QuoteRobot: Freelance Job Quoting Made Easy

by on 6th July 2010 with 12 Comments

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Quoting jobs can be a real pain.

As designers we often procrastinate and/or avoid this necessary step simply because it’s tedious and no where near as fun as actually designing something. QuoteRobot is a new tool that helps address this problem by enabling you to quickly get back to what you love instead of being bogged down for hours on end creating custom bids for every client.

We had a chat with Shawn Adrian, one of the founding developers of QuoteRobot, and asked him to explain a little bit about the service and why you as a freelancer should be interested in this product. Below is our full interview. Along the way we’ll toss in some screenshots so you can get a feel for the service.

Who Are the Key Players Behind QuoteRobot?

QuoteRobot is made up of two founders, Shawn Adrian and Jon Cochran.

Shawn Adrian started designing web sites back in 1992 when the internet was still for nerds. He writes a popular blog for designers at blog.nerdburn.com, and now works freelance doing UI design for web apps.

Jonathan Cochran has been designing and coding since he was a kid, making Winamp skins and UI’s for web sites. Recently he’s returned from managing an offshore team in the Philippines, started freelancing, and won an award during the 15 days of jQuery competition for his mad Javascript skills.

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What exactly does Quote Robot Do? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?

QuoteRobot makes it easy to send multi-page, PDF, proposals to clients, without using graphic design software.

The problem is how much unpaid time it takes to pitch on new jobs. As a freelancer, and during my agency days, I would create proposals in Illustrator, one page at a time. It was a real chore and something I would put off. I knew other designers were having difficulty too, since thousands of were downloading the free template from my blog.

QuoteRobot solves the problem by storing line item data, client data, and a very clean template, so all you have to do is fill it out and send it. It takes 15 minutes as opposed to a couple of hours.

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What are some of the primary features?

QuoteRobot is basically meant to speed up the quoting process by doing a couple of things well:

1) It allows you to create a great looking proposal without using a graphic design program
2) It saves quote data from everyone and presents hints on line items so you have to think less about how many hours something takes
3) It creates a community for the discussion of line items, quotes, hours, and other tedious matters

The rest of the features are just things like being able to duplicate a proposal for a different clients, importing people from basecamp, keeping track of milestones, past proposals and how many are jobs accepted, rejected, etc. There are user generated tips and discussion too.

Basically, the features are all geared toward quoting faster and more accurately. We’re very excited about the potential it offers in our own freelance businesses – really, quoting is a pain in the ass and we’re trying to change that.

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What are the customization options like for designers?

Currently, the only customization options are the logo and the proposal content itself, but we’re working on adding completely custom templates. It’s a matter of working out a process that saves time, which is our main goal.

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What features are you most proud of?

The “quote creator” screen itself would be the one that I’m personally the most proud of, as you can drag on and re-arrange pages in your proposal, fill them out, generate a PDF, and save or send to a client all in one place. It makes it easy to do a bunch of work, and it’s successful execution of the vision Jon and I shared.

Some of the most exciting features are still to come though. A large part of the vision is to help people know what to charge. The robot is currently collecting data so it can offer helpful advice in the future based on what has worked and what hasn’t in the past. That’s all I’ll say about that right now, but we’re calling this feature “social quoting”.

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Can You Use Quote Robot to Send Invoices?

Not directly, but we’re working on integrating with popular invoicing apps like Freshbooks and Blinksale.

We really want to focus on helping designers and coders bring in more work, because there are apps already doing a great job of invoicing and project management after the work has come in. We don’t want to force anybody into our workflow – we just want to add a tool that will enhance their existing system.

How much is Quote Robot and how can freelancers justify the cost?

The starter package will cost $6 per month, the next level up will cost $12, and then $24 after that. Each package will have a varying level of features. We’re thinking the $12 package will be the most popular.

It’s easy to justify spending money to make money. I’ve spent years pitching jobs, and this format continues to impress clients and land work. With QuoteRobot, I can quote faster and more frequently, on jobs I want, therefore landing more work. If you look at the value of a new design or coding contract, a $12 investment each month seems like nothing.

Think about it this way – would you spend $150 to land a contract you really want? I would for sure. In fact I have in the past if you look at my hourly rate vs time spent quoting. That’s more than a years worth of QuoteRobot use that I’d be willing to spend for one new job I really want. How many jobs do you think you could land in a year if you could quote better and faster?

What plans do you have for QuoteRobot in the future?

Well, there are tons of ideas out there, but mostly we just want to continue making it easier and faster to quote on jobs. As more people use it, the data will become more and more interesting, so we might release an API for other people to make use of it in their own apps.

On a side note, I love helping people get into business as designers and developers. Whenever someone asks me what I do, I’m so passionate about when talking about my work, I have to stop myself from blatantly trying to convince them to quit their job and give it a try. I think my natural to help designers succeed, and Jon’s creative coding genius will take QuoteRobot where it needs to go.

What Do You Think?

Stop by QuoteRobot and give the free trial a shot. Then come back here and let us know what you think.

Feel free to throw out any questions you have for the developers as well as I’m sure they’d be happy to help you out in any way they can.

Comments & Discussion

12 Comments

  • http://www.superdwayne.co.uk/ Dwayne Paisley-Marshall

    My initial thought is that this is awesome, however some users may not know how to work out how much to charge an hour if they are a new freelancer. I think over all the website/application is very nicely designed and user friendly, I did not find my self thinking too much about where stuff was; it was like riding a bike I have never rode before.

  • Joshua Johnson

    Dwayne, along your line of thinking I think it would be nice to work industry averages for certain services in your area. So if you’re trying to quote an hourly rate for HTML markup, you could reference the standard and plan your quote accordingly.

  • http://knowledgecity.com Jae Xavier

    wow… makes things easier.

    Once they complete integration with invoicing software, it will be much more attractive. Integrate with quickbooks, that will make it 10x more attractive.

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  • http://webdesignandsuch.com mike ilsley

    Nice looking program. I personally don’t like having the timeline in a quote though, as it usually comes down to waiting for the client for content.

  • http://quoterobot.com Shawn

    Joshua & Dwayne – We’re actually working on something like that. The software is collecting data right now. Soon we’ll be able to mine it for tons of great insight that will help people quote better.

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  • Niubi

    This is a GREAT website! I’ll certainly be using it. Have any of you considered looking into the DubLi bidding system? It might give you some ideas to help improve the program.

  • dan

    is this an article or an advertisement?

    anyhow, useful tool. I think I might sign up. let’s see how the 30 days go! :]

  • Joshua Johnson

    A little of both I suppose, I liked the app and thought I’d share. It’s not a sponsored post or anything though.

  • http://www.redolawebdesign.co.uk Martin

    Looks good, we’ll have to see how it compares to Invoice Bubble, which is my current favourite as it works and is completely free.

    Having said that, I honestly don’t find creating quotes and invoices by hand much of a chore, which is why I’d be reluctant to pay. Once you have a template it’s fairly straightforward.

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