Many highly skilled freelancers fail to get as many clients as they deserve, just because they don’t know how to write a proposal that just lasso the clients. And then there are other freelancers who are not as much skilled but thanks to their proposal writing skills, they bag loads and loads of projects. I personally find this scenario unjust for the technically skilled guys so today I’ll be spilling the beans on the secrets of professional proposal writing.
Writing a professional, a bulletproof proposal is not only important from the client’s point of view but for you as well. That’s because a properly made proposal will bring you and the client to the same page. It will help you to deliver on time and it will get you paid in time. It will avoid all confusions and it will avoid clients coming up with additional tasks later on in the project. If they ask for any additional tasks, you will get paid additionally. It’ll be as simple as that.
You need to know how to write a proposal that never fails; this is the second most important skill after your technical skills. If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer, this skill is pivotal to your success.
Why is a Business Proposal Important?
Clients usually see freelancers as an affordable option compared to design agencies. As freelancers, we should be ready for the client looking down on us. But we also have to make sure that our lack of resources must never come in the way of our success.
Design agencies have specialists for everything, for communication, for PR, for business management…everything. We, on the other hand, have to operate alone. This means that we do get to eat the whole cake, but our cakes are usually smaller and we have to do a lot of hard labor to earn that cake. But if we can find a way to acquire high-paying clients, and if we can find ways to make our work less hassle, if we can find ways to manage our freelance business in a more professional manner, we’ll start to get bigger, better, creamier, tastier cakes.
So how do we get big cakes? By learning business skills of course. Entrepreneurship is more about business skills than technical skills. Entrepreneurship is more about business skills than technical skills.
One of the most important tools of business communication is a project proposal.
This is a the graph that shows that the salary of an average proposal writer has multiplied three times in the last in just one year.
On the other hand, if we check out the salaries of the designers, they are staying the same. (Please note the Y axis in the lower image contains a very narrow scale.)
So what does it reflect? it reflects that the market is now figuring out how important proposal writing is. Since properly made project proposals are bringing in more clients, the companies are willing to pay more and more to proposal writers.
Basics of Proposal Writing
The first and most important rule is understand the client. Understand what their true needs are and what are the best solutions. You must also know what kind of solutions can they afford and what kind of solutions would they find most affordable.
You don’t have to give them the most affordable solution if that’s not the most appropriate one, but you should explicitly explain why it is not the ideal solution.
If you can, have a meetup with the client. This will really help both of you get on the same page. If the client is located offshore, then make sure you review their RFP guidelines.
What is an RFP?
RFP is the abbreviation for ‘request for proposal’. When corporates ask for proposals, they issue a set of guidelines as well. Make sure you follow all the guidelines completely.
Third, and perhaps the most important thing you need to remember is we don’t get paid until the potential client becomes a real client. So you don’t have to write proposals for every other client that comes. Only corporate clients or the clients with complex projects need proposals. Or, the clients ask for proposals, they deserve a well-crafted proposal. There’s no need to write a proposal if you can win the client without it.
Here’s a checklist:
- Understand the client’s needs and find its most appropriate and most affordable solutions. It’s a good idea to provide propose both solutions and give the client options to choose one.
- Arrange a meetup if the client is local. This will help both of you to get on the same page.
- Religiously follow RFP guidelines. Even if the company has not given any guidelines, check out their website and try to figure out how formal or informal proposal letter would suit them.
- You don’t have to make proposals for every client. If you can get the client without a proposal, making it would be just a waste of time.
How to Write a Proposal Letter
A proposal letter is something that encloses the project proposal. In freelancer’s case, mostly the letter and the proposal are the same document but if you’re making a lengthy proposal then here’s the list of things your proposal letter must contain.
- Problem Statement: A brief discussion of the problem.
- Proposed Solutions: The suggested solutions meant to address the problem.
- Pricing Information: An overview of the total charges and the total time it will take to complete the task.
- Call to Action: Guide the client what to do next.
In addition to the above-mentioned points, there are loads of things that you can mention in a proposal letters, such as experience, qualifications and certifications, awards, clientele etc. but you must remember that the reader’s time is very important. Put only essential info, nothing that annoys the reader.
