Not every email inquiry leads to a new work opportunity. Not every phone call will result in a paying gig.
You need to maximize your results of closing as many deals as possible.
Already good at attracting new relevant clients and leads to your business? Great. Here’s another thing you can do to ace get more work – learn how to write compelling project proposals.
What is a Project Proposal?
“A project proposal is a detailed description of a series of activities aimed at solving a certain problem”
It clarifies how your skills and expertise can help your client solve some pressing problem. For example, get a new website up and running; have their HVAC systems cleaned or replaced or accounting sorted out.
Your project proposal should be written with one clear goal in mind – to convince the prospect that you are the right person to solve their problem. It should make the decision-making process crystal clear – they pay you $__ and receive X, Y, Z benefits in return.
Note: Do not confuse a project proposal with a business proposal – a separate type of document, outlining legal terms of collaboration. A project proposal is not a binding contract. It’s a written pitch of your services that outlines your pricing, estimated budgets and timelines. You will need to craft a separate work contract that outlines project deliverables, payment terms, timeline, and additional stipulations (if any).
How to Write a Proposal: The Basics
Always apply the KISS formula – keep it short & succinct.
The best project proposals are usually 1-2 pages long. They are on-point and don’t require the client to waste time (they probably don’t have) on reading it.
Don’t fret much over design as well. Just add your logo, and use primary brand colors. It may be tempting to download a generic project proposal template from the Internet but don’t do that. Instead, focus on building up your personalized project proposal template from scratch, based on your business type and the scope of services you offer.
It’s easy to get hung up at this point, so here’s a sample project proposal you can swipe and customize up to your needs.
Project Summary: the scope of work you can deliver.
[Client Name]: Website Development Services: Branding, Development, Copywriting
Depending on the project type you can give two types of estimates:
- Dates for important milestones or “phases”
- Dates when they can expect specific deliverables.
For example, “The entire project will be complete within 45 days after receiving all the necessary materials and information”.
- Milestone 1: Branding deliverables: Logo, mood board, brand colors and fonts within 7 days after the project start date.
- Milestone 2: Website mockup design: within 15 days after the project start date.
- Milestone 3: Final website design: within 30 days after the project start date.
- Milestone 4: Copy for 5 main website pages within 45 days after the project start date.
Talk about how you will meet the client’s goals – what deliverables they can expect, how much each product/service will cost and what are the benefits of partnering with you. This will be the “meat” of your proposal, so be sure to check our next post section for specific tips!
Demonstrate your experience and understanding of your client’s niche and their current pain points. Itemize everything you can deliver to them using bullet points for clarity.
Here’s a quick example to illustrate this point:
“Email Marketing Drip Campaign: a 5 email sequence including Welcome, Two Warm Up Emails, Soft Pitch and Hard Sale emails. Every email that I will produce includes two versions of subject lines for A/B testing; optimized according to the latest best practices in terms of structure, wording, formatting and CTA placements and personalized for 4 customer segments. The service also includes campaign reporting and analysis with further tips for optimizing open-rate, clicks and click-through-rates.
- MailChimp or Aweber account setup and/or configuration for the new drip campaign.
- 1-hour audience development session (over Skype) to understand your customers’ main pain points and formulate your unique sales offer.
- 5 x email copies – 800 to, 1,2000 words. Two rounds of edits included.
- Two subject line versions for each email.
- Two CTA variations per email.
- Performance report within 1 month after running the campaign, analyzing the results. You can review a sample report here.
Optional: Back up your claims with testimonials or case studies from past clients if applicable.
“To get a better sense of the results you can obtain, here’s a case study from my former client how managed to increase their email conversions by 75% after running the campaign.”
Explain your payment fee structure and your invoice payment terms.
You can state your price per deliverable/service or give a rough quote estimate for the entire project. Don’t forget to account for additional material costs and associated fees.
“The total estimated budget for this project [brochure design and distribution to 200 local hotels] will be $3,500. Here’s a detailed breakdown:
- Custom design fee for brochure: $1,850 (VAT included)
- Material costs: $800 for high-quality, glossy finish A3 paper (x 200 items)
- Printing costs: $250
- Distribution fee: $600
Indicate what your prospect needs to do to get the project started. Explicitly state that you will expect them to accept and sign this proposal (or ask for modifications) within X days. Afterwards, you will send them the contract and expect them to make a down payment that constitutes X% of the total project cost – 25% is a solid middle ground for both clients and contractors. You can easily customize one of our free invoice templates for that purpose.
“So how do you feel about generating more sales from your email marketing?
If you are happy with the proposed terms, please sign off this proposal and email it back to me no later than [Day X].
I will prepare and follow-up with the work contract and a 25% upfront payment invoice that needs to be paid in Net 7, so that I can get started on your project.”
Tips To Create Winning Project Proposals
Before you file your proposal, take the time to research your client and their industry. You want your proposal to hit their “sweet spot” and there are a few good tricks for that.
Mirror Their Language
Does the client uses specific industry jargon or acronyms in their coms – KPIs, ML, CRO etc.? Jot down those terms and sprinkle them in your proposal.
You can also take this one step further and mimic their company’s tone. Are they are funky, young lifestyle brand that’s not afraid of humor and irony in their copy? Drop a cheeky joke in between the project lines.
“The new landing page will be so crystal-clear that even your grandmother will want to buy your “nitty-gritty tech thing”. But promise me, you’ll stop her.”
Or keep it more professional and refined if you are pitching your services to crustier companies. Just please, never start your project proposal email like this:
“Dear Business Owner,
We are writing to you to with a constructive overview of how our vendor will provide bespoke marketing services to your company…”
This will go straight to the bin. It’s just too cold and impersonal.
Outstrip Their Doubts
Even at late stages of negotiations clients still wonder about two things:
- Are you the right person to do the job?
- Is it the right amount of money to pay you to do that job?
Proactively address those doubts within the “meaty” part of your proposal. Reinforce your expertise once again by saying that you have been doing your thing for 5 years, you know tools & technology X, Y, Z and you have partnered with some awesome business just like them. If you have some “big name clients”, mention them to improve your credentials.
Additionally, speak of the past and future results: A former design client of your started receiving X% more bookings after you have completed their website.
Mention the benefits they can get by partnering with you. Use words such as “because”, “so that”, “in order to” to communicate your offer. For example:
“Mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop traffic in the US, and 10 other key markers. In order to remain competitive, you need a UX-friendly mobile version of your website, so that your customers can seamlessly shop from different devices, browse your products on the go before visiting the store. Because your check-out process is seamless and CRO-optimized, you can expect an increase in mobile purchases within 2 months of re-design”
You can further back-up your claims with specific testimonials mentioning revenue increases and other positive outcomes for businesses. And no, your services do not cost that much as they generate a lot of positive ROI for your client.
Use “Future Pacing” Technique
This is a neat trick to instill positive mental imagery in someone’s mind.
Basically, you describe all the good things that will happen once the client hires you for the project and encourage them to seal the deal.
“As soon as we sign off this, I will take over your Instagram content creation and management. Expect to see the first two posts live (with captions and hashtags) within 24 hours. While you are reviewing how much engagement they receive, I will be working on a new batch of 10 branded posts….”
At this point, they forget about objections and envision the wonderful it would be to have someone handling that chore for them.
A solid project proposal can help you close more deals (and command higher costs) while managing new client expectations. Even if you don’t have a new project lined up just yet, work on crafting and polishing a sample project proposal template so that you are all prepped when a prospect comes knocking on your door!
Photo by Andrew Neel.