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Project Proposal Example

Lesson 14 from: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Pitching Clients and Getting Sales

Peter Corbett

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Lesson Info

14. Project Proposal Example

Lesson Info

Project Proposal Example

Okay, so we're gonna go into a full proposal. We're gonna look at a video project, okay. So, personally I love Pages, I don't know if you guys use Pages and iWork if you're on a Mac, what a lovely program. I do not write proposals in Microsoft Word, nothing against Microsoft, they've been a client of ours over the years. I just find pages to be really elegant and very fast, and I like to move fast. So, you don't have to adopt my template, but what I like to do is I put the client name up top, and the "x" is like collaboration, so, "client x istrategylabs = something greater". So client, or a plus sign, maybe you'd use a plus sign, client x ISL. The title of the project, I use a little new color and I say the client, and its a product vision video creation. And, in this instance I've got our creative director as he's the contact for this, instead of me. For what ever reason I think clients like to have me as the one who wrote the proposal for like a big multi-million dollar scope, and i...

f it's a like very creative, high touch video project, they wanna see a creative directors name. I think about all of these psychological things. I think that you should, right? I think that's important, I don't know why, Maybe it's that like, maybe they ignore that piece but like all the little things add up to like "Oh my god I gotta sign this thing right now!". And that's what were going for, okay. So that's the title page. So the question was , how detailed do we get? I try to be as short and simple as possible. So I'm just gonna read this to you, bare with me, for reading this to you. I'll use Creative Lives, the client. Creative Live has requested a proposal to cover the creation of the Creative Live future of applesauce product vision video. ISL is proposing to produce an inspiring and informative, two to three minute video that mixes live action, motion graphics and CGI compositing to deliver a composition that shows the future of applesauce, as well as Creative Lives four pronged approach to bring that vision to fruition. I didn't meant to make a pun with fruition and applesauce, but it happened, and I'm happy about it. So this literally is like the one, gimme like two or three sentences up front to like, tell the person what were making. And, there's probably some discussion about a four pronged strategy. So client wants to hear that you heard that, right? So I wanna put that, back in there. So quick summary of the work so they get a sense for what we're gonna do, like what they're actually gonna pay us to do. The summary of the work required for this scope is as follows. Art direction: ISL will work in tandem with Creative Live to create a concept script, story board and shot list that will dictate the deliverables for a video shoot and post-production. Videography: ISL will shoot raw footage captured in various locations, which may or may not include actors. So I don't even know yet, right? Like I literally have no idea what were gonna do, cause no ones decided that, and we haven't done kick off and discovery. I just had, had a conversation with a client that wanted to pay us 50 grand to make a video. So how do you write a proposal for something you don't know what you're gonna do yet? This is how you do it, and I'll tell you, maybe it's half the time, maybe it's more, that's all the information you have. And it will drive you crazy. You'll be like "but I can't scope the thing unless I know, "are we gonna have actors or not? Or, how do I do this?" So it's T.B.D based in the concept. Post Production: ISL will illustrate 3D design and edit all assets required to complete the video. Components of post production include the following, story/narration via type on screen, voiceover or talent driven, editing, so this is basically like anything, it's gonna be driven by almost anything. We don't know yet. Editing, after effects, titling intro bumper, animation, scoring, music licensing, sound design, color grading. So what to expect. So this sort of dives a little bit deeper, and sells home the fact that I know what you actually want. So what to expect, video production costs can range widely pending on the production value a client seeks. We've proposed a production value much higher than the competitor video for example. So, in this instance, usually a client will give you a reference point. They'll say, "we want a video that looks like this". And you're like, okay. So I do like to reference often whatever has been shown, and give them a price for what I think that would've been. So they go "Oh we want this". And like, that would've cost $350,000. And you're telling me you want that for 35K? Right, so we've gotta sort of level set. So we've proposed a production value much higher than the competitor video for example, something more in line with this. And I'll send a link to another reference example, could be ours. We could've made something already for that budget, and say okay, so we're actually proposing to do something like this. There's a reason this video has been watched 25 million times. How many times have you had a client that asked you "we want this thing, doesn't it look amazing? "and 30 million people have watched it". Like yeah, uh, looks like they spent about a million dollars on it. You have 20 grand, okay, how do I figure this out? So like, being very upfront with like, level setting is crucial and you can do that in your proposals. Specifically video proposals. There's a reason that video has been watched 25 million times. It uses never been seen before CGI to show the near future made possible by their product. We estimate that video to be in the $350,000 range to produce. Much of that cost is due to the fact that there is five minutes of heavy CGI compositing work that went into it. If there were talent / voiceover in the piece, it would have been $450,000 plus. So now I've basically pushed back on them saying, you're asking for a $450,000 project. You have whatever you have. And now I can get into my costs. This video reference would be about 95K to produce and if that's more in keeping with your budget and the vision for the project, then we'd be happy to submit an alternative proposal related to it. So I got a little complicated as an example just to show you like, how do you deal with the, like, you're always getting asked "can you make something like this?" And