Erin Balsa - From “Hit or Miss” Proposals to a 100% Close Rate

Erin Balsa of Haus of Bold joined me on Ditching Hourly to talk about the dramatic success she experienced once switching to my 5-page proposal template.

(NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated and not reviewed for typos etc)

[00:00:00] Jonathan: Hello, and welcome to Ditching Hourly. I'm Jonathan Stark, and today I'm joined by guest Erin Balsa. Erin, welcome to the show.

[00:00:07] Erin: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

[00:00:09] Jonathan: Before we get started, could you tell people a little bit about who you are and what you do?

[00:00:15] Erin: Of course. So I run House of Bold, and I am a marketing advisor and a writer working with software companies that sell software to other companies. And I said that as simply as I can, but essentially how I typically pitch my services is I help B2B SaaS companies build high-performing content engines in six to 12 months, and I do that through a combination of strategy, advising, and content creation.

[00:00:45] Jonathan: Cool. Good. That's pretty tight. I like it.

[00:00:48] Erin: Thanks.

[00:00:49] Jonathan: A fellow on my list - Thank you, Mark - I guess, is also on your list, and noticed that you were raving about and sharing the five-page proposal template that I have on my site. So I just wanted to see what your experience was with that. See if you've shared it with anyone who has also had success with it.

[00:01:16] Erin: I freaking love it. I have been, I've been freelancing on and off for over a decade, and I only recently started using this. I quit my day job as a marketing director at a software company back in January of 2022, and I was using just a typical, traditional template. I'm pretty lucky in that all of my opportunities come inbound.

[00:01:41] Erin: I'm very active in creating content on LinkedIn. I have a podcast. I have been on lots of podcasts, and I've spoken at conferences. So I'm very fortunate that I have the benefit of only sending proposals to people who reached out to me. So there

[00:01:58] Erin: was already some.

[00:01:59] Erin: Basic level of familiarity and interest.

[00:02:02] Erin: Even still, my success rate in terms of getting people to accept the old traditional proposal was hit or miss. And I think a lot of that is I do bill on the higher end of the spectrum for people who do what I do. I am definitely more of a premium option. And some people might have listened to my podcast, read my newsletter, or whatever it is.

[00:02:28] Erin: But still, they might not be 100%. Understanding the value in a really intricate. Way. So I started using your proposal, and it's been wild, the success rate in terms of accepted proposals. And so I actually wrote down some data points to share with your listeners.

[00:02:49] Erin: So, since I switched to your template, I've increased my closed rate to a hundred percent.

[00:02:54] Erin: So if I send a template, everybody signs on the dotted line. And moves forward, which is amazing. I've increased my average deal size from 30 K to 44 K,

[00:03:07] Erin: which is great. And I have doubled the number of clients who are willing to pay in full upfront. I'm not getting a hundred percent to say "Sure," because every company's different,

[00:03:17] Erin: but some are like, yeah, sure, I'll just pay you now for this project or this retainer.

[00:03:24] Erin: So it's been really.

[00:03:25] Jonathan: killer. Yeah. Those are like the three big things, right? It's improve your close rate, justify higher fees, and get PE up front.

[00:03:34] Erin: Yeah, it's been wonderful.

[00:03:36] Jonathan: and as you probably know, in case the listener doesn't know, I'll say the asking for a hundred percent upfront is it's the sneakiest thing I do on the proposal because I know I'm probably I don't know.

[00:03:49] Jonathan: I know there's a likelihood that I'm gonna negotiate, need to negotiate something, and that's the thing I want to negotiate. So it's a red herring in a sense, because I'm willing to negotiate that in lieu of negotiating the price, which I absolutely never ever negotiate. So it gives me something to compromise on. The client is wants to talk about something negotiate something. But like you said that, you just said it's shock. It's shocking at first how many people are just like, okay, here you go. That's fine.

[00:04:24] Erin: Totally shocking. And I think one thing that helps a lot

[00:04:28] Erin: There's two things that help a lot with this proposal compared to a traditional proposal. One is the section right at the front where you quickly summarize like what you've discussed, and then you also trickle that down into each of the three options, right?

[00:04:41] Erin: So option one is the most affordable option, but even still, all the benefits are clearly outlined as they pertain to the, I've heard you i, I've been doing about three paragraphs, nothing too crazy, just the biggest pain points that I'm hearing in our discovery call.

[00:05:01] Erin: And then I'm summarizing it in three paragraphs and then I'm giving three different options and under the options using the benefits. So that makes them feel really heard okay, so she actually did hear, she gets it. And there's also a little section where. It's like, why House of Bold? Why Erin bsa?

