Years ago, when we first started building websites, we'd do everything by word of mouth. We never really understood the need for an official proposal process, but that was before everything started going sideways one piece at a time.

Time and time again, I've neglected the proposal creation. And it's always led to a dispute of some kind. Whether it be the unwanted scope creep, or clients who feel like they don't need to pay me, it's always been something. I've been screwed over more times that I can count. That's the reality of the situation when you fail to put things down on "paper".

If you neglect to protect yourself, the same could happen to you. There are many ways you can do this, but it will almost always require documentation. What does that mean? That means you need to write up legal documents to protect yourselves. Writing proposals is a very necessary part of business. 

Online, you'll find simple proposal software that has digital signatures. Proposify and Hello Bonsai are decent proposal writing software, but here at Carbon Digital, we use Better Proposals

better proposals main

Better Proposals Overview

There are many features that we find useful that are built into the platform functionality. Using all of these tools collectively is what will help to boost your capabilities, create a personalized seamless process, and your clients will love your stunning templates with Better Proposals.

Template Marketplace

better proposals template marketplace

Better Proposals has well over one hundred stunning business proposal templates available for use. There are several proposal formats to choose from. You have the ability to start with any template available, and use it as a boilerplate for your own custom templates. Adding your own proposal templates should be part of your sales process and project management process. 

Web Design Proposal Templates

better proposals web design templates

There are several web design and development business proposal templates in the marketplace that have already been created for you. This includes the "Contract Killer" and even a couple of sample templates that were created by Troy Dean of WP Elevation.

In the digital space, it's important for us to chart our own paths. Writing proposals are a basic requirement in business, and if you have a sales team, you could add the proposal process to their workload. This is where you can take sections of these templates and build your own template that is your own personalized Better Proposal!

Web Design Sign-Off Templates

better proposals sign off templates

Here you can see that we have sign offs that are ready to go. This is important to note because each of the templates have verbiage that state "sign off required" after each stage. With the digital signature built into each business proposal, this makes your sales process seamless. Of course you don't have to include a sign off, but it's important to note that it's an option.

Here at Carbon Digital, we have implemented the sign-off for each stage in project builds. This helps the client stay on track with what we've done, and what they've approved. It also protects us to claim "services rendered" if a lawsuit were to arise.

Branding & Customization

better proposals branding settings

The Better Proposals software has several branding and customization tools that help you elevate your brand, improve your customer service and create beautiful, high impact proposals. Here in this section, you can setup branded domains (so the entire proposal is on your custom domain), and the Better Proposals integrations with payment gateways (to accept payments with credit cards) and even things like chat systems or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Reports & Analytics

better proposals reports area

Using the reports and analytics are powerful tools with real time data. Here are Carbon Digital, we don't utilize the automatic proposal to signature features. We made this decision solely for accounting reasons. So, you can see above that our "Annual Sales Report" shows that we have $0.00 in sales. That's because we aren't using the credit card payment feature.

However, you can see the proposal statistics that show we have an 80% signature rate. Which sounds pretty amazing, but in our case, it's slightly off because this includes our mutual NDAs.


It's important to stated that we are not legal professionals. What we present here is solely based on our experiences and not authorized to be legal advice.


Better Proposals Document Types

There are several documents that we've implemented with the help of Better Proposals. Each one has been detailed below.

NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS

When you work with other freelancers and agencies on a project, it's a great idea to include Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). We actually use a template from Better Proposals that is actually a mutual agreement. Because of the history we've had with theft, anytime we have a great idea, or work with another agency, and want to discuss it with someone, we ALWAYS have them sign an NDA.


SIGN OFFS

Having clients sign off on designs, or milestones, will help you in the forward movement of the projects. When you do wireframes and mockups, or even complete a project, it's always a good idea to have the client sign off so that they know exactly where the project stands and what was completed.

This also ties into any legal battles that would arise. If a client were to contest your work, and you have a sign-off at each stage of the project, then this will help you to retain the money that has already been paid to you. It can possibly even help you get additional funds through litigation or arbitration as well.


STATEMENT OF WORK / PROPOSALS

When you use the Statement of Work or a Proposal, you are using a legally binding contract. This will protect you, and it will also clearly help you outline everything for the project. For example, you would have sections like:


API & Integrations

There are many Better Proposals integrations already built into the platform. Aside from the highly famed Zapier, you've got Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, payment gateways, live chat and Project Management tools. Read more on all of the predefined Better Proposals integrations.

Another way to utilize the Better Proposals integrations, is with the Application Programming Interface (API). Which is just a fancy way of saying that you could have a custom coded integration built. The Better Proposals API documentation is structured quite well, which is another reason that is added to the list on why we love them!


Closing Remarks

Having legal documents displayed in a visually appealing way is a great selling point for you. We use Better Proposals, and when you add Zapier into the mix, your capabilities are significantly expanded. When we upgraded our life to use this software, it was an instant culture shock.

We were instantly forced to change the way we operate to provide a...Better Proposal. We've never looked back since. If you guys are interested, it's never too late to create your own Better Proposals.

