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Proposal vs quote explained: 5 must-know facts

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Updated on:
December 11, 2022
December 11, 2022
Draft beautiful proposals and quotes in minutes using Bonsai.
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As a freelancer, you probably know the feeling of getting outshined by competition. In a world where independent professionals vie for contracts with businesses (with more and more joining the scene each day), it can be difficult to stand out. And even if you do put in the effort to appeal to the client, there’s always that possibility of them going for someone else instead.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. By knowing when you’ll have to put in the effort, you can save yourself a good amount of time and resources. You don’t need to do a full-blown proposal template or quote template every time you want to strike a deal with a client (though it could help). In many cases, all you need to do is provide a detailed quote for your services. But there’s a slight problem - not a lot of freelancers know when they should be using proposals vs quotes.

Sure, you could play it safe by going all-out and drafting a freelance proposal every time you’re working with a client, but all the added effort could go to waste if you don’t land the deal. In a similar way, providing quotes can be a great method of simplifying the process, but you aren’t exactly selling yourself that way, either.

In this blog, we’re going to be tackling proposals vs quotes and finding out the differences between the two. Spoiler alert: they’re a lot more different than you think.

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1. The benefits of proposals and quotes

Let's start by having a look at reasons to draft and send a proposal or a quotation.

1.1. They’re comprehensive and transparent

Let’s say that you’re part of a company, and are tasked to find a freelancer to provide assistance with one of your projects. Browsing through a list of applications, you notice two that stand out. You contact them and ask them what they can offer to your team. One explains their services and hands in a quote, while another gives you a detailed proposal that covers every aspect of the project.

If we assume that both applicants offered (more or less) similar services, then the one that handed in a proposal would have been the better choice. See, while quotes are great for number-crunching and forecasting, proposals take things to the next level. Not only do they have the information present in quotes, but they also cover other, more abstract aspects of the project, such as workflow.

The only real issue with proposals or quotes is the difficulty and amount of effort required to properly make one. That’s why hundreds of thousands of professional freelancers worldwide use Bonsai, a tool that makes everything from basic proposals to contracts a breeze to make. You can sign up and try out Bonsai for free to take your freelancing career to the next level.

1.2. They’re persuasive

Numbers aren’t the only way to convince clients to work with you. You could have the most affordable quote among the client’s shortlist, but as long as you don’t sell yourself, there’s always that possibility for another freelancer to take your spot. In situations where you need to compete to land a deal, proposals can serve as a vital persuasive tool.

It doesn’t take years of experience and an innate knack for business to write a stunning marketing proposal. And when done right, proposals can strengthen your relationship with the client, which can allow for smoother sailing, and potentially the job. When comparing proposals vs quotes, you’ll find that quotes just don’t have the same amount of persuasive power as proposals do.

2. The disadvantages of proposals and quotes

There are certain aspects worth considering when it comes to creating and submitting either a proposal or a quote.

2.1. They’re time-consuming and require a good amount of effort

If you’re relatively new to the freelancing lifestyle, then there’s a good chance that you’ve never made a proposal before. At first glance, it may seem like nothing more than gathering data that you already have, and providing it in a persuasive format to the client, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. While proposals and quotations achieve the same thing, proposals require a lot more effort to pull off successfully.

Think about it. Freelancers already put in a lot of effort just to make themselves look more appealing in their social media profiles so that they look competent and experienced. It’s no different with proposals - you not only need to pull up figures and estimates but also qualitative analysis and a good case to explain your worth to your client. Doing this for every client that you work with will not only affect the time it takes to complete tasks but also add an extra layer of stress.

2.2. They’re risky if not done right

Taking time to construct a proper proposal brings along its own set of risks. Not only do you need to get everything prepared beforehand, but you also need to successfully deliver the proposal itself. Any sort of mistake or misunderstanding that arises from your proposal could ruin all the effort you put into it, along with your chances of landing that deal.

Now, let’s imagine that instead of making a proposal, you handed in a quote instead. You’d save yourself the extra work, and you’d have more time to focus on your current tasks. That could potentially improve the final result of your projects, and even open up the chance to work with your existing clients in the future, should they need your assistance. When one door closes, another opens.

Now that we know the ups and downs of proposals when exactly is the best time for freelancers to make use of quotes instead? Here are some general guidelines to get you started.


3. When should I use quotes or proposals?

Quotes, or quotations, may not be as comprehensive as proposals, but they are by no means obsolete because of this either. The fact of the matter is that quotes and proposals each have their respective uses and that freelancers can save a lot of time and effort if they know when to use them properly.

To understand when to use quotes, you need to understand how important it is to convince your client for the current task at hand, and how effective you can possibly be should you choose to do so. Putting in too little or too much effort can either ruin your chances or cost you valuable time.

In reality, though, companies will usually ask for proposals and quotations depending on the information they need at the moment. Quotes are more common if they’re trying to base their decisions on costs, whereas proposals are usually requested in cases where the client has a shortlist of options for the task at hand.

Oftentimes, in fact, clients won’t ask for either a quote or a proposal at all. In many cases where the client is just getting to know you, they typically request for estimates instead. But what makes quotes vs estimates vs proposals different?

4. What are the differences between proposals vs estimates?

Estimate templates, as the name suggests, are less restrictive than proposals vs quotations in the sense that they don’t have a fixed price or value to them. Whereas quotes have a set price for a certain period of time, estimates are more of a general price range that takes into consideration uncertain variables, such as sudden price fluctuations.

In general, the differences between proposals vs estimates are almost identical to that of those between proposals vs quotations. Both estimates and quotations are nothing more than values, whereas proposals take these values to the next level with added information.

5. Know when to use proposals and quotations

At the end of the day, there’s no need to worry too much about comparing quotes vs estimates vs proposals. They’re all useful tools in building that relationship with potential clients, each with their own set of advantages. And using Bonsai, you can create either in just minutes - sign up for the free trial and see for yourself.

Whether it’s proposals vs estimates or proposals vs quotations, the best choice is always the one that you believe is best for your career.

Draft beautiful proposals and quotes in minutes using Bonsai.
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