Monday, June 28, 2010

Proposal Writing Basics

Recently I’ve been talking with a potential client from a local mid-size business about providing some writing services. I’m learning that the process can be a long one. There are so many layers of approval required in order to get a contract signed and get started.

Early on this prospect requested that I send a proposal for the intended project. I’d drafted proposals before, but I wanted to make sure that I covered everything they would be looking for. A proposal for a corporation has to contain enough information to meet the requirements of each decision maker. After a little over two weeks of deliberation, the client contacted me to inform me that they wanted me to handle the on going project. Here is the very simple step-by-step process I followed:

Ask lots of questions
. This is so important because you want to show in your proposal that you understand what the client needs. If there is anything you are unsure about, it’s best to ask as many questions as possible before drafting and submitting the proposal.


Summarize the project. This is important because it is basically revealing exactly what you are charging for. Take all of the information you have received from the prospect and write a summary detailing the project expectations. When you create the summary, it will help you clarify whether or not you have a clear understanding of what’s expected. Your client can review the summary and contact you if there is any information missing.

I’ve found that not having all of the necessary information for a project is what typically leads to frustration on both sides.

Provide a break down of how you plan to handle the project. Make a list of everything the client has requested as well as your standard work procedure. Be as thorough as possible. This information shows the prospect that you know what you’re doing and that you’re thorough.

Depending on the size or length of the project, you may need to divide the project into several phases, or milestones. You can request payment for each phase completed.

Establish a timeline. If you need to divide the project into phases, assign delivery and payment dates accordingly. If the client is looking to speed the process along, be as realistically as possible about what is expected. You should also be completely clear about what will be expected from the client in order to honor their rush request.

Estimating the time needed to complete a project can be difficult when you are first starting out a s a freelancer. Eventually estimating the time needed to complete projects becomes much easier, especially if you become a specialist.

Establish the rate. Keep in mind that all of the details provided in your proposal support the rate you charge. I calculate the time that will be spent working on the project with my hourly rate to provide a flat rate. Depending on the conversations you’ve had with the prospect about pricing, you can offer alternative rates. For instance, if the client is dealing with a limited budget, you can offer a more basic service (e.g. editing and proofreading website content instead of writing all new content) as a lower rate option. This can be a good strategy because it shows flexibility and a willingness to negotiate without actually having to lower your rates.

End with a call to action. Wrap up the project by letting the client know what will happen next if they decide to go forward. Let them know what they will need to do to get started including any upfront payments and how the payment and contract agreements should be sent.

Proofread and edit before you send. Your proposal should be proofread thoroughly so that it has no misspelled words or grammatical errors. Think of it as a representation of the service you plan to provide.

1 comment:

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