Never Respond to RFPs & Custom Proposal Requests

Earlier this week I received an email requesting a proposal for a complex WordPress project. In addition to the usual ridiculousness, there was a paragraph about their budget – a nice surprise until I read it:

We have dedicated funding for this project. At this time, we have decided not to
communicate specific budget constraints for the purposes of the initial proposals.
Instead, we are asking vendors to offer pricing appropriate to the scope of this project. To
make that process easier for vendors, we have committed to excluding price as a factor
in our first round of proposal evaluation. If there is a mismatch between the proposal
price and our funding capability, we will have follow-up conversations after the first round
of proposal evaluation in which we can share more specific budget information.

Excerpt from an RFP I received recently from a non-profit with an annual operating budget of almost $30 million.

*facepalm* There’s so much wrong with this approach to an RFP that I don’t even know where to start… Thankfully, I’ve been burned more times than I can count with RFP responses that I know not to touch this one with a 100-foot pole.

And yet…my biggest contract ever was through a custom proposal.

What gives?

Here’s all you need to know about custom proposals, RFPs, etc.

  • Only do custom proposals for high-value projects.
  • Agree to all the terms, scope, deadlines, budget, etc. verbally before putting a word in writing.  Use the phone or in-person meetings for this.  The proposal needs to be agreed-upon before submitting it for official approval. (In other words, if you are competing with others for the project, abort!)

That’s it.  

If both the points above are not met, do not respond to a request for proposal.

Related: Request For Proposals (RFPs) Are Awesome! (But NEVER Respond to One!)

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for