When I first started my company back in July of 2003, I was gun ho on proposals. I’d spend hours on ’em. They’d generally end up being 9-10 pages detailing what we intended to do on a project, but they were also filled with a lot of marketing fluff. I have since reduced the number of pages of my proposals/contracts focusing solely on scope and deliverables, and I now do something I should have always done; estimate first, then scope out a proposal.
I have been estimating first now for about a year and I can’t tell you how much time it has saved me. People have been estimating for years now, and I still don’t know why I didn’t take advantage of the idea earlier. Here’s how I put the very old best practice to work: when someone asks for a request for bid, I ask a few more detailed questions. I then get with my lead developer and estimate how much each “chunk” of work will cost. I’ll send back the totals, and assuming the client is satisfied, we’ll further the discussion to clearly define the scope of expectations and put together a final proposal or contract. Estimate options are, of course, subject to change as the initial scope can change.
I’m sure most of you have been smarter than me. So do you use estimates before bidding on work? If not, you should.