[thelist] How do I build a proposal for a website?

Tara Cleveland tara at taracleveland.com
Fri Aug 8 16:06:29 CDT 2003

Janet Green wrote:

>>>> This means 10 designers have given their time and expertise up for free and
>>>> the client hasn't had to pay a cent to any of these designers for their
>>>> work.<<<
> True but as the client you're not getting anything that's useful as an end
> product, either, unless you steal one of the designs and implement it
> in-house, which of course is an ethical question and worthy of a whole other
> discussion. But, outright theft is the only way the designer's "free work" at
> this level is going to be devalued, because you are still leaving the client
> with the need for an end product.
>>>> In the future why should client come to me or you and pay us for our design
>>>> skills when they know somebody out there is willing to do it for free?<<<
> Again, because what the designer is "doing for free" is merely providing a
> couple of potential screen caps in order to show the client that they actually
> read the RFP and understand at least on a superficial level the elements
> involved in the project. If the client were asking you to provide an entire
> sample website, complete with working links, navigation, researched content,
> etc. as part of the proposal, I'd say heck-yeah that's giving away the store
> and bad for the profession overall.


Don't you think that it takes work to design the interface that goes into
those screencaps? The overall look-and-feel etc. of a web site takes work to
produce. You are providing that work "for free".

If I do one design for a client and get paid $1000 for it because I don't do
designs on speculation then I get paid $1000 per design. If I do 2 designs
for two clients and only get paid $1000 for the one client that decided to
hire me, then I'm averaging $500 per design. That's how it's devaluing my
work. If I don't get as many clients because I refuse to do work on spec,
then at least I'm getting paid for the work that I do.

If you don't think that people steal ideas and even outright designs from
proposals, well, I think you are probably being a bit naive. And yes, you
may be able to sue a company that steals your designs... but do you want to
have to? Obviously, it's illegal for someone to steal my 51" flat-screen TV
from my front porch, but I'm not about to leave it there am I?

The following bits are from the Code of Ethics of the Society of Graphic
Designers of Canada (GDC), which clearly shows that they also feel that
doing design work on spec is not a good thing to be doing - for the designer
or the industry:

"Except as otherwise provided for herein, a Member shall not take part in or
conduct open competitions for commercial purposes on speculation.

Except as otherwise provided for herein, a Member may not take part in a
limited competition for work unless each participant in the competition is
paid an equivalent compensation in accordance with the work involved, and in
which the names of all those invited to participate are made known to all
participants upon invitation.

Except as otherwise provided for herein, a Member shall not undertake any
speculative project or schematic proposals for a project either alone or in
competition with others for which compensation will only be received if a
design is accepted or used. "


Doing design work on spec does devalue the work of the designer - because
designers end up doing designs that they don't get paid for.

If those designs are just an idea and they'll change so much before the
final product that they aren't worth paying for, then why are they so
essential to convince the client? Why not show a portfolio showing your
design work? If the designs are good enough to show the client solutions and
ideas to suit their needs - enough so that they can say "I like this design
- lets use this company" then that's full-on work that you should be getting
paid for. Of course the clients like it. They get free work. They get
designers to work for free and then get to choose what they like.

I've never had to show a client designs to get a job. Frankly, I've never
been asked to. If I was, I most likely would walk away from the project if
the client didn't accept my reasons for not giving them designs.

Personally, I think it's bad professional practice to do design work on spec
or without compensation.

My 2 cents,

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