How do I write my first proposal?

Congratulations.

You’ve done the hard work.

You’ve found a potential client.

You’ve listened to their needs.

You’ve explained what it is you do.

They sound really interested.

“Send me a proposal” they say.

And you stop dead.

Because you’ve not done a proposal yet.

You’ve never written one before.

What do you do?

The single most important thing to remember is you have not got the client yet. That means that your proposal is a sales document. You are still “persuading” the client that you’re the right person to work with.

And the client is going to be looking for three things:

  • Will you help me achieve my objectives?
  • Will the price you charge be worth it?
  • Are you capable of delivering this project?

So your proposal should not just say “I will build a 5 page website for this price” or “I will keyword optimise your site for this price” or “I will write a Javascript component that does X for this price”.

Because that does not answer the client’s questions.

They don’t want a 5 page website – they want more sales1.

They don’t want keyword optimisation – they want more traffic2.

They don’t want a javascript widget – they want happier customers3.

In all three cases I’ve made an assumption about what it is the client is actually looking for. It’s your job, during the course of your conversations to figure out what their objective actually is.

And then you state that, front and centre, in your proposal.

“The aim of this project is to help Client X achieve Objective Y”

Straight away, you’re answering the client’s question – will you help me achieve my objectives? Yes, it’s right there on page one, paragraph one.

Next, is the price you charge worth it?

Well, if you’re going to help them get more sales, how many more sales do they want? Is it £100/month, is it £1000/month, is it £10000/month?

If you’re going to help them get more traffic – what is that traffic worth? Do 1 in 10 visitors become customers? Do 1 in 100, or 1 in 1000 or 1 in 1000000 visitors become customers? And how much is a customer worth? You can then use this to figure out that if you boost their traffic by 100 or 1000 or 1000000 visitors per month, they are going to make £M in extra revenue.

If you’re going to help them keep their customers happy – what is their customer churn rate? If a customer stays with them for an extra six months, how much is that worth to them in subscription revenue (or however they make their money)?

Because once you’ve got a monetary value, a measure of the difference you’re going to make to their business, suddenly, you’ve got something to anchor your price against.

“According to the projections, implementing this project will raise your revenues by £1000/month”

When you then state that your price is £5000, you’re immediately saying “so you will have made your money back in 6 months” – answering question two.

Now you’ve proven that you know what they want to achieve, you’ve proven that it’s worth their while choosing you – now you just need to prove to them that you can be trusted.

The easiest way to do this is to offer some sort of guarantee.

This might fill you with terror – but remember, you can choose what the guarantee looks like.

So, never pick something that is outside your control. You can’t promise them £1000/month in extra sales, because what if their product is utter crap and no-one wants to buy it? Or a new competitor comes out with something better that’s half the price? Your guarantee just fell through the floor.

Instead, choose something you can control.

The website will be completed, to your specifications, with 3 revisions, within 6 weeks of the contract being signed.

The optimisation process will result in new website copy that reads naturally but has a keyword density of X.

The javascript widget will reduce the customer journey from 5 steps to 1 step, resulting in smoother order processing.

We guarantee that this project will meet the following criteria providing our specialist development process is followed.

And that way, your proposal answers your clients three major questions, puts their mind at ease and makes it easy for them to choose to work with you.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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  1. Probably
  2. Probably
  3. Probably

What sort of person pays $10/month for a Chrome Extension?

What sort of person pays $10/month for a Chrome Extension?

The short answer:

The sort of person who charges their time out at $50/hour and doesn’t want to waste more than 12 minutes a month doing something tedious.

The long answer:

The person who has a specific need.

But even though they have this need, they may not realise it. They may not even know that they have a problem, let alone know that a solution exists.

There’s just something, in their day to day life, that bugs them.

It doesn’t bug them a lot.

Just enough for the odd complaint to surface – a comment on Hacker News, a question on Reddit, a rant on Twitter. Every two or three months, they do a quick search to see if there’s a way round it.

And then they stumble across your Chrome Extension.

They didn’t even know they were looking for a Chrome Extension.

But the headline on your announcement post says “Does it bug you when X happens?”.

They go “woah – that’s actually been bugging1 me quite a bit recently”2.

