In this post, I will offer several tips on how to compose well-rounded client-based proposals. Proposals are an everyday tool in the business world. Whether you’re a freelancer seeking clients or part of a large established corporation, proposals are the framework used to initiate and conduct Business2Business working relationships. A poorly crafted proposal can lead to disappointment on both ends of that professional affiliation. Knowing how to write robust, effective proposals can make reaching the desired results of all parties possible. For many businesses, this means a fulfilled need; for freelancers, this means a satisfied customer and sufficient payment for services rendered.
The below proposal-writing tips have been accumulated from my past experiences as a freelancer and my current professional writing education. Before we get to the first tip, two crucial questions must be addressed; read on.
What is a proposal and what is its purpose?
Proposals are a written proposition and brief plan of how to resolve a need. Proposals can be formal or informal. A formal proposal can be written in response to a request for proposal, or RFP, and is expected to have professional document formatting and topical headings. Informal proposals are often unsolicited documents of recommendations for a company or other entity, written by the person or business offering a solution to the recommendations. Unsolicited proposals should be written persuasively to convince the company or entity of the said need.
Proposals are not only written by those seeking to fulfill a need or gain work, but companies and institutions can also write proposals to solicit necessary work through RFPs (stated above). Along with an expression of desired work, RFPs detail project requirements, the desired outcome, and other elements regarding said need. RFPs are often distributed publicly via newspapers, e-mails, websites, and other media. The response to these RFPs is often a proposal from the company seeking to do the work, as previously described.
Writing an effective proposal
- Do research
Whether you received an RFP or you’re sending an unsolicited proposal, be sure to study available information about the company beforehand. Review what the company is already doing (if anything) in the area of their need. Understanding as much as you can about the company or precisely what you’re proposing, can raise your professional presence in comparison to other proposals.
- Clearly state what services you will offer
A quick Google search can return millions of horror stories that have resulted from poorly crafted business proposals. Neglecting to delineate specific services offered can end with a freelancer performing duties outside of the proposed scope of work and for no adjusted payment. Here’s an example of one such horror story.
- Clearly state your solution to proposed need
Don’t waste the time of the company you’re proposing to. State outright and clearly what work you can perform to resolve their need. This step does not only raise your profile as a professional among others who might be submitting a proposal, it can also eliminate future confusion regarding scope of work.
- Define deliverables
Deliverables are what the client is left with, the result of services rendered. After reading your proposal, the client should not be surprised by the final product, they should expect it, after all, it’s what they will agree to upon accepting your proposal. Following this step is not only helpful to the client, but it can help you map out how you can effectively resolve the client’s need.
- Be serious about money
Don’t be like the many freelancers or small businesses afraid to demand a rate that will cover time and expenses related to completing a project. Include stipulations that ensure you will receive further compensation if your services are carried beyond the original scope of the proposal. This protection method is the sign of an experienced, astute professional. A lack of detail in this section of a proposal can lead to the proposer being overworked and underpaid.
As an off-on freelancer over the years, I’ve had to learn the above tips the hard way. I was the person who was too scared to ask for sufficient compensation for my work. Worse, I wrote flimsy proposals that focused more on the aesthetics of deliverables over other details that would have prevented my clients from overstepping our agreed scope of work.
I found the below video to be helpful at summarizing and illustrating the proposal planning, composing, and submitting process.