact you, then you most likely will not get the job.

#5 - Provide Extra Detail

The next three sections all have that word Optional next to them. Don't leave them out! When you fill them in, it shows that you have a greater interest in the job than someone who simply undercuts previous bidders without leaving any additional information! Clients are more likely to choose someone that is interested over the cheapest alternative. These sections are a lot more important if you are asking more than the budget provided.

#6 - Provide Examples of Previous Work

Make sure that the works that you link to are similar to the brief that was handed to you. No point in sending them an example of web work if they are asking for a print design. If you don't have any work that is similar, link something that you are proud of and most closely fits the style that you will be working with in the work that you will be doing for the client.

The best thing to have is an online portfolio (something like www.theloop.com.au or your own website if you have one) where the client can browse through your work at their leisure. If they dig further, they might find something that they really like and you will then be that one step closer to getting the design job.

#7 - Do not compete just on price - Sell Yourself

Explain to the client what you'll do for them. Here is where the list of keywords that you have extracted from the brief will come in handy. Use them. The client will know that you have read the brief and have created the pitch based on their needs.

This is also where you can explain why you think you're the right designer for the job. Tell the client what you are good at. Why are you different to everyone else that has applied for the job? What can the client do to get more information from you? Keep it succinct; a few sentences should do. Clients don't want to read a wall of text.

#8 - Give Your Conditions

State your hourly rate and your expected timeline and justify yourself if you've gone over their budget. This is a good place to discuss how you'll hand over the finished work and under what conditions. Give an estimate on how soon you'll be able to deliver the work in days or weeks. Be as precise as you can!

PART B - Example of a Killer Quote

Here's an example quote that I submitted to our example 'Church Bulletin' print design project on DesignCrowd. I've included some comments, thinking and further on the right against each section.

Example quote
Profile Pic
Having a custom (and good) avatar and professional name is critical.  

Here are some good examples:


Bluejet PC Design Chris E

Quote Amount
I'm based in Australia and work off an hourly rate of $25.  I think this job (and the deliverables I'm offering) will take 13 hours, so my quote is $325 (10% above their budget) which is, of course, acceptable.  Your hourly rate will be different and should depend on your experience and the country you're in.  

Previous Work

This is your opportunity to showcase relevant works and your portfolio (that may not be on DesignCrowd).

If you have any examples that are the same deliverable type, the same style or the same industry as the client's project - include these first.


Proposal
This is where you pitch your services.

Make your pitch bespoke for this client. 

Clients are put off by generic / template pitching.
  At the end I've included a call to action. The ball is now in the client's court.

Conditions
Be explicit about what you'll deliver and how long you'll take. 

Include anything you're not responsible for (such as copy or photography). 

Regarding timeline, base this on your availability and make sure to include buffer for emergencies and revisions.

Other
Note that we'll automatically include examples from your DesignCrowd portfolio.

Written by DesignCrowd on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DesignCrowd is an online marketplace providing logo, website, print and graphic design services by providing access to freelance graphic designers and design studios around the world.