Your post then describes this mild frustration3, pointing out that it’s one of those things that actually happens quite often. If you thought about it, it would amount to a lot of time spent in low-level annoyance. And no-one wants to be low-level annoyed. 4

Your post continues … just picture your relief if this problem went away. Instead of wasting those minutes every day, instead of carrying that bad mood with you, you could get on with something more meaningful5. Something that actually earns you money, something that allows you to concentrate on what’s important.

And all it takes is a one-click install of this Chrome Extension. Isn’t that worth $10?

Because, no-one pays $10/month for a Chrome extension.

But they do pay to move away from annoyance, to escape a pain, to avoid a problem.

If you can capture that pain, if you can understand how it affects them and if you can paint a picture of what life would be like without it – they will sit up and take notice. They will think you have read their mind6. And they may just buy your product.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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  1. You know it “bugs them” rather than “annoys them” or “grinds their gears” because you’ve done your research and seen that exact phrase on a number of Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants.
  2. You know it’s been bugging them quite a bit recently, because you’ve done your research and seen the number of Hacker News comments, the number of Reddit questions and Twitter rants about this very problem
  3. Using words that you have learnt from Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants
  4. At least if you’re full-on annoyed you can kick a bin and swear a lot. Low-level annoyance just sits there like a damp cloud.
  5. Citing a specific thing that they would rather be doing – again (you’ve guessed it) taken from Hacker News comments, questions on Reddit and Twitter rants.
  6. You can guess what I’m going to say here – you kind of have. Except, instead of “their mind” read “Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants”

How to successfully work for yourself if you’ve only got an engineering background and zero experience of business

I still remember when I quit my job and started working for myself.

I was a coder, a programmer, a developer.

I had zero experience of business.

And eventually things got so bad at the place I worked that I just leapt into the dark.

Looking back on it, it was terrifying. And possibly stupid.

I made it through, but it’s been a rocky road at times.

And if I were doing it over, there’s one thing I would tell past me.

Do your research

Choose an audience.

Specialise. Pick a niche. A narrow one.

This is actually terrifying and it feels like it’s hard to do.

But once you do it, it’s one of those things where you feel the relief flood over you, as everything else becomes easier.

Research your audience

The reason you need to pick a niche is you then need to research your audience.

If your niche is too wide, you won’t find consistent data – at least not data that’s consistent enough for you to use on a small scale (it’s different for organisations with huge budgets – they can afford to throw money at a problem).

And the things you need to learn?

Where do they hang out, what problems do they talk about, what solutions do they pay for and what language do they use to discuss those problems?

Help people

Now you know where your audience is, you can go there and help them. Discuss their problems, suggest solutions and, because you’re using words that they know and understand, you will become an expert in their eyes.

Because, ultimately, everyone wants to work with the expert. Everyone pays more to work with the expert. The expert gets more done in less time. The expert is more likely to succeed.

But you can’t be an expert in everything, you can’t help everyone.

So stop putting it off and choose an audience.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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I have an idea that could make me money but I don’t know where to start

So you’ve got an idea.

You think there’s a market for your idea.

You think that people will pay for it.

But you don’t know what to do next.

You need to find a way to make this idea a reality.

You need to find a way to make it happen without wasting a huge amount of time or money that you don’t have.

You need to reduce the risk.

To be brutally frank, you’re probably starting from the wrong place.

The idea might be amazing.

The idea might change the world.

The idea might be the greatest idea anyone has ever had.

But if people won’t pay for it, it’s worthless.

You need to start with an audience. You need to pick a niche.

Who are you going to target? Who do you know? Who can you get in front of?

This is important, because it then leads you on to the rest of the process. For example, poor people are generally a bad market to get into. It’s tough, but they necessarily have to look after every penny. They will ring you up for help and support, because they have nowhere else to turn to.

It’s actually easier to raise your prices and sell to the rich. Because they will just hand over money to make their problems go away.

And the more focussed your target audience, the closer you can understand those problems and the easier it will become to get them to pay you.

So don’t start with an idea.

Start with an audience.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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The words you hate to hear: “Sure, I’ll keep you in mind”

Have you ever had someone say to you “sure, I’ll keep you in mind” and then nothing comes of it?

If it happens once or twice, then that’s fair enough. 

But when it happens again and again and again, you start to lose faith in yourself. 

Is there actually any demand for this?

Why don’t people realise that they need me?

How do I convince people that they actually have a problem that I can solve?

In an ideal world, these people would see the problems that they have and would come to you. 

They would be searching you out. 

