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Over the past (Ahem) 35 years, I’ve written enough proposals to fill a tractor-trailer. In the beginning, I was pretty clueless and writing a proposal took a fair amount of time. Back then my close rate wasn’t too hot, either. But, with time and experience, they became easier to research and write. My close rate started to climb, as well. Proposals are one of those necessary business evils many designers wrestle with, newbies and vets, alike. What should be in one? How long and detailed should it be? Should it be first person or third person? The questions go on and on.

I’ve written many articles about writing proposals along the way. They’re still some of my most popular one. As luck would have it, I was recently introduced to Quote Roller, an online proposal generator application. My first thought was, “boilerplate.” But, in looking over Quote Roller, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s not as personal as a proposal completely spawned from the depths of my own brain, but it’s pretty darn handy. Here’s the nitty gritty.

Quote Roller offers up a slew of templates for all sorts of businesses and activities, including writing, photography, event planning, speaking, marketing, and of course, graphic and Web design. Their stock templates are customizable and can get you on your way with relative ease. You can even create your own template(s) that can be customized for specific clients and projects.

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But, before you can dive into these templates, you’ll need to set up an account. Quote Roller offers several monthly plans – Basic, at $8.99 per month; Professional, at $18.99 per month and Enterprise, at $69.99 per month. In addition, they offer a free version. The Basic Plan allows one team member and up to 15 proposals per month. The Professional Plan allows for two team members and up to 50 proposals per month.

The beefy Enterprise Plan allows up to five team members with an unlimited number of proposals per month. The team member model makes it a snap to collaborate on proposal development. Each fee-based plan also includes Analytics, which will be addressed below. Analytics aren’t included with the Free Plan. The Free and Basic Plans should be suitable for most freelancers or very small shops. The Professional Plan is great for the typical design firm with, say, six to ten employees. If you happen to be Pentagram or Landor, the Enterprise Plan is probably the right choice.

After setting up an account, it’s a good idea to complete your company profile, add in your services and create your first template. All this can be done via the Dashboard.

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Your first template contains all that information you usually copy and paste from proposal to proposal. Plus, you can also add video, images and custom forms that can give your proposal some zing and really stand out from the crowd. Quote Roller can do this bit of magic because proposals are delivered either via the Web or as pdfs.

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To help you rapidly deploy your proposal, there’s a function to add in your fees and product and/or service listings, with descriptions. Fees can be by the hour, project or fixed fee and several other options. In addition to products, services and fees, there’s a “subscriptions” feature, which appears to mimic retainers. These can be set for short or long term arrangements.

Near the end of your template are features for your terms of service and client sign-off, for both Web and pdf versions. The signing feature can help to speed up approval times and get the ball rolling.

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After you’ve created a few proposals, or one for that matter, the Proposals tab lists them and shows if the proposal’s been read, is in draft mode or archived. Showing if it’s been read is a great little piece of information. How often have you sent off a proposal, only to wonder if the prospect ever cracked it open. With Quote Roller, there’s no more wondering.

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Beyond all these features, Quote Roller also lets you import and add clients and like a contact manager, shows you who and when clients have been contacted. You can even select certain clients as “Favorites.” No doubt, all your clients will scramble to get on that list. Plus, to help keep you and your proposals on track, Quote Roller integrates with Highrise and Basecamp from 37Signals, SalesForce, Freshbooks, Google Apps and many more. Oh, and naturally, there’s an iPhone app to track your estimates on the go.

Those are Quote Roller basics, but there’s one more thing … and it’s a big thing. The service provides proposal analytics, something my now seemingly archaic proposals could never do. With their analytics tools you can not only see when a proposal was opened, you can see what actions your prospect took and how much time they spent on various pages. Pretty darn nifty.

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Overall, I found Quote Roller to be a product many designers will find useful, if not indispensable. I would have like to have seen more in the “Help” and “Support” areas, but I believe after a subscriber has used it a few times, it will become reasonably intuitive.

Quote Roller allows graphic designers to almost effortlessly staying on top of the proposal process. It will also help to move things forward faster due to its integration capabilities. Clients can comment and ask questions. A designer can answer them via their computer or iPhone. Digital signing means faster approvals. These all add up to a more efficient design practice and happier clients. It’s certainly worth a look.