A Simple Tool for Turning More Quotes Into Projects

Summary: A big part of freelance success lies in your ability to follow up on quotes and proposals. Trouble is, many freelancers don't have a tracking tool to streamline this process. In this week's training episode, I show you the tool I use for tracking every project I quote.

A big part of freelance success lies in your ability to follow up on open proposals and quotes.

Poor or inconsistent follow-up can cost a freelancer thousands in lost work. Add up the hours spent talking with clients and assembling proposals, and you end up with a very costly process that may not be yielding the value you need.

checklist-300x199I realize that some people don’t particularly enjoy following up. It feels too much like selling. Yet a major reason so many proposals fall through the cracks is that many freelancers don’t have a tracking tool to streamline this process.

That was one of my biggest problems early on. I didn’t have a practical system to stay on top of all my open quotes and proposals. I also had no way to gauge how much business was coming in and what projects had a high probability of closure in the next two or three months.

This all changed when I implemented a tracking tool I had used years before when I was in sales. Once I began to use this system as a freelancer, my success rate (from proposal to signed contract) increased considerably. I also gained a much better handle on my workload…and my sanity!

Here’s how the system works:

#1: First, you’ll want to download my basic spreadsheet tool. As you’ll see, the top section has a series of columns (one for each month). Each month has a series of rows where you can list potential projects (let’s call them “opportunities”) and their quoted or estimated value. In the bottom half of the spreadsheet you can then list the opportunities you’ve already booked.

#2: Now comes the fun part. Every time you come across a qualified opportunity, add it to your spreadsheet (I keep mine open at all times so I don’t have to go back and forth). List the client, the abbreviated project name and an estimated value. As you’ll see in the examples already filled in, I like to use single digits to make it more manageable (e.g., 3.5 instead of $3,500).

In deciding where to actually list an opportunity, add it to the month when you expect the contract to be signed — NOT the month when the actual work will start. This allows you to view your numbers from a sales perspective (work booked) rather than from a production perspective.

In the case of a long-term opportunity, I would spread it out over the duration of the contract. For example, if you landed a 6-month engagement with a $1,000 monthly retainer, instead of listing it only this month with a $6,000 value (the project’s total value), I would list it 6 times over the next 6 months, and have each listing tagged with a $1,000 value. That way you'll have a better idea of what your cash flow will look like.

#3: Again, the bottom half of the spreadsheet is where you want to list projects already booked. So, once you get a contract for a project, cut and paste it (along with its value) from the top area (the “opportunities” area) to the bottom area (the “booked” section). The running total at the bottom will help you quickly see how much work you have booked for any given month. It’s a great way to always know if you’re on track to meet your monthly income objectives.

#4: Make adjustments as things change. When projects get pushed off or delayed, or just simply lost, make the necessary adjustments in your spreadsheet.

moneyWhat’s the value of using this tool? In the world of sales we call this a sales pipeline. As a freelancer, a sales pipeline enables you to see what open opportunities you have, how much work you have booked and the value of both opportunities and current/upcoming projects.

Such a visual representation of your business enables you to see if there’s a potentially dry month ahead — in which case you might need to start working on filling those slots — or if you’re in danger of over-committing yourself.

Finally, this tool acts as a reliable and practical follow-up mechanism. By looking at it every day, I’m reminded of opportunities I need to follow up on. This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and I maximize my prospecting and selling efforts.

  • Mike Sweeney

    Great tool Ed! Question: Is there a way to incorporate tracking prospects and leads into this tool? Or is that even a good idea? I was thinking of being able to get a percentage of how many prospects turn into leads, which turn into opportunities, which turn into paying work.

    • edgandia

      You could certainly do that, Mike. Love the idea! Personally, I like to keep this particular tool very simple - otherwise I won't use it. But the idea is to take it and make it your own. Play with it and see what works for you. That's the only way to know.

  • Yep, another great tool here Ed. I've already downloaded it and will be implementing it this week.

  • Since follow-up is so difficult, this system looks great. It is hard to ignore something that is right in front of your face - knowing what potential customers you need to call makes it much easier to get the hard stuff out of the way. Thanks for the spreadsheet!

    • edgandia

      Glad it's helpful, Rhonda. Thanks for letting me know!

  • I needed something simple like this. Thank you very much Ed.

    • edgandia

      I agree on the value of the simplicity. Less is more for stuff like this, IMO. 😉 Thx!

  • Downloading spreadsheet now. Thanks, looks very useful!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Filip!

  • treepodia

    Very cool!

    • edgandia


  • Great tool, Ed. I have something similar, but I usually book the revenue in the month I actually expect I would receive payment, so I can project potential future cash flow. That allows me to see ahead of time which months might be lower, which helps me plan financially, as well as giving me an opportunity to work harder on new business if I need to fill in the gaps. I also use a similar approach to project my potential workload week-by-week and make sure I don't overcommit myself.

    • edgandia

      Great points! I say use whatever works best for you, as long as you use it (and it sounds like you do!). Thanks for the feedback!

  • Helene Abrams

    Great info and tools - thanks again Ed!

    • edgandia

      Cool, thanks for checking it out, Helene!