[00:05:19] Erin: And a lot of these people, they know me, but at the same time, they might not know like everything that I've accomplished. So I put my biggest achievements like, why me? Because I've done A, B, C, D, E, and it's all spelled out right in one place, and it motivates them to just take a chance on me, I think.

[00:05:37] Erin: And then what's interesting too is I believe from listening to your podcast over the years, Jonathan, I've heard that you're supposed to ground the proposal in the middle, and then you have an option that's eh, cheaper, and then you have one that's a stretch to make the middle proposal seem much more reasonable.

[00:05:59] Erin: I've found that I was going in with that, but so far people have been choosing the most expensive option as well.

[00:06:06] Erin: So say I'm coming in, like thinking, oh, 30 K is gonna be good. It's oh, I'll go for 50 or whatnot. That's been great too.

[00:06:15] Jonathan: Yeah. That's if in. When people are picking your third option, it means you could have priced your third option a lot higher and your middle option higher too. So if people are always accepting your third option, if you're using the gold deluxe pricing curve where I typically map it out to be like one, 2.2 x and five x.

[00:06:35] Jonathan: So really a significant increase on the third option. And people are picking it like, Then it's a sign that you've got, you're leaving, either leaving money on the table or they believe that you can create more value than or they value what you're gonna do higher than you did.

[00:06:54] Erin: Yeah, 100%. I'm sure I will be taking this as a learning in into my pricing going forward as I adjust my prices for 2023 and beyond.

[00:07:05] Jonathan: Cool. There's also, I should also mention there's another pricing curve that is pretty common. That I call might as well Pricing where you do want to drive the person to the third option, you wanna drive the buyer to the third option. And you do that by decreasing the delta between the options. So if anybody is in a position where they're not getting tons of inbound leads like Erin, then and you really need this deal or whatever the opportunity is on your plate, you can use might as well.

[00:07:31] Jonathan: Pricing that's more one x, 1.5 x, 1.75 x. So that as they look at the prices, they're like if I'm gonna get any of these, I might as well get the sec. If I'm gonna get the first one, I might as well get the second one. It's not that much more. And then, geez, if I'm gonna get the second one, I might as well buy the third one.

[00:07:49] Jonathan: Cuz it's not, it's even less, more. If you're in a scenario where you really wanna land the deal for whatever reason, maybe they're a marquee client or whatever you just need the cash. Then it would be normal for them to be going to option three with that pricing curve. But with Goldilocks the option three should be like yikes.

[00:08:12] Jonathan: We can't, that's way outta the ballpark. For example, if someone if someone came to me and said, oh, what if I was working with a private coaching student, they're like, ah they gave me the budget. Like they told me what the budget was like. How that's their, and it's. Should I keep, where should where, how should I use that information? And depending on the specifics of the situation, I would almost always have at least one of the options above what they said their budget was. Perhaps option two is around the area of the budget. But option three, I would definitely have above the. Because the budget might be based on a misapprehension around what the correct solution is, or perhaps their understanding of the value has increased based on the conversation that they had with you. So it could be, in other words, it could be that the budget was set incorrectly or based on faulty faulty premise. And so if the premise changes, of course the budget can change. So yeah, anyway, so yeah, I would usually swing for the fence with that option three. And. Yeah, and if you're consistently getting people picking three, then what that means is like your, marketing is really working and the people are seeing a lot more value than you're capturing.

[00:09:29] Jonathan: So it's a great it's a good sign that you could probably increase those.

[00:09:34] Erin: Yeah, you're absolutely right and I'm glad you made that final point about testing, even when someone tells you their budget. I have a, my favorite long term client, which I love so much. They told me what their budget was for next year, and I, I. Jotted down everything I'd like to do for them next year at that budget.

[00:09:52] Erin: And I made that option one, and then I went up an extra 40 K and I'm like, Hey, here's what I think that you should be spending because we've been together so long. We also have that level of trust where I really think that an extra 40 K could get you outsized results. And so I'm, I pitched it. I sent it over and we're gonna chat today and we'll see how it goes.

[00:10:11] Erin: I can report back and let you know.

[00:10:12] Jonathan: fingers crossed.

[00:10:14] Erin: Yeah.

[00:10:15] Jonathan: So let's jump back to the situation appraisal. So you mentioned that, that sort of three paragraph summary. at the beginning of the proposal, and to me that is the heart of the proposal. Obviously you need to have options and prices and so forth, but to me, the situation appraisal is what? C clenches the deal. How do you get the information that you need to put into that section?

[00:10:38] Erin: So my

[00:10:39] Erin: process is the leads come inbound either through my website, so right on my homepage I have a contact form and the contact form forces people to answer a few questions, and I can pretty much tell right from there if it's even like worth doing a discovery call. Or people will message me direct through LinkedIn.

