A streamlined quoting process for copywriters

April 16, 2009 •

This is the system I use to create, send and archive my copywriting proposals. With it, I can bang out a proposal and automatically save it in the right place. All in about 3 minutes. (TIP: Turn your volume up; I need a new mic!)

What this demo doesn’t delve into…

This screencast doesn’t go under the hood to discuss the intricacies of how the individual apps fit together (that’s a story for another day), but it does illustrate the power of the apps and systems when brought together strategically. In other words, it shows you that even copywriters can have pretty streamlined processes!

Applications used in my copywriting quote system

Why would a copywriter need a streamlined quoting process?

I blame Google. As soon as I started ranking well, things really started looking grim. I found I had another very serious challenge to overcome: I was inundated with request for quotes (RFQs). Around 10-20 per week. And for each one, I had to manually type the client’s name, company name, quote price and project name 2 or 3 times. This was not only extremely time consuming; it also meant I was far more likely to make mistakes in my quotes. (Which, of course, I did.)

It didn’t take me long to figure out I’d have to streamline my quoting process if I was going to make the most of my high ranking (and actually get some work done). So I set up a system. One that combines quite a few different software applications, and which – now that it’s all working nicely – saves me a LOT of time, and drastically reduces my margin of error.

Please comment for more info

Please comment to let me know if you’d like more information about anything in this screencast. I’m considering releasing further details, and maybe even some templates and macros. But it’ll take me some work, so I’ll need to know someone wants it!

Feel free to comment...
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Angus Gordon wrote on April 16th, 2009

Very interesting Glenn. I have three questions. First, how does this all tie in with invoicing? Do you produce invoices via Word too or do you use an automated invoicing system? Second, what happens when you don't have enough info to quote straight away, e.g. clients aren't sure how many pages they need, etc.? I find I usually have to spend a bit of time with my clients before they're even sure what they want. That would be harder to do at volume of course. Thirdly, what's your actual rate? ;) (Well, you can't blame me for trying...)

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Glenn Murray wrote on April 17th, 2009

Hey mate. Good questions! Esp that last one! ;) Answers: 1) For invoicing, I use MYOB. ACT! has a plugin that enables integration with MYOB. But only at the company/contact level. I think it eliminates the need to re-enter the client details in MYOB (having already entered them in ACT!). I say, "I think", 'cos I don't actually use the plugin. I don't issue enough quotes for this to be a problem. 2) Like you, I find that most clients DON'T, in fact, come to me with a list of pages right off the bat. Instead, they send me an email saying, "Can you please tell me how much you charge for SEO copy?", or something similar. When this happens, I usually don't add that person to my ACT! database straight away. Instead, I reply to their email, telling them I need to know more (specifically, what pages they're after, and approx how many words per page, + a few more things). Then when they reply, I add them to my ACT! database. This tends to weed out tyre-kickers, and also means I'm adding them and quoting all at the same time, which tends to be a bit more streamlined. 3) To my knowledge, my prices are relatively high. To an extent, I have to keep them high, simply to control my workload. But there's more to it than that. Firstly, as you know, copy is very valuable, and I prefer clients who recognise that value. And secondly, if your prices are too low, you tend not to attract clients who are after something special. They assume your prices are a reflection of your quality. Low price = low quality. I'm not really overly-sensitive about talking dollars, even with 'competitors'. But there are practical reasons why I don't publish my rates, particularly the fact that it makes it hard to adjust your pricing on a client-by-client basis, or when you're busy. Hope this helps a bit. Cheers.

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Paul wrote on April 17th, 2009

I'm a big fan of business process automation and that is a terrific example. Video is well produced too. Volume seemed fine so I'm not sure you need a new mic, maybe a lozenge though :-D

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Glenn Murray wrote on April 17th, 2009

lol. A lozenge! I think that's just how my voice is, unfortunately. I'll look into some better mic technology though. Perhaps a mic that actually distorts my voice. Makes me sound more like an anchorman, maybe?!

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Sally, Snappy Sentences wrote on April 17th, 2009

Hi Glenn Very useful! I was actually starting to research how I was going to start joining together my little stand alone systems. My only comment (for the next demo), is can you do a series of smaller videos so you can easily jump to the section you want? Cheers

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Glenn Murray wrote on April 17th, 2009

Hi Sally. You know, I actually considered that (and even have those sections written down). But the subject of this one is very single-purpose, and all the elements are so intertwined. I thought I might lose people in between vids.

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Charles Cuninghame wrote on April 19th, 2009

Hi Glenn Thanks for showing us under the hood. You've obviously got some IT chops as well as your word skills! I use ACT! as well but you've really got it wired using the Opportunities feature and those Word macros. Nice! A good cheap (free actually) alternative to Acrobat is PrimoPDF. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but it's good for converting Word docs into PDFs. How about a pro-forma ACT! template for your proposal delivery email? The only annoying thing is you have to re-type the subject line every time. Re Angus' questions and your answers: IMHO every freelancer (copywriter or otherwise) should read Bob Bly's Secrets of a Freelance Writer. In this book Bob explains everything you need to know about setting your fees to maximise your profit. He also shares some nifty questions to unearth the client's budget. They won't always tell you, but just by asking you'll discover whether an opportunity is worth pursuing or not.