Here’s checklist of the aspects you should keep in mind while writing a proposal letter.
- It needs to be persuasive.
- It needs to be professional.
- It needs to prove your expertise.
- It needs to provide your knowledge of the client.
- It must be concise.
How to Write a Proposal
Project Proposal Example from LettersDo
The most important aspect in any proposal is its simplicity. If you wanna charge $500 for SEO, you can do it in one of the following ways:
Example 1: SEO = $500
Example 2: Improving websites visibility in search engines = $500
It’s obvious that the second choice is much better. The thing is that you need to simplify it for managerial persons. They would know the importance of SEO but they might not know what SEO means.
We established that we will keep it simple… alright but what to put in the proposal? Here’s a list of things that you can include in a proposal. (We have already mentioned many elements in the proposal letter part of this article, this contains the additional elements.)
- Clearly mention exactly what you will be doing. Explicitly mention all the services so that if the client asks for another task, he would already know that it will cost him extra. You might think that clients don’t like to pay extra for additional tasks but that’s not true. Actually, clients love to get a complete picture of their project on paper so they can visualize it properly.
- Make a timeline. Timelines help a great deal to keep things on track. It helps the clients to not get impatient and it helps us not procrastinate.
- Make full use of bullets, lists, tables and graphs. No one likes to read lengthy boring texts. Even in this article you must noticed that I’m using bullets even though I could have used simple plain text.
Elements of a Proper Timeline
Timeline of man.
I have learned that timelines help a great deal. That’s because timelines help us not to delay things (which is a common habit of us designers) and it helps the clients to stay cool.
When you make a timeline, remember that there will be days when your internet won’t work, when your laptop will keep showing blue screens or the days when you simply would not like to work. Add time for those discrepancies.
Add time for discrepancies because you must never ever be late. Never. Absolutely never. Never!
If you tell them you’ll send it by Friday, don’t send it at 10:00 PM on Friday. If you do that, you’re practically sending it on the weekend.
A timeline should contain the following elements:
- Start date
- Payment schedule
- Keep discrepancy period.
- If you’re gonna take any vacations or gonna be off for a while, make sure the client knows it on the proposal. It shouldn’t be a shock to the client during project.
It’s important add a payment schedule so you could keep getting paid for your work along the way. For that, use milestones. After hitting each milestone, you can ask for the payment.
Make sure you keep at least 40% of the payment for the end. Clients do not like to pay 100% along the way. You should ask only 50% to 60% of the payment during the project and rest of it at the end of the project.
Free Tools for Proposal Writing
Trello uses a card-based system that allows you to sort and organize individual tasks. Basically this is a tracking tool that also allows sharing of files and folders.
You can add cards to columns, and for each card you can add a due date, write comments and assign tasks to colleagues.
Most of such project management tools are made keeping managers in mind, not creative guys but Trello is made for people like you and me.
This is one of the most liked invoicing tools by freelancers. And if you are making a timeline and you are making a payment schedule then you also need a proper invoicing solution.
This is a chat and communication app for people working on the same project. If you are working in a team, let’s say one guy is writing the copy and another one is taking care of backend coding then HipChat is a great tool for staying connected with each other.
Undoubtedly, the world’s favorite note-taking app. I’m 99.99% sure that you are already familiar with this app but if you aren’t… wake up!
I’m not gonna define Evernote, just install it. It’s free and damn useful.
Proposal Generator Template
Make no mistake, this is not just a template but a complete tool i.e. software. It generates proposal letters.
“Cheap designers create what the client asks them. Expensive designers create what the client needs.” –Unknown
The success of a proposal lies in the secret that how well did you understand the client and their needs. If you can understand the needs and define it in text, you are sure to get the approval.
I missed one of the most important proposal writing tips earlier, which is never ever make a typo. That’s just stupid. A typo shows carelessness which will make a terrible impression.
That’s all the proposal writing tips I had for you today. Please do tell me what do you think whether we should write proposals or not.