[00:10:58] Erin: I get a lot of LinkedIn messages at which time I'll guide people to answer those questions. And if it seems like it's a legitimate fit, like the company was, is within my i p. And within the kind of niche that I specialize in I will look up the company's revenue. I'll look up to see what size their content team is, if they have one or not.

[00:11:22] Erin: Things like that. So by the time I'm booking a discovery call, I've already done my legwork. I'm not just hopping on calls with anyone who wants to hop on calls.

[00:11:32] Erin: That helps too, in terms of having a high close rate after sending the proposal. So out of all the inbound. I guess leads, I hate the word leads out of all the inbound hand raises that I get, people who are interested in my services, I probably have a discovery call with maybe one out of 10.

[00:11:50] Erin: So it's not that many. Like I said, I've been doing this so long. I know the kind of client that's the best fit for me and that I enjoy the most. So once I get on a discovery call, I always book 15 minutes. I use calendarly so that I'll say, Hey, here's this link. You can book time with me, and I hop on and I I've been doing this now again long enough that I'm comfortably able to discuss.

[00:12:18] Erin: My services and how I've helped in the past. And so it's a mostly a listening session. And I do take notes. I don't record it. I don't wanna make anyone feel uncomfortable at that stage, but I do take some notes, the most burning problems that I'm hearing, and I pay attention to. their cues their facial expressions, their intonation of their voice body language.

[00:12:42] Erin: When I'm saying things to them, I'm picking up on their cues. Visually. I do this as a video zoom call, and I'm writing things down oh yeah, I can tell that they really reacted to that. Or, oh, their eyebrows popped up when I said that. I've done this for others like them, and I'm gonna be sure that those kind of key moments are reflected back to them in the proposal.

[00:13:03] Jonathan: Killer. That's fast. 15 minutes is

[00:13:06] Erin: It never goes 15 minutes, it's always like 30, but I do try to book 15 to set the expectation okay, here's 15 minutes.

[00:13:14] Erin: I don't know that I've ever gone off, gotten off the phone in 15 minutes.

[00:13:17] Jonathan: Okay, that makes sense. And I do the, and it's oh, I know we're going over, but so who. In your ideal customer profile, who is the person on the other end of the line there? Is it the founder? Is it the cmo? Do they not have a cmo? Is that usually bad sign? If they have a CMO for for you?

[00:13:36] Jonathan: Who do,

[00:13:37] Jonathan: you need to be talking to?

[00:13:38] Erin: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm talking to typically the head of marketing and that might be a cmo, it might be a VP of marketing. Some companies might have a few different kind of marketing leaders at this point. That's like the upper end of my range, so I might be talking to a VP of product marketing that's a person that brings me on a lot cuz a lot of companies that I work with, the content.

[00:14:03] Erin: Function rolls up to the product marketing team. Sometimes a product function might roll up to the demand gen team. I might be talking to a VP of Demand Gen. But sometimes it's a cmo. I don't work with companies that don't have at least ahead of marketing in place. And I tend to work with companies that do not have a content team or ahead of content.

[00:14:25] Jonathan: Got it. So that's a gap you're filling. But they've demonstrated based on their hiring that they are super interested in marketing. Like they've got someone in a leadership position that's responsible for marketing. So they are indicating that's. Important to them, but they just haven't got a team built up, or they might not have a team built up to execute against that.

[00:14:45] Erin: Yeah, they might have five people on the marketing team, but no content team. So what they've been doing like I said, it's a very specific problem. The people that are like really yes, we need you. They have a marketing team. They have product marketing, demand gen. They're doing all of these things, but they're outsourcing all of their content to an agency or freelancers, but they don't have anyone to own that.

[00:15:07] Erin: It's dropped on the lap of someone who's extremely busy doing product marketing or someone who's extremely busy placing paid ads and managing those relationships with those vendors and now they're stuck

[00:15:17] Erin: trying to think of topics for content and trying to. Act like an editor when they're not, or trying to uphold the brand standards in the content.

[00:15:27] Erin: And that's really stressful for someone who's doing that kind of on top of their other job. So there's a lot of pain, a lot of urgency to get this. Outsource to someone who can do exactly what I do, which is helping them build a team and helping be that steward of, yes, this is the right content for us, this is strategic, this is high quality, and that's just a really big relief for people to have that missing piece filled.

[00:15:55] Jonathan: Okay. And there's something implied in what you're saying that I want to call out, which is that this is the, your ideal client is convinced that content is a solution to some problem they have.

[00:16:06] Jonathan: You're not coming in saying, you know what? You need

[00:16:08] Jonathan: content market.

[00:16:09] Erin: Nope. I don't convince anybody.

