Why RFPs Are Never Good

I just received my first RFP (request for proposal) from a client today in over two years of being self-employed. Now, I had always heard that these things were mostly junk and you should never pay them any attention, or work with a client who demanded you filled one out, but I never knew why. Now I do.

Let’s take a look at the proposal I got today. Upon reading, several red flags immediately popped up, and I hadn’t even talked to the “potential” client as of yet.

Already we have our first issue. The client doesn’t want any major changes to the IA or content. Basically they want a skin, not something that’s best for their users.

Here’s our second red flag, a list of plugins they’re telling me, the developer, what to use, instead of trusting that they’re paying me to know what should/shouldn’t be used. Also, it looks like they included everything under the sun, I bet dollars to doughnuts they don’t even need half of these.

Also, special prize goes to those who can spot the “special plugin”. After seeing this plugin list, I already decided not to work with this client – but wait! – there’s more.

Deadlines are inevitable and very¬†understandable. But what isn’t is an entire laid out schedule of what the web designer or developer needs to do or abide by. Is two weeks really enough for a full design? Is another two weeks really enough for development of what they’re wanting? Tough cookies if it isn’t, they say.

Here we find an even worse red flag. So they’re not coming to you because they like what you do and want to work with you. No, instead they’re throwing their RFP to anyone and everyone who wants to agree to the ridiculous timeline. You should never, ever go into “competition” for any sort of work. Clients should come to you because they know you can deliver the best.

Moving on:

It’s always best to be open to your clients about those you may be partnering with to finish the project. However, it’s not up to the client about who you work with. It’s your choice. (Of course if they somehow had a terrible experience with that other person, that’s another story).

Ah last, but certainly not least. They acknowledge that RFPs take a lot of time, yet they don’t care that they’re throwing theirs out willy-nilly to everyone. Also, they’re now mandating how YOU will get paid, instead of allowing you to list out payment terms.

Designer & Developer Professionalism

Sometimes it’s tough to remember that you own a business. You’re not anyone’s employee, nor do you have to work with every client who comes your way. The clients you choose to work with reflect on you, and you’ll only end up attracting more of the same.

A person doesn’t walk into a doctor’s or lawyer’s office and demand that they work on their schedule and when(if) they’ll get paid. No – they work on that professional’s schedule and they agree to that professional’s terms of work, or they don’t work with them at all.

There’s no problem with clients checking out a few different companies to see who knows their stuff and is affordable, however, it’s completely wrong to open a “competition” like feel to the process, hoping that we’re so desperate for work, we’ll scramble over each other in order to do it.

You, The Client

I don’t even know who this client really is or what they’re wanting, but they’ve already given me plenty of reasons to turn down work with them. In order for us to give you the best work possible, we need to have conversations with you, learn what and who your company is, as well as invest time into the relationship. No professional designer or developer will compete to get your money.