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How to Write a Perfect Project Proposal

theoriginalbpc profile image Sarah Bartley ・9 min read

Originally published May 14, 2019 on BritishPandaChick Codes. I made tweaks to the original post to work on Code Newbie.

It is time for the proposal! The next lesson of Skillcrush 300 is all about the proposal. So far you've been gathering information and calculating estimates for your proposal. Now that you've got everything you need, it is time to put everything together.

Today's post is looking at writing a project proposal. It is going to describe the perfect proposal and how to write one your client will say yes to. Before you dive into today's post, there are a few things you'll need to help you write a project proposal. Some of the things you will need in this post are any notes you've taken while meeting with your client, your client intake form, project scope, and budget.

Why are project proposals so important?

Proposals might sound confusing to new freelancers, but everything you've been doing so far in Skillcrush 300 has been building up to this moment. Project proposals are important to freelancers and require all this work for the simple reason that clients use them to decide if you are the right fit for the job. Since proposals are a huge influence on you getting hired, it is important that you bring everything you have to the table.

That doesn't mean showing off your brand personality or having the most accurate estimates. Proposals are a way of showing clients how you are addressing the things your client needs and what clients can expect with working with you. In order to do this, the proposal really needs to focus on the client and the project at hand.

If the client intake process is like mise en place, project proposals are the point where chefs can finally start cooking. At this point, chefs take all the mise en place and put it together to make the recipe. In freelancing, freelancers are just like chefs by taking all the prep they have done and putting it together into the project proposal.

So far you've been gathering information about the project and getting estimates. Now it is just combining everything together. Although project proposals aren't edible, they are a nicely packaged summary of what the project process will be like if you are hired.

Proposals are essential for every client regardless of your client owns a business or is your next-door neighbor. They may seem like lots of work and there will be the temptation to skip, but you shouldn't do it. Having a proposal prepared is something that is a good thing to have in the future in case you need it. Skillcrush shares five good reasons why, but I've condensed them into two below.

1. Everyone stays on the same page!

The moral of the client intake process is staying on the same page. This often reappears on the posts so far. Once again it is appearing here. Proposals are a great way to staying on the same page with your client and everything is clear between you two.

They are life vests for freelancers and clients because they are all about the details. Proposals have lots of details. These details are what make everything clear between both parties about the project. Everyone knows what they are supposed to do when deadlines are, and what should happen if specific situations happen. This will prevent scope creep from happening, a situation that can sneak up if freelancers aren't careful.

Scope creep is when a project becomes way bigger than what is originally agreed upon. It often starts when one simple innocent request. This request might seem like nothing now, but it can easily take you off the course of your project later. It also means more problems which can hurt both clients.

You'll find during the project process that your proposal is going to act as a reference for you and your client. So if there are any questions or problems that do pop up during the process, both parties can turn to the proposal to revisit what was agreed upon for these situations. That means everyone stays focused on the objectives and keeps the project going smoothly as possible. Think of proposals as a written version of a reality check.

2. It is evidence of what kind of freelancer you are.

Proposals are a great way of showing off what kind of freelancer you are. Proposals are evidence of how professional you are. There is no right or wrong way to write a proposal since every project is going to be different. They also evolve as your brand evolves and you get more experience working with clients.

So don't be surprised if one proposal might be a different length than another or your proposal style changes through each new experience. We'll be diving into proposal templates later in this post and how they can help you write an amazing proposal, but the thing you must remember is that the copy isn't the only thing your client will be paying attention to. The way your proposal is organized and set up is also going to impact a client's decision to hire you.

There are two secrets to be professional in your proposal. First, be consistent as much as possible. This doesn't just mean making sure your proposal design matches the rules and guides you set up. It also means making sure the tone of your proposal matches the tone on your website.

Second, use personal touches to make your client feel special. Skillcrush recommends writing your proposal so it feels like you are talking to your client. This doesn't just mean writing it in a way your client will understand. It also includes ways of showing your client how your proposal fits her needs.

What's the deal about proposal templates?

During this lesson of Skillcrush 300, Skillcrush introduces students to a proposal template created to help students write their first proposal. Although Skillcrush provides students with a template, you can use a proposal template to help you write your own proposal. There are tons of proposal templates online. Just do a google search and you can find tons of results with many options being free.

One thing everyone needs to remember about proposals is that they are just a starting point. You don't just fill in the proposal with all your information and send it to your client. Templates may give you a head start, but a good proposal matches your brand's tone and style.