[00:16:13] Jonathan: Perfect. That's awesome. Okay, you, another thing you made note of or I made note of earlier that you mentioned was benefits in the options. So in the proposal you would describe benefits. Can you. And this is widely misunderstood by people when they first see the proposal, they almost every time I review a proposal, it is heavy on deliverables, light on benefits.

[00:16:39] Jonathan: So can you describe to you what are the kinds of benefits that you would include in these different options? Yeah.

[00:16:45] Erin: Yeah. So I guess I need to tell you and your listeners that I help enforce specific areas and the benefits pertain to, to those. So the first area I help in is, Help them hire either full-time or freelance writing talent. It's extremely hard to find good writers. A lot of these marketers, they're senior marketers, they have been burnt so many times by making bad hires, hiring shitty agencies, and there's just a lot of.

[00:17:15] Erin: Concern there because they know how stressful it is when they have some crappy content and they're stuff dealing with the problem, especially if it's a bad full-time hire. My benefit there is really clear peace of mind that your hire is gonna be an excellent fit

[00:17:29] Erin: for the job, the culture, the team.

[00:17:32] Erin: Because I come from a background where I worked for three and a half years at a company called The Predictive Index, and we have a a hiring tool that helps people assess candidates based on different factors, behavioral fit with the job, the team, the company culture. We're even like testing on cognitive ability for the job, making sure that somebody can learn at the appropriate speed so that they can successfully do the job.

[00:17:59] Erin: So I bring also, Not only just someone who knows what it takes to hire a good writer. I also bring that background of understanding behavioral drives and understanding how the different pieces fit together. So I put that into the Why me section. So it's like a story.

[00:18:16] Erin: I'm a. Storyteller, right? So the proposal allows me to tell my story and let the story unfold as they read right from the problem to the benefits to the why me section. It's all like a little story. Then as another example, and one of the other things that I do for people is I build content strategies and editorial calendars based off that strategy.

[00:18:39] Erin: So they have a roadmap, a huge pain point that I hear again and again. Is it feels like we're doing random acts of marketing. is so stressful. Like we're so busy, we're on the hamster reel and like we're not getting the results. So that is something that I work in with the benefit. I literally repeat back my clients and my prospects words to them.

[00:19:03] Erin: So the benefit is once you have a content strategy, you're doing less random acts of market. And then why me? Of course the story unfolds again in the Why me? In my last job I increased organic hand raises by a hundred and I forget what it was in one year, 105% by creating this great content strategy.

[00:19:27] Jonathan: Killer and yeah, and you totally mentioned my favorite thing, which is numbers.

[00:19:32] Jonathan: You actually, it's like you're talking about peace of mind at in one level and the person you're talking to. Knows full well what that's worth to them. Even though a lot of people listening will be like, oh, that's just bs, or, that's not real, or that's too intangible for me to sell.

[00:19:51] Jonathan: Or I don't sell peace of mind. Nothing I do is gonna result in peace of mind. But it's absolutely real and you can almost, you can reliably uncover it if you're talking to the right person, they're worried about something or they wouldn't be talking to an. There's something there's some expensive problem or some big opportunity or some just something that they're up nights worried about or thinking about, and they're talking to you because they believe that you can contribute something to either make that opportunity come true or make the expensive problem go away.

[00:20:30] Erin: Yeah, I would say that anyone who thinks they don't sell peace of mind, rethink that. If you have Ever talked to a business leader? We're all stressed, af, I don't know. I don't wanna say the F word. I don't know if that's allowed I've been a marketing leader. I know what it feels like to hire shitty people.

[00:20:51] Erin: I know what it feels like to be feeling like you're running in million directions and you're on the hamster wheel. Like all the things that I'm hearing are things that I felt myself. So it's easy for me. I'm lucky that I'm selling to people where I used to. Wear those same shoes. And it can be more difficult for someone I know you have a lot of software developers

[00:21:12] Erin: and it might be more difficult for them to understand if they haven't led a team of software developers.

[00:21:18] Erin: But if they had, they would probably know that. They definitely do provide peace of mind, and I think that's an important thing to use the data and use the emotions.

[00:21:29] Jonathan: What other kinds of results? You mentioned you increased the number of hand raises, I like that by 105%. What other kinds of results do you feel comfortable including in a proposal?

[00:21:42] Erin: Oh gosh. So one thing that was really big that's important to the kind of clients I work with as well is that when I was at my last job I worked with the leadership team to create this new kind of discipline. With the goal of creating market category and we launched this discipline slash category and this helped us secure a 50 million series a funding round.

[00:22:10] Erin: So I always use that because being able to communicate clearly so important and I was able to help this executive team jot down and think through and reorganize our thoughts so that we had this really great. Content piece to serve as the backbone for their pitch deck. And I like to use that.