Get Better Proposals

Are you in the market for a system to track your work and bill your clients? Look no further. Paymo is one of the best tracking systems that we've ever used. I've tried several systems, including Monday, BaseCamp, Asana, and many free options including Trello. 

No system is perfect, but Paymo tops the cake. The best part of Paymo is that it's free if you don't intend to add employees. Which means Paymo would be free for freelancers that work by themselves. I currently have two accounts to Paymo. The contract that I work on, I've got employee access, and I have company owner access under my own agency with Paymo.

I also have an employee under subcontract that I'm working with. To make things simple, until I'm confident about adding employees into the system, I'm adding their hours to my own as necessary. I encourage each of you to check out this software. It's worth the cost! (It's free for one person, which is great for freelancers).

Paymo Dashboard

Once you log into the Paymo dashboard, you're able to access a myriad of areas. Here you'll find the sections within the system to manage Clients, Users, Projects, Time Tracking (with a timesheet and time reports) and Invoicing. It's really our favorite task management, and project management tools in our toolbox!

Paymo main dashboard

Client Management

Before we can add any projects to the system, we need to first add our clients. Within the client section, you're able to add clients, track all of their bills and work spent on their projects. All timesheets that pertain to each client are visible, with a project management tab for each of the client's projects that have taken place.

The invoicing feature is done with the Stripe or PayPal payment gateways, and it's quite seamless. You can bill for a single time period, or the entire balance due. When you send the invoice for each client project, when you're on the free plan, an email will be sent to the client that is branded as Paymo. This email will contain a Paymo link to a page where the client can execute the payment. 

paymo client section

Project Management

All projects are tied to a client, and managed on their own. Here in each project management section, you can manage files, time tracking, notes, and the client's investment for the project.

The inner sidebar on this page has advanced filtering options. Each project will have a status such as Completed, Archived, Open, etc. and these can all be used within the filter.

paymo project section

From the main dashboard, you can also access the project details. When you click on the full details button, the below modal will open up that allows you to update the project as necessary.

Many details of the full project area can be updated here, even adding tracked time and notes, but there will still be times when its' best to use the primary project area. When managing multiple projects, and in general for most cases, using the modal is perfectly acceptable.

There are times when you just want to not be distracted, and want to see the entire project covering the full page. This includes those administrative tasks for things like managing employees can be useful to use the main project area.

The most utilized feature for each project is part of the time tracking tools. Each project will show the tracked time for each task. There is also a clean time tracking tool that is displayed in a later section.

Aside from the standard project management capabilities, there are also great task management features built into Paymo. The best part is that all of your time tracking is done per task. That way you can view your task list, and know exactly how long it took on a specific task. Which will ultimately help you with your workflow and future quoting. 

paymo project details modal

Manage Users

Like the other areas, you have the ability to use advanced filtering features, and manage the entire user profile from here. It's important to note that this is specific to client management.

One downside to Paymo is that there isn't much client communication happening on this platform. We can say from experience that it's been improved quite significantly in the past year or so, but still there isn't any client communication.

Paymo doesn't have a public roadmap, but you can create a free account and view the "feature requests" (new features of the app that have been requested by users) in the Paymo Community.

paymo user section

Manage Invoices

When working with projects that are solely based on an hourly rate, this section of the software is amazing! When you are ready to send a bill to the client, it's a couple of clicks and you are off to the races. You can even send a partial bill, and implement payment terms.

Once you send your invoice to the client, they will be able to make online payments. To our knowledge, there currently isn't an option to send recurring invoices, but this is such a small downside that we just use our accounting software instead to send the recurring invoices.

paymo invoicing section

The Time Tracker

Tracking time is the exact time of team member data that is needed to run a business. This timesheet data is really quite simple to capture. It's also quite possibly that the best feature within Paymo is the time entry tool. You can access this from within the web application, from a browser extension, or even from a mobile application (mobile apps).

It's important to note that when this article was written there were two Paymo mobile apps out there. One of which has been in "beta" for over a year. It's hard to say when Paymo will retire one mobile app over the other, but it's definitely coming one day. Be warned, because this could impact your workflow when it does happen.

Nonetheless, you can definitely view your task list, utilize the time tracking tool, and many other project management tools within the mobile apps. 

Needless to say, but this feature alone is worth the cost. We personally recommend Paymo to other agencies in the digital space, and we would recommend them to any company that needs to track projects, time and payments and see how efficient their team members are working.

paymo project time tracker

Get Started

You can always create a free account with Paymo and test out the software's task list and workflow for free. They even have a 15-day trial where you can play with their added features.

For freelancers and solopreneurs, the free account is perfect to create a customized workflow for one team member. For larger companies, you will likely need to pay for the software for each team member, but it's definitely worth it!

Even developers have a new and shiny object to play with! There is a Public API for Paymo!

LET'S START

What's Next?

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No problem! Schedule a call with us to get started on our journey together! 

"The first step in solving any problem is to recognize there is one." - Aaron Sorkin
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