everyone's always asking for the thing that's been seen 40 million times, and they don't have the budget. Yes? Please. So let's say you've come up with something and, you were just wrong, and it went way over budget, do you just absorb that, or, do you try and go back to the client and say hey? What do you do? Yeah, I think that's more of a question for our like operating session, but I will address it quickly. So, the objective of scoping is to ensure that no matter what happens, you do not go out of business. (laughs) Or that you don't lose money. And hopefully you don't get to the point of break even. And that also encompasses, you need to have really great project management. And a really great project manager will say "oh my god, we're gonna go broke if we keep going "through 10 thousand rounds of revision". I need to get to the point of ending the project, firing the client, or like, proposing a scope change. And so that is the daily battle that every project manager on the planet faces. It's part of the business, it's always gonna be part of the business. I get concerned about just like a flat fee that we promise the world to somebody and then don't do a good job project managing. We are who we are, and have done well because we project manage really well. So promising to deliver a project like this, is not as risky, because we've been though it, we know how to manage clients expectations, we know how to end a project, we know how to get out of a bad project if it's going south, we know how to collect enough money along the way so that we don't get totally screwed if the thing goes south. There's a lot more about sort of operating a project. So I'll get into that a little bit more later, I'm sure people have other questions about it. So, cost and deliverables, in this instance, I didn't do the full break down like we had for web project. I just said, we're gonna have a project manager and a producer, were gonna art direct, we're gonna edit, and that's your price. And the reason why this sample has it, this actually came out of a real client project. They had so much money, and did not care what the price was. We just wanted to make sure they weren't expecting a half million dollar film and that we managed the expectation back to something and it was realistic. They were not gonna be price sensitive about the specific of how much is color grading, how much is editing, that's not relevant to them. Not even something they would know how to understand what the price should be. We just knew, at 175K, we can get this thing done, we can get it done profitably, and its gonna be a great project, and, sign it. A few other carve outs, we always put the payment terms in there. I'm a big fan of putting the payment terms in the proposal immediately, otherwise, you're gonna get theirs back in a contract or something, they might say "we never pay money up front, "we do 30 day whatever" and I'm like "Nope!". Almost every single project we have you're gonna pay us half of the fee before we start. Like I can't trust the world all the time. So we want real commitment, especially if it's a startup. Not to, all you startup founders out there, not to say you can't be trusted, but sometimes you run out of money. (laughs) And so we wanna make sure that our work is actually paid for in the onset. We then charge 25% on filming and 25% on completion. This may sound simple, or it may sound non-important. Guess where the real stuff hits the fan? It is in that last piece where you're going through like rough cut, final, final final final final blah blah.. And it is not often thankfully, that like a relationship really goes south at the end. But sometimes it does. And now you can say listen, you've paid us 75% of fees to date. We're not gonna charge you for the other 25%. Here's all the raw footage, go have someone finish it. All they have to do is edit and make the logo bigger, and you are no longer our client. It's been great. So in least, you got paid for all of your work to date. You may have made a profit on it. In the least, you can get out of the thing without getting crushed. So I love to see by the time we're getting to completion, 75% of fees have been collected. And that has I think served us really well. If we're really talking about war stories, you know I have one where we did collect 75% of fees and then, the relationship got, it just got bad. And, I had to rebate back some money out of that 75% to get all this out of the way. And that put me in a negotiating position because I had their money. Instead of not having it, I was like okay, if I didn't have it, if I didn't have that second payment, I've only got 50% now their just like walking, and I think I gave back another five. So now I can say listen, I'm gonna give you all the detail, this is all the work we've completed. We've completed 75% of the project. But I wanna give you back a little bit because I know that it can be, you know, tumultuous, and disruptive to have to hire somebody else to finish something out. So this is really strategic, the payment terms. Most people just think oh, I'll just, we'll, I don't know, we'll invoice them later. Like that is, irresponsible. And then I think calling out costs that are not included is crucial, right? So we'll say not included here is music licensing, travel and lodging if there are non-DC meeting and shooting locations. What I did include, so it's not here, we are including talent fees. So we're assuming that we're gonna have actors. And if we don't, okay, well we probably had CGI. So we're just assuming the costs kinda swap back and forth and it doesn't matter. We like to have projects that you don't get scrutinized on those individual line item basis'. It's just like what's the end product? Is the end product awesome? Who cares how we got there. So last thing, I like to provide this week by week timeline sometimes. I know I told you upfront that you shouldn't do this, and then you're gonna you know, its horrible. You have to gauge whether or not you sort of have to. So in this instance, I wanted to show you a week by week. Not with the table format. But just because this client specifically, I think had no real understanding of like, the actual pieces of the puzzle and how they come together and in what sequence. So, we wanted to show like look, we know, and actually we knew that they had to launch mid September. So we showed 'em, said that's how we're gonna do it. I like that. I'm not dead against it. If you don't have to do it, don't do it. Just put the number of weeks. You can just say week one, week two, week three, week four etc. And then signatures of acceptance, and we're done. So, questions about