Quoting dos & don’ts


Safrean Dave Henderson recently invested a few hours into improving his outgoing business paperwork. Specifically, the paperwork that is typically the last document a potential client sees before deciding whether or not to pay us. 

Ladies and gentle-folk, let's take a look at how we quote our clients.

Quoting clients – The bad way

I have been lucky enough to work with hundreds of freelancers and businesses over the past few years. I have seen some truly awful quotation documents sent by people who obviously gave the paperwork very little thought. A badly designed quote tells me much about how you treat your customers. It lets me know that very little thought has been given to the customer-experience and that I should lower my expectations for the remainder of our business relationship. (If indeed we still do business.)

Here are some of the biggest blunders I see made by businesses quoting their customers:

Blunder #1

Quoting in Excel/HTML or Word formats. Never send me a quote in Excel form or any other form aside from PDF. Besides looking tacky, it’s a security risk as I will be able to edit bank details and monetary amounts to reflect whatever I might want. It’s PDF or nothing.

Blunder #2

Quotations where the total seems arbitrary. This is where the quotation contains numbers that only a calculator would love. Quote totals should always have round and easily-digestible numbers. No cents. For example, ZAR 199 or ZAR 150 – not ZAR 132.47 – This would feel like the equivalent of scratching my eye-balls with steel wool.

Blunder #3

Quotes without banking details. This is a perfect example of a business who does not care about a smooth customer experience. If I approve the quote the next logical step would be the transfer of some money – a deposit – to your business bank account. Don’t create unnecessary friction regarding payment, include relevant banking details. If you are quoting clients from distant shores make sure to include details like your banks SWIFT code. Don’t forget to indicate what reference number should be used on the payment.

Blunder #4

Lazy filenames. When a quote with the label containing random digits lands in my inbox, little OCD alarm bells start going off. I can’t put my finger on what exactly is wrong – I just feel a weird tick.

  • Quotes should ideally have a sequential numbering system in the filename. This also indicates you are a busy business.
  • Quotes should ideally also contain an easily-identifiable code for the client. For example, using their name in the filename. QUO123 – DAVE makes me feel important that I was able to receive the 123rd quote with my name prominently displayed.

Wondering what software to use to quote your clients? I use the accounting package from Xero that is not only cheap, it plays well with other online platforms. They also allow great flexibility to structure your quote’s appearance. They go as far as allowing me to download a customisable Word template that I can download, tweak and then re-upload within seconds! 

You might be wondering, once the blunders have been avoided and your quotations are a shining beacon that reflect your professionalism, what else can you do to pimp your quotes?

Here are my top improvements that every business should make to their quotes:

Quoting clients – The good way

Improvement #1

Pick a professional font. Yes, I really spent time researching the best font to use within my quotes. The conclusion it seems is an obvious one, the font should look professional. This necessitated a farewell to Calibri and a warm welcome to Georgia.

Improvement #2

Include your company logo. Every quotation should include a tastefully-located logo. The image will visually ease an otherwise text-heavy and formal document.

Improvement #3

Include a link to your business Terms and Conditions URL. This is something that too many businesses do not give the proper consideration. You and your business need to be protected from a customer who has decided to make your life hell. From bending and breaking your existing business processes to all out non-payment and legal threats. Your business must have a “/Terms” URL that is hyperlinked at the bottom of every quote. This placement of the terms link at the bottom of a quote has legal implications and protections. Ignore at your own peril.

Improvement #4

Make your services fun. This one is optional as you may require or just prefer a more formal quote. The most exciting update I made to our quotes was the “funkification” of our service offerings to our authors. From the informal wording through to the use of “eBook elves” – who create our author’s new eBooks – the services we provide were made to sound fun.

Improvement #5

Include lead times of services. This obviously only applies to business that provide services. Protect yourselves by reinforcing your service-related timelines. Even if your timelines are already mentioned 100 times on your website and other paperwork. Include them at the end of your quotes service-descriptions to make it 101 times. You and I both know that this will still not be enough for some customers. For services that might have a custom delivery timeline every time, just enter the leadtime as XXX days or weeks. The sales-person creating the quote can then populate the timeline each time.

About the author

Dave Henderson is the founder of the self-publishing platform MYeBook, a business aimed at empowering authors and giving them a voice within the vibrant self-publishing community. Since 2012, this proudly South African entrepreneur (Nedbank Business Accelerator Finalist 2018) has helped thousands of authors around the world to reach new readers by leveraging the power of digital distribution. To learn more about Dave, please visit his award-winning business blog, personal blog and connect with him on social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn


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