• Sasha Kovaliov
  • General

Do Everyone a Favor – Ditch PDF Proposals

PDFs are a pain. A pain for you and your customers. A pain to sign, edit, track, collaborate on, keep versions aligned and hard to add any interactivity.

Some of you have already realized great value non-PDFs proposals bring not only to you as a service provider, but most important of all to your customers.

Let’s sum everything up and see why PDFs-are-best-proposals myth doesn’t stand a chance anymore.

1. Digital Signature Nightmare

Everyone who has ever tried to create a PDF proposal with an ability to be signed by a client knows how time consuming it can be. Moreover, you have to make sure that your PDF document is Reader Extended, so your customers can use a plain Adobe Reader to put their signature. To simply create a great PDF proposal you need Acrobat X, which is quite pricey – starting from $139 to $199. This is just too much for freelancers and small agencies, who have to buy Office suite anyway.

2. No Collaboration Tools

PDFs are so old. Actually they were created in 1993, Windows 95 was yet to come and dial-up was a high-tech back then. Naturally, there was no collaboration tools built in. However, with the advent of broadband and always-on connection, when business is built around SaaS and cloud storage, collaboration is essential. Mentality has shifted, and efficient collaboration tools are a must-have in a product.

I’m sure most of people don’t realize there is commenting built into PDFs and are sending them back and forth as email attachments or discussing countless changes over IM. This email ping-pong game is very frustrating, at the end you find dozens of emails spread over multiple threads with no easily traceable conversation. Great way to press your client into signing a proposal!

If you are thinking about team work on one PDF document, don’t even bother. You’ll switch to Word, Google Docs or anything else that is more collaboration friendly in five minutes. Or maybe two.

3. Inability to Track Proposals

Tracking proposals is so important for a successful deal! Anyone who has ever sent a single proposal feels anxious: has the proposal been opened, what sections were read carefully, what amount of time was spent on the pricing table?

PDFs are like isolated snail mail letters. You have absolutely no idea if the letter was opened and read, til you have a reply. With modern proposal solutions you can receive instant notification on the document being opened, analyze time spent on each section and gather useful stats to make your future quotes better, and understand what works better.

4. Forget About Interactivity

Are you a photographer or a video maker, do you work in a game or creative industry?  Forget about being able to showcase your work inside a PDF proposal! There is an ability to insert videos into PDFs, but it’s a complete disaster. If a video clip runs in PDF on your PC it doesn’t mean this will be the case on your client’s Mac.

If you have a great portfolio on Youtube or Vimeo, you still have to insert everything into PDF for a consistent experience and the file size gets ridiculous. Bearing in mind collaboration problems, I’d recommend to steer away from proposals in PDF format for any photographer and movie maker.

PDF has served us well for more than a decade: it had solved compatibility and print issues, but it’s time to move on. If you have a colleague, partner or a client who feels the pain of using PDFs, let them know apps like Quote Roller exist and make their life easier.

What problems have you encountered while using PDF proposals? Have you found a solution? Please share with us in the comments!

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About

Sasha has been in IT for 8 years, heading digital marketing in startups and boutique development companies. Currently makes Quote Roller shine and consults for freelancers and small dev workshops.

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  • http://twitter.com/theoriongroup Orion Group

    Amen.

  • Geoff Pflaumer

    Do you really want the customer to edit your proposal or response document? The submission should be made in the format stipulated by the customer’s but if it is to be in an editable format, it should be accompanied by a CD ROM with all documents in pdf, and this referred to in the case of any discrepancy. The $200 cost of the Adobe programme is negligible for an essential business tool. Finally “till” is another name for a cash register – I think the word you meant to use was ” ’til ” which is the contraction of “until”. Correct use of language will be important in any submission, irrespective of software format.

    • http://sashakovaliov.com/ Sasha Kovaliov aka nlupus

      Geoff, thanks for the comment :)
      The main problem with PDFs as discussed is its lack of modern collaboration tools, which are useful during preparation stage.
      Completely agree with you, that $200 price tag is negligible, but it can be spent much better.

  • Peter Dietrich

    This is silly – PDF may not be the answer to everything but it is everywhere, on every device and usable by everyone. If you need to send them an editable version then attach a word doc. I agree with Geoff, in 99% of cases proposals shouldn’t be edited by the customer. They can collaborate through the comments section in Quoteroller and you can control the changes. I can think only of legal terms and agreements which could be reviewed by attorneys and legal divisions which may want to redline a document to identify changes they are requesting. But rarely is that a proposal. That can be handled as a word terms attachment to the quote.

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