So you will want to make sure things are consistent yet personalized so the client feels that this is tailored to their business. Templates may not look the same, but there are a few items that often reappear on every template. If you plan on writing a proposal without a template, you can use this list as a guide to help you.

Proposal templates are similar to writing an essay for a high school or college class. So I'm going to walk you through these similarities in a way you often learned how to write an essay.

The "introduction" of a proposal

When I use to write essays in high school and college, I had to use a particular setup that included my name, class/course, and the date I wrote the essay. This setup can be found on a project proposal through the way freelancers write down the proposal details. Although these details will vary for different freelancers, most proposals will have you include your name, your client's name, and two dates. One date is the date the proposal is written while the other is the expiration date of the proposal.

Expiration dates might seem like an odd thing to have on a proposal, but this is a tip Skillcrush as well as other freelancers often use on their proposals. This date keeps both parties accountable in keeping communication. That means proposals can't languish in limbo for long amounts of time then cashed in anytime the client wants to. When there is an expiration date, a client knows how long the proposal is good for.

Besides the proposal details, freelancers often include a project overview. This is the thesis statement or the call to action of this proposal. Although this summary is short, your goal in the overview is to show your client that you understand the project and the goals they want to accomplish. When it comes to writing your project overview, you want to be clear on what the project goals are and what the project will look like when the process ends.

The "body" of the proposal

Essays often have body paragraphs that outline the steps to address everything in your thesis or call to action. In a proposal, these are all the details that both parties need to know while working together. The first item that appears in this section is the project scope.

You will want to break down the project into phases of how to complete work. The number of phases will vary for every project and freelancer, but Skillcrush recommends having a maximum of 4 phases. They suggest their students stick to 2-3.

You won't just be including the project phases. The overall timeline of the project needs to be clear from when deadlines are going to be and who is responsible for contributing what parts of the project. This includes any deliverables or things the client will receive.

The scope isn't the only other item found here. The budget can be found in this section. It doesn't just outline the total cost of the project.

You will also address how you would like to be paid. Freelancers do this by having payment milestones. This protects you and ensures you have some money coming in during the process.

The "conclusion" of the proposal

At the end of the proposal is the closing. The closing doesn't have to be very long, but its function is a similar way a closing paragraph works on an essay. The closing in a proposal can include a confidential notice and your contact information.

Now it is time to start writing your proposal!

We've covered the elements of a proposal. Now it is time for you to start putting everything together. This might sound intimidating since there are a lot of parts with many requiring lots of details.

In this lesson, Skillcrush sets up specific steps students should taking to tackling a project proposal. First, you need to find a proposal template you like or layout where each element of the proposal is going to go. Once you've decided what method you want to use, start with customizing your proposal.

This is where you add your logo and brand colors. You want to use this step as an opportunity to make sure your voice comes through. One of the ways to make sure everything stays cohesive and consistent is by keeping your website close by. You can use your website to compare your proposal and see if they match in tone.

It is time to start adding the content! Start filling in all the information in the sections on your proposal. You want to use your client intake form and scoping spreadsheet here.

Once all the information is in the right places, then you can start editing and customizing the proposal copy to match your brand. The last thing you want to do is check for spelling and grammar errors.

How to Deliver Your Proposal

Once you've finished writing your proposal, you might be tempted to just send your proposal and move onto the next step. Yet there are a few last things you need to know before you send your proposal to your client. In most cases, you'll be sending your proposal via e-mail.

Make sure you send your proposal as a PDF file. Before you make a PDF file, use this as an opportunity to double-check your spelling, grammar, and other final changes. Skillcrush provides students with an e-mail template to help them write this e-mail to clients, but here are some tips to help you write about your proposal to your client.

First, keep this message short yet clear. Skillcrush encourages students to think of this message as a summary of your summary. The next thing you need in this message is the next steps of the process. Many freelancers use this as an opportunity to schedule a meeting to discuss the proposal in detail or in some cases even start the project.

Once you've finished writing your message, just take a few minutes to proofread and make any last-minute changes. Then you just need to send your message to your client. All you can do now is just wait until your client responds.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You have just written your proposal for your client. If you haven't written it yet, that is ok too. What does matter is that you know what you know the elements that make up a project proposal and how you can customize it so it stays consistent with your brand.

Now that the proposal is written, it is time to present your proposal. Remember that meeting you are setting up with your client? This is where you'll be presenting your proposal and go into detail about the proposal you just wrote.

Many freelancers do this to explain some of the things in your proposal and answer any questions. The next lesson of Skillcrush 300 will prepare you for this meeting with tips and strategies to help you.

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