Why We Charge to Respond to RFPs

Let’s step outside of the world of app development for a moment.

Instead, I want you to imagine that you’re looking to build a brand new, fully custom, beautiful home.

So you approach a builder to request a proposal for this custom built house you’re looking for.

Would you expect the architect to consult with your family to find out what you need, design the house for you and then hand over the blueprints (aka proposal) at no charge, because you might hire her employer’s building company?

No, you probably wouldn’t.

None of us would think to ask an architect to design a custom home without compensation, but some people think that software developers will design their software for free.

I see two main causes of this confusion.

1. Not Everyone is in the Software Development Industry

Most people aren’t developers, and therefore, don’t know the ins and outs of the software development process.

Because of the distance some have from this process, it can be a bit hard to see all of what’s involved behind the scenes.

When you’re thinking of an architect, it’s easier to imagine everything that goes into your blueprints.

  • There’s the process of consulting with you and your family.
  • There’s the research involved to decide where to place the house to take advantage of views, sunlight, trees and so on.
  • You have to decide on the architectural style of the building.
  • They’ll probably have to make some edits to their recommendations after discussing them with you.

And this is all before you’ve even seen the blueprints!

Developing a custom mobile app is very similar.

  • We have to consult with you and your company.
  • We have to take the time to know what we’re going to be developing.
  • We need to design the whole system so the app works with your existing (or to-be-created) applications and databases.
  • We need to plan out all of the technical details of the project.
  • We need to think about the visual design of the app and consider how that will impact the development time needed.

Creating your app’s blueprint is a whole team effort, involving highly skilled software engineers and designers…and on average, two to three weeks of time.

At Big Fish we call this the Strategic Planning phase. Sometimes it’s called “Discovery”.

Your team sending us a list of features is not a substitute for this. Your feature list is a grain of sand compared to the level of detail our team needs in order to accurately plan and price out your project.

2. Responding to RFPs for Free is Common in Other Industries

Something else that adds to the confusion is when people think our industry works like other industries. Sometimes companies in other industries respond to RFPs for free.

Often what is being “priced out” is a pre-built widget or standard service that already has a price per X, not a custom-designed product.

Some companies respond to RFPs so frequently that they have a full-time person on staff dedicated to doing so. You’ll often see this at large marketing agencies.

The software industry is not like this. In fact, I don’t recall ever meeting or hearing of another app or software development company that provided free design or strategic planning services.

Final Thoughts on Why We Charge to Respond to RFPs

Providing an accurate quote and timeline requires more than the feature list your team has put together to send to developers. When you request a proposal from an app developer you are really asking for the building plans. We charge for this, but when we’re done, the blueprint is 100% yours.

If you don’t want to hire Big Fish to develop the app, you’re free to walk away. We set up our Strategic Planning phase as its own project for this reason. Your company gets a taste of what it’s like to work with us BEFORE committing to hire us as your developer.

You can take it to another developer if you want!

You can do it in-house!

You don’t have to commit to doing the entire project with us, but you shouldn’t expect to get the blueprint for free…not from us, not from any developer.

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the founder at Big Fish - an app design and development studio in Tampa, Florida. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.
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