[00:22:33] Erin: I wasn't in the room pitching, I didn't make the pitch deck. I wasn't in the the C-suite. But I did work on that for three months to have this done. So I always lead with that. That's a big one. People care a lot about funding in my world. And then of course, the hand raises is everything.

[00:22:50] Erin: Anybody can get our blog post to rank anybody can gate an ebook and get leads and hand those leads over to the sales team. But the thing is not everybody can drive inbound hand raises. Hey, I read your stuff. I've been reading your content for the last six months I've come to your webinar.

[00:23:08] Erin: I've taken this interactive course that you built on your website. I would love to get a demo. Do you know the difference between the close rate between a typical traditional gate of content lead and a hand raise that requested a demo? At my last job, the difference was I think the close rate was like a 40% difference.

[00:23:28] Erin: So imagine if I can send over say in one year, I used to send over 500 of those in year two, I'm sending over a thousand of those and say our average deal size is 25 k. That's a huge difference in revenue and people know that, so I don't even always have to spell out every single number.

[00:23:46] Erin: Cause I typically work with clients where their software might range between 25 k for an annual subscription up to 250,000 a year. Hey, I doubled the organic can razors at this big company whose annual revenue is 80 million a year. You can do the math in your head

[00:24:04] Erin: And figure it out.

[00:24:06] Jonathan: So what is a, if someone came to one of these LinkedIn inbound hand raises coming to you, what's too small of a fish? What's too big of a fish?

[00:24:18] Erin: My project minimums 15 K.

[00:24:21] Jonathan: Okay.

[00:24:22] Erin: anyone who you know, can't at least spend 15 K for a project would be too small of a fish. And then in terms of like company revenue, Anything between be below like 10 to 15 million a year, typically starts to struggle at that point. Like they're like, Ooh, 15,000. That's a lot.

[00:24:40] Erin: We're hoping to spend. Whatever, $5,000 and what I've learned I wasn't always that way. So I've worked with all different companies and what I've learned was the small fish tend to give you the biggest headaches, and they're such penny pinchers because that $10,000 to them is oh my God, that's 25% of my budget for the year.

[00:25:02] Erin: This has to go amazing, and it's gonna go amazing. But not if you're, Down my throat and like checking every five seconds and too many cooks in the kitchen. We all wanna change this word and change that. And that's not how it works. So I tend to do better with people who it's like 15 K.

[00:25:20] Erin: Yeah that's great. It's reasonable. Or 40 K. Yep, that makes a lot of sense. Like it's only a fraction of our marketing budget.

[00:25:29] Erin: So that's how I've figured it out over.

[00:25:32] Jonathan: perfect. And then what about at the high end? Have you ever had a situation where someone comes to you and you're just like, I don't wanna get involved with this. It's

[00:25:39] Jonathan: Either too much risk or too much red tape or something like that. What would be the high end?

[00:25:44] Erin: Yeah, it's not risk, it's red tape. It's exactly what it is. And that typically is when a client gets above 150 million a year in arr, annual recurring revenue, and that's because their team grows too big and they start to move from that place that I love, which is building processes and systems where there are none to, refining those processes and systems and that where you start to, to see things slow down. They get more formal, there's more cooks in the kitchen. I can't get things done as quickly as I would like to. So that is where I get less interested. And that's also where I provide less value.

[00:26:25] Erin: Cuz at that point, they're almost at the place where they're going to either have or almost have. Head of content, someone who's strategic, someone who can build the plan. They don't need me. I'm not gonna be that right fit for someone who has a strategic content lead in house and they just need someone to execute and write blog posts.

[00:26:45] Erin: That's great. There's a huge need for that. That's just not my happy place. So I tend to not work with companies that are already there.

[00:26:53] Jonathan: Got it. Perfect.

[00:26:55] Jonathan: So tell me about this list who that you shared the template on. So I was very excited to hear that. And I'm curious what sort of people are on that list and do you think that any of them. Wouldn't be a good fit for this kind of a proposal? Or is it universally amazing and everyone should use it, or are there people, do you think in your audience that either are too big or too small for this kind of an approach?

[00:27:29] Erin: That's a great question. Who's on my list. It really runs the gamut from someone who's just starting out as a content writer. So they're probably just learning about how to optimize blog posts to get them to rank. So I do have some people that are super early on and they just follow me on LinkedIn and they subscribe to my newsletter.

[00:27:49] Erin: So at that point, it might be difficult for them to use this proposal because I would think. The people that they're gonna be a fit for are either gonna be super small fish, so they're just like, Hey, I don't know, like we have this list of topics. Go create stuff. And they just don't understand marketing.

[00:28:07] Erin: Like they're probably a founder-led small business. They might not have a experienced head of marketing. So you know, if you're like, oh, I can do A, B, and C, it's gonna all look the same. They're not truly gonna understand the value, I don't think yet because they haven't walked in those shoes of a marketing leader quite yet.

[00:28:26] Erin: I would argue, and I would say their budget is gonna be their budget. It's Hey, I'm a small business. I don't have any marketers in house. I just need you to write these blog posts, and my budget is $500. A month and that's it. So there's no wiggle room. So that could be a problem with those that subset of people.

[00:28:44] Erin: And then on the other hand if you are working with really huge companies, like I work with one really huge company that's outside of my icp. It's just nice work, nice people. I like the company and I do a little bit of work for them every quarter, but I don't use that proposal for them because they have.

[00:29:04] Erin: Very well working machine. They're like a publicly traded company, so they just need help with these very specific things. And I'm, I couldn't be like, oh, let me upsell you with strategy. They don't need strategy. Oh, let me upsell you with this. Like they don't need that. If they have a specific need, they'll come to me with the problem and then I'll be able to potentially give an option or two.

[00:29:26] Erin: But I wouldn't like lead with that because they're too big. So I would say anything in the middle would be, Amazing for this proposal. So someone that has, if you're a marketer, at least like in my world, if you're on the list and you're

[00:29:40] Erin: working with a company with a marketer, do it. If you're working with a company that you know has not yet iPod, do it, and then there's like those two extremes.

[00:29:50] Erin: That's in my opinion, that's just speaking off the top of my head, I honestly haven't put much thought into this answer.

[00:29:56] Jonathan: Yeah. I think you're, I think you're right. That the, for me there's a certain point where someone who is thought of themselves as a freelancer, they're definitely billing by the hour and they're, they get to a point where maybe there's a little more gray in the hair and they're like, These whipper snappers are undercutting me and landing the jobs. And my experience is not really a meaningful differentiator anymore. And it's a little bit of a, there's a, marketing problem there, which I actually want to get to in a second but once you're at the point where you know what you're doing and you can reliably deliver results to the kinds of clients that you really want to work with, to me that's the point. You're leaving tons of money on the table by not switching to this proposal model. If you're brand new and you don't know what you're doing, you can still use it. The question in my mind in those situations is whether or not you're actually gonna increase your fees, because if you, because a lot of clients do like a fixed fee, which this is, and if they. And if you're new and you aren't attracting a lot of leads and you're not really comfortable talking the language of business, which is numbers, you don't have the mindset of a leader yet because you're still, you haven't let anybody, so you don't really have that mindset yet. You could use this format.

[00:31:31] Jonathan: I just don't know that it would, it at least it'll get you off the hourly hamster wheel and you won't have to keep time sheets. But the idea that it would increase your rates is a little bit. unlikely when you're just starting out. But yeah, so anyway, if you're, if you really know what you're doing, you've been doing it for five or 10 years and you feel like you're not getting paid what you're worth, then hello, this is this.

[00:31:54] Jonathan: That might be the time to check it out.

[00:31:57] Erin: One other thing that I've noticed too about, you know how when I started, I used to do proposals compared to now, and which is a nice feature of your proposal template. There's nowhere where you're putting in like line items. So for example, let's say. I think a mistake that a lot of newer people make, I know I did, is itemizing everything.

[00:32:20] Erin: So you're like trying to show, oh, I'm gonna do all these things for you. Look at me. I'm gonna work so hard. It's

[00:32:26] Erin: not just gonna be an ebook. I'm going to do research. I'm going to competitive research, I'm going to talk to your customers, I'm going to blah, blah, and you're like writing it down. and almost like equating a value to it.

[00:32:40] Erin: Hey, I'm gonna charge you $5,000 for this ebook, but you need to know that it's $1,000 worth of research and $1,000. Don't do that. That is like the. Fastest ticket to somebody, some cheapo saying, oh, like this sounds great, but can you just remove the research piece? And that's actually happened to me.

[00:33:00] Erin: I had someone back when I was not vetting people as well as I do today to get on discovery calls.

[00:33:06] Erin: And I did not know what I know now about proposal writing. I wrote this nice proposal for this project. And the guy literally said, yeah, I wanna move forward, but can you take off the research piece?

[00:33:20] Erin: We'll save some money. I was like, this is not gonna work out.

[00:33:24] Erin: So I really love that your proposal has nothing about line items. Nobody knows exactly what a certain thing costs. They just know you're gonna get this stuff and here's the the value in the outcome.