You’re an expert in your field – they need the help of an expert – so you’re the one they go to. 

The answer is to meet people where they are now. 

You’re starting too far along the journey. 

It’s known as the Curse of Knowledge

Because you’re an expert, you know the issues they’re going to run into long before they realise they have them. 

You’re screaming at them “you need to fix this now and it will help you so much in the future“. And they’re just not listening, because that future isn’t on their radar. 

So you have to educate them. 

Lay out the roadmap.

  • Show them that you understand where they are now. 
  • Show them that you know where they want to go.
  • Show them that there are pitfalls ahead.
  • Describe how to avoid those pitfalls. 

Because you need to take them on a journey. 

That’s what a funnel is for. 

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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How do I start an online business

If you’re wondering what it would take for you to start an online business, I can tell you – you don’t need coding skills, you don’t need masses of technical expertise.

What you need to do is:

  • Find an audience who has a problem that they are willing to pay money to fix
  • Learn how they talk about their problem, the language that they use and the beliefs that they have
  • Design a plan to get in front of them, so they learn who you are (of course, the ClientRobot Blueprint is an excellent system to use)
  • Talk to them about their problems using their own language
  • Ask them if they’d like any help.

It’s not complex. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a series of simple, easy to follow steps. Get them right and it should all flow, one from the other.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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How to keep going even when things aren’t going your way

I really like automation.

It’s something that I enjoy setting up, it’s something that saves me time, it’s something that gives me benefits whilst also using some of my core skills.

But, when things aren’t going your way, automation can also be your enemy.

Because, when things aren’t going your way, they weigh you down. You feel the weight on your shoulders, you feel it within your brain.

That weight, that heaviness; it makes it harder for you to keep going. It means the simple things that you need to be doing, they just don’t get done. The tasks that you need to complete take twice as long.

Because of that, the weight increases. The struggle continues.

The thing is, most of the time, when we feel like this, we don’t actually need a solution. We don’t need a way out.

We just need to feel like we’re moving forwards.

And that’s why automation can sometimes be your enemy.

That’s why, sometimes, you need to force yourself to do some easy activities.

Track them.

Count them.

Set yourself a simple target.

And then just watch yourself as you hit those targets.

Especially when it comes to bringing new clients into your business.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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Does your subconscious hate you?

Do you struggle with impossible deadlines?

Do you find your clients are generally unreasonable?

Do you consistently charge ridiculously low rates?

Do you struggle to make a decent living?

Do you rarely charge what you’re worth?

Do you have cheapskate clients?

Have you failed to grow your business?

Is a full pipeline a pipedream?

Are most of your clients utterly clueless?

Do you struggle to get noticed?

Are your clients often rude or abusive?

Have you gone months without landing a gig?

If the answer to six or more of those questions is “yes” then your subconscious hates you. You need to prove your subconscious wrong, get out of your own way and start attracting better clients.

How to run a successful Facebook advertising campaign without spending a fortune

Have you ever spent a fortune on a Facebook advertising campaign?

It’s easily done.

Facebook is probably one of the most sophisticated advert delivery platforms around – maybe even the most sophisticated platform around (and don’t forget, it’s not just Facebook, it’s Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger too).

But that sophistication can bring you huge rewards, or massive costs.

Jumping in and naively chucking a load of cash at some boosted posts is not going to help you. Instead, you need to have a strategy for your campaign.

This image shows a small snapshot of a set of campaigns that I’m running for myself (the results are from a few hours in one day).

It shows the “Four Ts” – the four things you have to be doing if you want any chance of getting Facebook adverts to work for you.

Targeting

Never “boost a post”. Never just pick an audience for your advert off the back of an envelope.

More than anything else, choosing your target audience for your advert is the key to success.

Facebook hoovers up a ton of personal and intimate data about you and everyone you know all the time. So let’s use that to good effect – you can build audiences of people and then show your adverts only to them.

So you need to know:

  • Where do they live?
  • How old are they?
  • What brands do they like?
  • What interests do they have?
  • What car, phone or clothes do they want?
  • What sports do they follow?

You need to know all this stuff, or you’re just throwing your money away.

Testing

There are four components to a Facebook ad – and one of them is nothing to do with Facebook. You need to have an image or video to catch people’s eyes. If they look at that, then they will probably take the time to read the headline. If they read the headline, they might read the text (the copy). And if they read the text, they might click the ad and end up on your landing page.