a proposal template like this, it's pretty simple and what you'll notice is there's no work examples. Most people think like I have to send like 10 reference videos etc. You talk about that. What your question? So if a client comes up and you give 'em a timeline say well, I've gotta get this done weeks ahead of that because I've got this timeline, do you charge them a premium and put it into high gear or is that possible? Sometimes, yeah, yeah. There's two choices. If they want something done in four weeks that we know is gonna take six weeks, and it is the worlds most famous brand and we love it and wanna work with them there's so much more upside, we might just take the project in that timeline and bust our ass for the same price. If it is not the worlds greatest brand and we don't really care, we might just add a rush fee. And then we would say, project is normally 50 grand, we have to drop other projects, we're actually gonna like shed $25,000 of other work from our team, so you're gonna pay for that. So now your project is 75K, right? You have to make these calls in real time. And you have to judge whether or not you think that persons gonna say yes. If you think they'll say no to a rush fee, and their still gonna want it in four weeks, and their not the worlds greatest brand, I'm probably saying no to the project. 'Cause there'll be another project that's gonna be a more reasonable timeline with a higher fee. And so, it comes down to at a certain point in time, opportunity cost of time. Like you can only work on so many things simultaneously. So, why jam yourself up with quick turn projects that are for crappy clients, when you can do longer term projects with great clients where a really high quality of work can be done, and then that work makes you famous. That's what you should be gunning for. So, I think we're gonna go- I have a quick question. Yeah go ahead. So at this point are we assuming that you are credible to this client, that they have asked you to- Yeah. Submit something- Oh yeah. So in an instance where, could you give us an instance where a proposal like this would be inappropriate, maybe, for a business relationship? That's a great question. So, yeah, the proposal I just showed you assumes that they are fully sold on hiring us. Maybe a repeat client? You notice the proposal didn't, yeah it could have been a repeat client. The proposal doesn't say anything about our services, it doesn't say anything about the company, it assumes they know all of those things. So, that's the kind of proposal I send certainly if there is a pre-existing client, that's the easy one. If it's a new client, we've had a meeting, we've talked about their project, it might have just been a phone call, there's no question that they wanna hire us. And also, there may not be any other competitors in the mix. So I would think you would be, it might be lazy of me if I send that proposal and I knew that there were like, two or three other people in the mix. 'Cause if I knew there were competitors in the mix, I'd probably ham it up a lot more. I'd sell it harder, I'd show video. And look at the last 10 things we've done, and all the awards and the views and all the things. Like I'd really sell it harder. I also probably wouldn't do it in a Pages document. I'd probably do it in Keynote. And I'd have big, bold visuals. 'Cause I'm still selling. And so I'm not really gonna show you that version today. But part of my philosophy is if you feel like there's competition, and you know there's competition, your competitions going to probably come to the table with a long written proposal, 'cause for whatever reason that's what people do. We come at it with a big bold visual proposal. So we'll line up 50 slides of awesome animatics, and sketches from behind the scenes and behind the scenes shots of the sets we've made, and like, all this stuff. And their like "oh my god that seems so exciting". And I've literally, I've gotten this comment several times over the years. Someone has said, "your proposal was "the most exciting thing that we've ever seen." And I was like, I've never, like people don't say that about proposals. It's not supposed to be that way. And that's an unfair advantage that I discovered. And is that something you present in person? Maybe walk though it with them? No, usually what happens in person is you'll do the capabilities presentation, you'll show them some of the work, and if I know that there is a competitive bid happening, then I'm gonna, take parts of that presentation lay it out very visually, take all the perfect reference case studies, and then lay in the timeline and the pricing, and send them that. Okay. And I can send them as PDF, and they can watch the videos on Vimeo or otherwise.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Concepting Proposal Template
Independent Contractor Services Agreement Template
Mutual NDA Template
Sample Prospect-Deal Tracker.xlsx

Ratings and Reviews

Bonnie Aunchman

Peter & Creativelive - I loved, loved this class! I would HIGHLY recommend. The class is extremely informative in content and has great document samples you can use. I will implement Peter's advice and practices immediately! (Loved Peter's teaching style!) Thank you! :)

a Creativelive Student

I had the great privilege of being in the studio audience for this class and had a phenomenal experience. Peter shared not only great insights and experience but templates that I've already started implementing in my own business. His experience and approach towards working with clients really resonated with me and my business partners. I specifically encourage you to find the section and write down word for word what he says when a client says "well, I don't know what our budget is, we want you to tell us". I've already used his approach of responding with "oh, it's a million dollars :-)!" and using that to open the conversation. It get's results and the answers you need to put together an aligned proposal. On being an audience member the staff at CreativeLive was kind, clear with instructions and made sure we always knew what was expected of us. I encourage you to apply for a class and experience it first hand. As a bonus, their office and catering was phenomenal.

Che Pilling

Peter Corbett is a very clever man, I appreciate his honesty and creative thinking. This course is amazing for people who are in a process of setting up different areas of their business. I can also see how it would benefit business owners/managers who want to review their processes. Corbett is a very engaging speaker and his communication is excellent. Fabulous course, A+.

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