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Glenn Murray wrote on April 20th, 2009

Heya Charles! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Dunno about "IT chops"; it's more a case of being dragged, kicking and screaming into IT proficiency. That happens when you run a one-man-show! Having said that, I did work in the software industry for 9 years before starting Divine Write. I was a tech-writer back then. But I deliberately avoided any serious IT learning 'cos it's better, in some ways, for tech writers to approximate 'dumb' users. It wasn't until I started Divine Write that I found myself HAVING to become proficient. But realistically, the setup I have isn't that complex technically. It's just a question of knowing what you want, knowing what's possible, and learning a few little tricks to make it happen. Re PDF creators: Yeah, I've used a couple of the freebies in the past. They're great. Macromedia had a trial version of Contribute, a few years back, that came with a PDF creator. It was the best one I've see. Unfortunately, none of the free ones are good for big docs, and they don't seem to handle multiple platforms very well (at least on big docs). So when it came time to PDF my SEO ebook, I ran into problems. Some people couldn't see half the content at all, and others saw it distorted. What's more, the filesize was huge. I ended up biting the bullet and buying Adobe Acrobat to overcome those problems. It cost a bit, but there's no doubt it's better than the freebies. Definitely an email template would be a good idea. I kinda have a couple of those (although they're not driven by ACT!). It hadn't occurred to me to do it thru ACT!, so thanks for the suggestion!!! :) I agree with you about Bob Bly's book. I've been running Divine Write for 7 years now, but still I learned a thing or two from it. I think most of what Bly discusses can be learned without guidance, and it's by no means comprehensive, but it's definitely a good buy. A very good starting point. Thanks again for the thoughtful comment, mate, and the email template suggestion. I'm on it! Cheers. Glenn

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Fred Schebesta wrote on April 22nd, 2009

This is a genius way to structure a business. The systemisation of my businesses in the future will aspire to be like this Glenn! Great work.

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Randy Kemp wrote on May 9th, 2009

If you could put this together as a product, sell it via Internet Marketing, you will have a captive audience with copywriters. Randy

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on May 25th, 2009

Hi Randy. Thanks for your kind words. It's something I've considered, on and off. I'm certainly planning to make it available one way or the other. :-)

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Keith wrote on August 22nd, 2009

Great video!! Totally enjoyed learning the process and the quality of your video - Jing works quite well for you. Thanks again!

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Glenn Murray wrote on September 3rd, 2009

Hi Keith. Thanks! Glad you liked it. (I used Camtasia though. Jing limits you to 5 minutes, from memory.)

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Betty wrote on October 27th, 2009

Hi, I just got sent over here from someone who recommended this video. Nice job! My questions would be, do you have to use Outlook? Can ACT be configured to interface with gmail for example? What version of ACT are you using? Could you use an older version? I'd love to have a copy of your Excel spreadsheet! I don't know anything about macros. If you did a tutorial on using macros, I'd be interested. Thanks!

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on October 28th, 2009

Hi Betty. Thanks for your comment and your kind words. I THINK ACT! integrates with other email clients, but I don't think it integrates with webmail. You'd have to check on that. I'm using ACT! 2009 (V11). I suspect older versions would integrate with Outlook in a similar way, but I've never used them, and being older, I suspect they'd have some limitations. Also, I'm not sure if they'd support the integration of the plugin required to create documents from within the Opportunites window. I'm planning some sort of tutorial / ebook covering all this and more, complete with downloads, so stay tuned.

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My Top 10 Tips for Aspiring Freelance Copywriters wrote on May 5th, 2010

[...] My streamlined copywriting quoting process [...]

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Copywriting rates: Why I switched to hourly after 8 years’ fixed price wrote on November 4th, 2010

[...] very well on Google, so I was getting a lot of request for quotes. A LOT. I devised all sorts of systems to deal with this additional workload, but I was still spending near as much time quoting, as I was spending writing client [...]

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Steve Willoughby wrote on October 25th, 2012

Hi Glenn, Wondering if you had a time frame for when your latest e-book will be released regarding infrastructure and the like? Something i'd really like to get sorted before I "take the leap" as you say. Cheers. Steve.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on October 28th, 2012

Hi Steve. The copywriting biz ebook I'm writing has taken a bit of a back seat for now. I've just released a couple of software products: www.propertyblurbs.com and www.carblurbs.com. These are taking all my 'spare' time... ;-)

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Copywriting rates: Why I switched to hourly rates wrote on April 22nd, 2015

[…] very well on Google, so I was getting a lot of request for quotes. A LOT. I devised all sorts of systems to deal with this additional workload, but I was still spending near as much time quoting, as I was spending writing client […]

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My Top 10 Tips for Aspiring Freelance Copywriters wrote on April 22nd, 2015

[…] My streamlined copywriting quoting process […]

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