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Four Proven Ways To Make Sure Your Design Fee Proposal Is Not Ignored

Today I want to show you how to write a simple design fee proposal using a 4 step approach. 

One of the key elements of a successful design fee proposal is to keep it as simple as possible. 

Let’s start by looking at why simplicity is so important.

Do your Clients have an 8-second Attention Span?

According to a recent study published by the Daily Telegraph, (“Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones”, Leon Watson, 5/15/2015) the average attention span of a human being has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, to around 8 seconds in recent years… are you still reading? 😉

The study included a survey of 2,000 participants from Canada, plus a brain scan of 112 others using a high-tech piece of equipment called an electroencephalogram.

Average attention span is less than a Goldfish:

If the study is to be believed, then the average human attention span is less than that of a goldfish, which apparently has an attention span of 9 seconds!

Design Fee Proposal
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Our short attention span is causing us to either ignore or disregard what we can’t quickly and easily understand.

This can be very problematic for anyone who writes fee proposals and is responsible for selling design services. 

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a free Fee Proposal Mini-Series):

What’s in a Design Fee Proposal request?

When Clients request a fee proposal they are, in essence, asking for a clear and concise summary of why they should appoint you for design services. 

They’re looking for reasons to justify their purchasing behavior so they can feel good about the purchasing decisions they make.

An overly complex, misleading, or confusing proposal will simply cause Clients to delay the appointment process – or in extreme cases, may even cause them to look elsewhere for design services.

How can Architects & Interior Designers write Better Design Fee Proposals?

Research into human behavior is telling us that people don’t like what they can’t quickly and easily understand. 

In a recent survey (“To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple” Spenner, P. & Freeman, K. (May 2012 ) Harvard Business Review. p 4.) which included more than 7,000 participants from 4 different countries, researchers found that the single biggest driver behind the sale of products and services was, by far, decision simplicity.

Simplicity in Design Fee Proposals: 

So, if it pays to keep things simple, how can you make your fee proposals for design services simple and easy to comprehend?

Step 1: Avoid Information Overload:

Design Fee Proposals and Information Overload
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Don’t overwhelm your Clients with too much information, too soon. Where possible start the design fee proposal process with a simple fee letter or executive summary. 

This document should confirm the following: 

  • Client details,
  • briefly describe the project,
  • introduce the service options being offered,
  • demonstrate the difference between those services, and
  • include a sentence that ties the document into your main appointment. 

You may want to include a statement that says:

“These fee and service options are based on our standard contract, a copy of which is available upon request”.

Step 2: Intuitive Formatting and Language:

Design Fee Proposals Intuitive Formatting
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Traditionally, most of us write design fee proposals by adopting a similar format. We start with a detailed description of the scope of work to be completed, we then briefly mention our design fee, and we finish off with some contractual language.

Do Clients read the scope of services?

Unfortunately, most Clients aren’t interested in reading scopes of service, they’re primarily interested in learning about our design fees.

So, make sure your proposal reads in a logical and intuitive manner. Start by dividing each section within the proposal into subcategories with subheadings.

Make sure that your Clients can quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. 

Try to avoid hiding the most important information (such as your design fees) within the body of the fee proposal document. 

Also, avoid using too much technical language that may intimidate or frustrate your Clients.

Step 3: Presentation Consistency:

Fee Proposal Presentation Consistency
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Many Design Professionals have created their design fee proposals from a combination of; other documents they have used during their career, templates they have purchased on-line and their own experiences.

In the process of bringing all this different information together and adding their own personal touches, they’ve lost the original intent and formatting of the individual documents.

Make sure that the final version has been formatted in a uniform manner so that each section of the document (discussed in point 1 above) looks and feels like it comes from the same suite of documents.

Step 4: Use a Fee Matrix:

Design Fee Proposal Fee Matrix
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Where appropriate, include tables within your design fee proposals to organize the information into a logical and orderly sequence. This is especially important when describing design fees and deliverables. This can be achieved by including a Fee Matrix.

A Fee Matrix is an executive summary of your design fees that is presented in a way that fees and services can be quickly and easily understood and compared (in a table).

The Fee Matrix should not replace the Scope of Service – it should be provided in addition to the Scope of Service document. We’ll be discussing more on this later.

Note: Your Clients know that you can design, that’s why they’ve approached your firm. They’re looking for other compelling reasons to say ‘yes’ to appointing your firm for design services. Keep your design fee proposal clear and simple.

This article is based on chapter 3 of the Design Professional’s Guide to Writing Effective Fee Proposals.

Want Someone to Write the Fee Proposal for You?

Most Architects use a very traditional fee proposal strategy that only works for Star-chitects and those firms with a truly Unique Selling Proposition (USP). 

If you’re struggling to sell your design skills, or if you’re tired of competing with lower-priced (and less experienced) design service providers, check out the Fee Proposal Mini-Series

It’s currently available to watch FREE of charge and it will show you how to fix the 3 biggest fee proposal mistakes: