RFP coaching

As a freelancer, you will inevitably receive the occasional vague, obscure, or otherwise secretive request for proposal also known in "the biz" as an RFP. In an ideal RFP, the prospective client divulges enough information about a potential project in order for you to respond with an appropriate price estimate. At the very least, this is project scope, budget and timeline.

However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there are cryptic RFPs like the one described over on Airbag - Scope. Being that we live in a world of shifting polarities, we as web designers and developers can afford to be a little more picky about which projects and clients we choose to spend time on. Along those lines, Veerle Pieters has some good Guidelines for a RFP.

I recently received a nebulous email requesting rates, despite the notice on my contact page that I am not currently accepting any additional clientele. I admit, I do not have the most thoroughly detailed contact form, but typically it helps to have more than a single sentence to assess the client's need.

When I finally get around to redesigning my own site, a nice RFP form is one of the things I want to add. The best one that I have seen so far has to be Jesse's over at 31three. Sidebar Creative also has a nice take on it.

Feeling partially guilty for having such a sparse contact form, and because the entreaty originated from a ministry in need, I decided to respond to this imprecise email with some "RFP coaching." The contents of my reply are listed here, in hopes that it might serve as a reference point, to help both freelancers and their clients. Name changed to protect the innocent…

Mr. XYZ:

As it says on my site, I am not currently taking on additional work. However, I would encourage you to post your need to the Godbit forum, which is a community of Christian web designers who discuss various aspects of web-related topics. We have a Work Opportunities section of the forum. You could post your need for a website/blog there.


Alternatively, a friend of mine has started the MinistryCamp Job Board, for both full-time and freelance job needs. This is geared towards Christian ministries. I hope one of these venues helps you find someone.


By way of advice, simply saying that you need a site done "badly and and quickly" is not very descriptive. When/if you post about it on MinistryCamp or the Godbit forum, you should add more details about your organization, as well as your specific website requirements.

With the amount of information provided in your email, there isn't much to go on. Immediately asking about rates with no scope for the size or budget of the project is like going to an architect and saying "Quick! How much does a house cost?" There are simply too many factors left unaccounted for, which would be required to be able answer that question accurately: What size of house, how many bedrooms, one/two story, etc.

The more detail you can provide, the better equipped a web designer or developer will be to help your ministry. It will also show that you are serious about hiring someone who will do the job well, rather than just sending out an SOS on a whim. I am more inclined to work with clients who appear to have put a good deal of forethought into why they need a website.

While that might sound harsh, since it is just impersonal text on a screen, my intention is not to berate you. I write with a sincere heart, that you would find someone who can make informed design and code decisions, in order to best represent your ministry online. I am sorry that I cannot be of assistance at this point, but I pray that you will get the best website possible.

Take care, and God bless.

Nathan Smith