[00:33:38] Jonathan: Yeah. It's right. And when people are trying to justify a fee, like they're trying to increase a fee or maximize a fee on a particular proposal, and they're trying to justify it by saying, but look how hard I'm gonna. That's, it's an obvious indicator that they're still thinking about their pricing in a cost first way instead of a value first way. And they're like, geez I can't imagine someone ever paying me $10,000. I need to like, load a bunch of labor in here to justify that amount of money. And it's just backwards. No one cares how the sausage get gets made they don't it. I don't care how hard it was.

[00:34:18] Jonathan: It doesn't change the value. It might for a cheapo it might justify something, but it's just backwards thinking it's

[00:34:27] Jonathan: normal. It's the way most people start out thinking, I certainly did, but it's backwards from what you want. You want to flip it around and start with the value and then scope last. So if the value to somebody's only $10,000, you can't charge them a hundred. But what can you charge 'em? You can a hundred thousand. If it's, if the value to them is $10,000, you could give 'em a proposal for $500 and for $1,200 and for $2,500. And those are all prices that are lower than the value.

[00:34:57] Jonathan: But then you say to yourself what can I do for $500 that I want to do? And you come up with a scope that you would do for $500. And maybe that's one article. Maybe that is a, a. License to use your course internally. Like what? It's like you get creative about the scope after you determine the value and set some prices, and that's the way to think about it.

[00:35:21] Jonathan: But I, I recognize that's 180 degree flip from how people generally start out.

[00:35:26] Erin: Yeah. And the mindset thing is so huge too. I actually just released an episode of my podcast LA this week, last week, Monday last week. And I was interviewing this woman who's really brilliant with content and she. Five years ago was working at a content mill writing, and she was, she came from Nigeria.

[00:35:49] Erin: She grew up in extreme poverty and she was writing 80,000 words to a hundred thousand words a month for $500. And something we talked about is how important it is to overcome a poverty mindset, especially for anyone who grew up with nothing. Like she said, I grew up with nothing. Imagine like your life in America being poor.

[00:36:12] Erin: Take all of that away and imagine the worst possible thing. That's my life. I grew up with literally nothing. So she really has rewired her mindset to, to think I can charge this. I am as good as anyone else. I am worthy. So it's a really good episode for anyone who might be listening that has any of those issues.

[00:36:31] Erin: They wanna learn from her. She's amazing.

[00:36:34] Jonathan: That sounds great. All right. I'll definitely link to that in the show notes. Okay. Let's pivot a tiny bit away from the proposal itself and back to something that you started with, which was the amount of inbound interest that you get.

[00:36:49] Jonathan: And maybe we can wrap up on that but that is a key. In my opinion to some of the, like the numbers that you're talking about, like your close rate being a hundred percent and the fact that you're only accepting one out of 10 hand raises. So what maybe you could, or you could disabuse me of that notion. You could say, oh no, that's not that important. So maybe a little bit about how important it is to you to get inbound and how you got there, where you started, and how you got to that level of.

[00:37:20] Erin: To me, it's everything. It's so important. Like the example that I shared from my last day job by. Driving those inbound leads, we were able to increase the close rate to I think 40%. I God wish I had the numbers in front of me. I don't remember anymore, but it was significant. Really significant.

[00:37:39] Erin: And think about it, how many of you get approached by get cold emails

[00:37:47] Erin: from these lead gen agencies? Oh, we're gonna give you all these leads. All these leads. Imagine if I was to. Use that. They call it the spray and pray approach. It's like you're gonna send the same generic vanilla email. I'm not gonna take a second to research you.

[00:38:03] Erin: Cause how can you, if you're trying to reach out to a thousand people, you're just gonna spray and pray hi. I get like 10 of these a day. Hi, I'm so and I write blog posts like, why don't you hire me? And that's what a lot of people do, and it's no wonder why you end up competing on price and not competing on value if you could.

[00:38:24] Erin: Communicate to your target audience the value that you create through knowledge sharing and sharing of your personality, because you're not gonna be a fit for everyone, but you're gonna attract certain clients who. Appreciate they might appreciate how you're just like really pragmatic. You tell it as it is, and some clients really appreciate that.

[00:38:47] Erin: So just by being yourself and by sharing your knowledge and on occasion sharing results, you can really start to see people raise their hand to wanna work with you. And then it's less of a barrier, it's less I'm so and I want you to hire me. I'll be so amazing. And you're like, I don't know if I need this.

[00:39:08] Erin: I don't know you from a home wall and you're at the disadvantage in the bargaining table cuz you're almost like convincing and putting on a dog and pony show and doing your dance and trying to sell them on the fact that they should read your email and they should get on a call with you.

[00:39:25] Erin: And that's not a great place to start from. Wouldn't you rather start from a place where, Hey, I wanna send you an email. Hey, I wanna get on a call with you. It completely changes the bargaining table and it puts you at the advantage where you're not just taking their budget and saying, yes, please. You're actually the one who's setting the fees, and then they can either take it or leave it.

