This post originally was written for Decoded.com in July of 2014, but has been republished on my blog as they’ve changed the website’s structue.
As a first time business owner, writing a proposal for acquiring clients was a brand new concept to me. In college, I was taught how to write a public relations campaign, but not a proposal. (A skill I never knew I needed.) As it turns out, I became a business owner and there were a lot of things I needed to learn–quick. After writing quite a few proposals, the following 9 items have the most impact when securing new clients:
- Throw out the rules. You can structure this how you want.
It’s 2014. The rules of how business should be handled don’t have to apply to you. You’re offering your creative services, which means you should deliver quality work on the terms agreed upon by you and your client.
- With that in mind, structure your proposal to sell itself.
Every part of your proposal should reinforce your ability to provide the best value to your potential client. The case for your services should be a relief to the client instead of extra work. Think in the mind of your client, and resolve problems they have or may face.
*Bonus tip* Letterhead looks clean and professional.
- Begin by outlining the end goal.
Any business leader will want to know the bottom line– what’s in it for them? Why are you worth it? This can be more general than your objectives, but should outline the end benefit.
- Break the goal down into objectives (or smaller tasks).
How will you specifically accomplish this goal? What methods will you use to ensure you’re always contributing to the end goal? These are also good benchmarks that your potential client can see as benchmarks until the completed project (or next evaluation).
- (Optional) Include who you’re impacting.
For PR/marketing/advertising services, this is essential. The business/person you’re proposing will want to know if you have their target audience or customer in mind. For app/web development, logo design or other design projects, you may not need to outline the group you’re targeting, but it may be beneficial to outline what colors/techniques you use will represent for the company’s image.
- Give enough detail to show your expertise, but keep the goodies to yourself.
Show the potential client how you can accomplish their work but be careful about explaining everything. They’re hiring you because they can’t do your work, but if you tell them how to do it, they can save money and try it themselves.
- Include timelines and pricing.
What’s the first thing you do when shopping around now? Look for the best deal in the quickest time (in a perfect world), right? If you’ve already had an initial meeting, it’s best to be upfront about the time you’ll spend on the project and how much it will cost.
*Bonus tip* Include a date your proposal expires. This may seem harsh but if you have a proposal hanging in the air for a month or two, you’ll wish you had put an expiration date.
- Don’t forget to supply the advantages of your services.
Are you quicker than your competition? Do you have lower overhead, better quality or other competitive advantages? Including these right on your proposal will remind the reviewer why they chose to ask about your services in the first place or may seal the deal.
- Include a confidentiality clause.
Even if you don’t outline every detail, you’ll need to protect yourself against having this company use your information or supplying it to someone else.
You can subtract or add to this list as you see fit for your company and your client. For my PR company, I tend to add strategies and tactics after objectives, as well as two packages to give potential clients different pricing options. You have the ability to be as creative as you like with your proposal or keep it simple and to the point.
What strategies work for you when writing a proposal?