Elements of a Successful Project Proposal

project-proposalWhether you’re actively looking for clients on freelancing job boards, or you only get clients through referrals, you’ll have to submit project proposals.

The project proposal is your sales piece. It’s what will ultimately “sell” your services to the prospect. To be successful, your proposal should perform the following:

To accomplish all this, your project proposal should have the following elements:

1. Summary of Client’s Requirements and Goals

This is a critical part of your proposal. However, it’s something many freelancers overlook. I have to admit, I didn’t do this until after many months of freelancing.

The thing is, if you can’t write this part, that means you don’t know enough about the project to prepare a thoughtful proposal for your prospective client.

This is undesirable, because if you completely miss what your prospect really wants, any of these things could happen:

  • you won’t get the project
  • you’ll get the project, but realize mid-way that you underestimated the amount of effort and time it will take to complete the work
  • you’ll get the project, but the client will be disappointed with your outputs

So, by taking the time to really understand what your prospect is looking for, you’ll be ensuring a better outcome for both your prospect and yourself. Furthermore, by showing how well you’ve paid attention to your prospect’s needs, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors.

2. Tasks Involved and Your Fee for Each

List down the main tasks you’re going to do, along with the fee you will charge for each. Make this as detailed as possible, so that anybody–even someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the project–will be able to say when you have delivered or completed the task.

For example, if I’m going to write a sales page for a client, I’ll say that it will be at least 1,000 words long, will include graphics, and will be submitted in a .HTML file.

3. Breakdown of Each Task with Costs

It’s not enough to simply say what big tasks you will do. Break them down so your prospect appreciates how much work and skill it takes to complete each one.

In my sales page example above, I could specify that writing the sales page includes:

  • doing market research to better understand my client’s target market and what his competitors are doing
  • choosing appropriate photographs from iStockPhoto and Fotolia
  • design and layout of the sales page into a .HTML file

4. Delivery Schedule

Make it clear how long it will take you to complete each task. Take into account the amount of time your client may take to clear each step of the project.

5. Work Process

Describe how you usually work with clients. Will you hold a conference call after the client approves your proposal? Do you use Basecamp or another project management service to track all client communication?

Be specific now so you and your client won’t be in for surprises later on.

6. Mode of Payment

In this part, specify how you want to get paid. Do you require full or partial down payment before starting on a project? Can the client pay you through PayPal, credit card or check?

7. Samples or Other Proof That You Can Do the Job

Make it easy for prospects to decide that you’re suitable for this project. Attach samples of work, or links to samples that show how you’ve fulfilled similar client requirements in the past.

8. Clear Indication of the Next Steps

Tell your prospect clearly what he should do if he either wants to proceed with the project, or if he has further questions before he can make a decision.

Say something like, “If you need clarification on my proposal, please email your questions to me. On the other hand, if you’d like to proceed as I outlined here, I’ve attached an invoice for your first down payment so I can get started right away.”

9. Invoice for First Payment

Obviously, you should include this only if you require a down payment (or full payment) before you start a project.

10. Contact Information

Make sure your proposals include your name and contact details–including your email address even if you are emailing your proposal. Don’t assume your prospect will simply hit the “reply” button, or take the time to find your contact information if he doesn’t see it right away.

Bonus: Some prospects will have their own requirements that aren’t in the list above. Just the other day I saw a job posting where the only requirement was to “tell me why you should get this assignment.”

Always, always review the job posting to make sure you’ve complied with everything the prospect asked for. If you fail to comply, you won’t get the assignment no matter how good you are. The ability to follow instructions counts for a lot among clients.

What Did I Miss?

Do you have a formula for a winning project proposal? Did I miss anything crucial? Please let us know by posting a comment below.

Image by Brent Nelson