[00:39:48] Erin: Entirely different worlds,

[00:39:50] Jonathan: and so what

[00:39:51] Erin: to get.

[00:39:52] Jonathan: ex Yeah, exactly. But Erin, that's so much work. I haven't got time for that. I've barely, I'm barely getting by with 50 hours a week of client work,

[00:40:00] Erin: I get that. I get that. I would say something that we discussed too in the last episode is it's really hard to say no to work. There's a few different things to unpack here. First, let's say you are so busy doing 50 hours of client work because all the work that you have right now is low paying work and you're just trying to put food on the table.

[00:40:21] Erin: It's really hard to say no when you're hungry. You don't want your lights to get shut off. You know your kids need new clothes. My kids are always growing like, so how do you say no? To shitty paying work. You don't, you take it and you're in this endless rat race, this endless like hamster wheel. So the best thing to do is to get some sort of second income stream that allows you to say no to the lowest paying work.

[00:40:45] Erin: Let's say I'm a writer and right now a lot of writers actually don't even charge by the hour they charged by the word still Let's say I'm a writer and I'm working 50 hours a week and I'm writing for 3 cents a word and I have no free time. Oh, I cannot do this. I have no free time. Imagine if while your kids are in bed at night, you start going through your closet and selling your old clothes on posh mark and eBay, and you have this now little trickle of second income stream That's the equivalent of 10 hours of your writing work.

[00:41:20] Erin: So now when these shitty low paying clients are trying to low ball you can just say, oh no, actually my rate is 10 cents a word. And you might get a lot of no's, but you might get your first yes. And now guess what? Going forward that you can command 10 cents a word. Not saying to charge by the word, just trying to put this into kind of black and white

[00:41:40] Erin: So then you're like, wow, I can actually, then you start to get that mindset like, wow, I can earn more. I can do this. And now that you're earning, more. Now the next time. You can, you might say to your clients, Hey everyone it's the new year. I'm gonna raise my rates as of effective January 3rd, my new rate is X.

[00:42:02] Erin: And some of them might say, oh, I don't wanna pay that. You're like, okay, cool, that's fine. Cause I don't need to do as much work. If I'm getting more money from the work I am doing, I can work less hours and make the. And it goes from there. And you start to replace your low paying clients with your higher paying clients one by one until you no longer need that second income stream.

[00:42:22] Erin: And the next thing you know you're working the same or hopefully less hours and making more than you ever were before.

[00:42:29] Jonathan: Yeah. It's like the old joke. I told my barber, you should double this prices. He said, double my prices. I'll lose half my business.

[00:42:37] Erin: Yeah, it doesn't make any sense, does it?

[00:42:38] Jonathan: It's yeah, you'd be working half the time servicing half the people making the same money. It's like you double your profitability.

[00:42:49] Jonathan: So Yeah. And even in the example you used, obviously I'm anti by the word either, but if you switch from 3 cents a word to a client that had, that was paying you 10 cents a word, that's three clients right there.

[00:43:01] Jonathan: That's get three bad clients in one. So that would, in. Decrease your workload by 60, like 66% or whatever it is.

[00:43:10] Erin: right,

[00:43:11] Jonathan: Cool. All right. So I could probably talk all day about this stuff, but we should probably wrap up. This has been fabulous. I really appreciate you taking the time. I appreciate you sharing the proposal with your list. I hope more people actually use it and and incorporate some of the other ideas we're talking about here to make it more effective for. Where can people go to find out more about what you're doing online?

[00:43:36] Erin: Yeah, so they can go to LinkedIn. I'm Erin E R I n B A L S A. I'm actually the only Erin Balsa on LinkedIn. I'm very lucky that I married a guy with sort of a, an unusual last name. I also have, as I've mentioned, a podcast and a newsletter. You can sign up for both of those on my website, which is house of, and it's spelled house, h a u s of bold, b o l d.

[00:44:08] Jonathan: If nothing else, go there for the animated eyeball,

[00:44:11] Erin: Yeah, it follows you around. It's better on desktop than mobile, but either way, it does follow you around.

[00:44:16] Jonathan: Yeah, it's so cool. All right, great. This has been amazing. Thanks again!

[00:44:29] Jonathan: All right, folks. That's it for this week. I'm Jonathan Stark, and I hope you join me again next time on Ditching Hourly. Bye.

Creators and Guests

Jonathan Stark
Jonathan Stark
The Ditching Hourly Guy • For freelancers, consultants, and other experts who want to make more and work less w/o hiring
Erin Balsa - From “Hit or Miss” Proposals to a 100% Close Rate
Broadcast by