All four of these need to be in alignment. But more importantly – because we are dealing with human beings here – you cannot be sure exactly what is going to work.

So when you start a new campaign, you need to be prepared to throw a load of money at testing. A phase where you try out different combinations of images, headlines, copy and landing pages, to see what gets the engagement, what gets you results.

Tracking

This testing process is useless if you can’t measure the results you are getting. If you look back at my screenshot earlier, you can see that I have a number of stages that are being tracked – in effect I have built a marketing funnel. At each stage, I know how many people have arrived there – and just as importantly, I know how much I have spent to get them there.

The final column on that screenshot is “arrived on sales call questionnaire”. This is the last piece of my marketing funnel and means that someone has actually booked a call with me – which is a result. And in this case, it has cost me £3.55 to get that call1.

Transform

People grow tired of adverts. Eventually, you will have shown your ad, several times, to your audience. So you need to shake it up, you need to change things around. Sometimes, this is as easy as switching the images you are using. Sometimes, you might need to change the audience definition.

Facebook uses machine learning to pick out good candidates to show your ad to. As they respond, it learns who to show it to next. Sometimes, it gets “stuck” and can’t figure out good candidates to show the advert to – and you’ll notice your statistics plummeting. If that happens, you’ll need to rebuild your audience so Facebook can reset who it’s targeting.

The Funnel

The final thing, with a Facebook campaign is never, ever point your adverts at your website. It might sound funny, but your headline, your advert, has hooked them in on a particular promise – you can fix the problem that was bugging them at that moment in time. If you send them to your website – it’s not really going to fix things for them.

Instead, you need to send them to a dedicated landing page which focusses purely on that one problem and gives them the solution – either as a free download (in exchange for an email address) or a webinar or other type of training. You have just spent money to grab their attention – don’t waste it by failing to give your audience what they want.

In effect, you are building a marketing funnel – you grab their attention and then lead them through your funnel on a defined, controlled, journey that eventually2 leads them to buy from you.

So that’s the Four Ts of Facebook advertising.


If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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  1. This screenshot shows the stats for half of a single day – so it has cost me £3.55 so far that day to get that call booking. Over the lifetime of this campaign, each sales call has actually ended up costing me about £100. But I wouldn’t know that if I weren’t tracking my figures.
  2. and this can take time – the potential customer needs to learn who you are and has to believe you can help them and trust building can’t be rushed

How do I deal with cheap clients who always pay late?

A common problem when working for yourself – especially in a service business where delivery of the project can take some time – is late payments.

Now there are a number of things going on here and it’s not necessarily going to be what you’re going to want to hear. But, underneath it all, there are two possible reasons that they’re paying late.

Firstly – they simply don’t have the money. This is a bad situation to be in. They’re not a good client for you, they shouldn’t have signed up with you and you should not have accepted them. It’s an easy mistake to make. I’ve got a client right now who owes me thousands, and I keep kicking myself over the situation I’ve put myself in.

Secondly – they don’t trust you to do the job. This is a bad situation to be in. They’re not a good client for you and you failed completely during the earlier stages of your relationship to remind them that the work you are about to embark on is important enough, vital even, to the success of their business.

In both cases it’s your fault.

So now you’ve found yourself in this situation, what do you do to deal with it?

Step 1) Stay in touch. Email and messaging isn’t enough. Schedule a weekly call with the client and keep them up to date on the progress made on the project every week. Just remind them that things are going well. I really don’t like talking to people but this has to be done. If they’re the “don’t have the money” type they will start to feel a bit of pressure to find the cash. If they’re the “don’t trust you” type they will start to understand that you’re actually making progress.

Step 2) Get some help. If things get too bad, ask someone else to get in touch with the client for you. I don’t know why, but having someone else’s voice delivering the message that payment is due makes a real difference. They don’t even need to be some muscly heavy type.

Step 3) Make sure it doesn’t happen again. Be more careful in how you select your clients. Add “guard rails” into your sales process where you inform yourself as to whether these are good clients or not.

Step 4) Give yourself time to find new clients. Make sure you understand what your pipeline looks like – if things are looking good, just feed your marketing activities in the background. But if your pipeline looks a bit empty, in three months time1, now is the time to take action. That way, you aren’t desperate for work the next time a dodgy client shows up and you don’t end up in this situation again.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now