If you have experience in the business world, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with proposals and what makes them effective. However, countless up-and-coming freelancers and entrepreneurs have no idea how to write proposals for their prospective clients.
Unfortunately, even the best product or service can’t speak for itself. If you don’t “wow” your clients with a winning business proposal, you might find your gigs are few and far between.
So how do you write a business proposal that will impress even the most critical client?
It might be easier than you think!
What Is a Business Proposal?
First, let’s explain a bit about the form and function of a good business proposal.
Not all business opportunities call for a formal proposal. But when they do, failing to deliver an impactful proposal can instantly kill your chance of landing a job.
The purpose of a business proposal is to describe your services to an organization or individual looking for a particular service or solution to a problem. Sometimes, the prospective client will already know what they want from the project. Other times, though, it’s up to the proposal writer to come up with an appropriate solution and convince the client of its worth.
In other words, a business proposal is a detailed, written sales pitch.
You might be reading through this description and think that all projects involve some type of proposal.
Technically, you’re not wrong. But in this context, we’re talking about a formal, detailed report rather than a quick email or phone call.
Not all proposals are written exactly the same. However, there are several things that all quality proposal documents need to include.
Everything You Need for a Signature-Grabbing Business Proposal
The exact format and contents of your proposal will vary depending on your industry and services. Your proposals might even vary greatly from one client to the other.
Regardless of the exact details, including the following elements in your business proposals will guarantee a good impression with any prospective client:
1. Title page
First impressions are key in any business interaction. And, in many ways, a formal business proposal is one of the most important interactions you’ll have with a potential client.
Whether your proposal is printed on paper or delivered via a PDF, the title page will be the very first thing the recipient sees.
Yes, your title page should be attractive and professional. But appearance isn’t everything.
You should also ensure your title page includes important information that your client will need to know at a glance, including:
- Your name or company’s name
- The date of submission
- The proposal author’s name (if different from your own)
- Your prospective client’s name
2. Cover letter
The best business proposals don’t jump right into the nitty-gritty information. After all, your prospective client probably wants to know a bit about your or your company before moving forward.
Including a friendly, yet professional, cover letter at the start of your business proposal is an excellent way to introduce yourself. Plus, knowing a little about you or your company can help your client feel connected and build trust.
3. Table of contents
Since most business proposals will be at least a few pages in length, it’s always a good idea to include a concise table of contents.
This part might not seem like a necessity at first. But when your prospective client is later comparing your proposal with other candidates’, being able to easily flip to the right page will leave a good impression and show your attention-to-detail.
4. Executive summary
Your proposal’s executive summary is a brief description of who you are and why you’re submitting the proposal in the first place.
Each executive summary will be a little bit different. But, in general, you want to explain your or your company’s mission and why you are reaching out to the client in question.
You can treat this section as the thesis statement of your business proposal document as a whole.
5. Proposed solution
Now is the time to dive into your proposed solution.
In this section, you want to show that you understand the client’s needs and desired outcome as much as possible. You also want to draw connections between these needs and what you can do to meet them.
Think of this part of your proposal as looking at the big picture. Here is where you’ll explain how you expect your services or product to benefit the reader and how they will solve any existing problems the reader is experiencing.
6. Services and deliverables
After describing your proposal in more general terms, you need to list the details.
Any good business proposal should include a section that outlines exactly what services and deliverables the client can expect. At the end of the project in question, your client should be able to look back through this section and check each item off as delivered.
If you’re drafting a business proposal for a client that wants to improve their social media presence, this section is where you would list things like:
- Initial assessments you will make
- Type of accounts you will manage
- Number of posts per week
These are just a few examples of things that would be included here. But they should help you form a general understanding of this section.
7. Timeline and rates
On top of what type of services and results you plan to deliver, your prospective client will also want to know when they can expect these results and at what price they will come.
Your business proposal should include at least a general outline of your expected timeline and cost for the project. While these terms might be negotiated later on, your client might pass over your proposal altogether if they’re missing.
As with any sales pitch, the best business proposals will include a strong call-to-action in their conclusion.
One of the best ways to seal the deal with a client is to request their signature at the end of your proposal. With their signature in place, you can move forward with the proposal as a contractual agreement.
Ultimately, your call-to-action can be pretty much whatever you like, and you can make it as subtle or as obvious as you prefer. However, giving your prospect an actionable response is key if you want to move the project forward as soon as possible.
How to Write Proposals That “Wow” Your Clients
Including all of the above in your business proposals is a great way to ensure you’re on the right track. But even the most thorough proposal isn’t guaranteed to win your prospective client’s attention.
In addition to following the steps above when crafting your next business proposal, we recommend using these tips to really “wow” your next client:
If your business proposal sounds like it could be cut-and-pasted to any prospective project, throw it out and start over.
The last thing your client wants is a generic proposal that doesn’t actually address their specific scenario. Instead, they want to see carefully worded proposals that clearly understand their problem and outline a viable solution.
No matter what type of project you’re writing a proposal for, clients love to see numbers.
This data could represent the results you expect your client to see from your services. Or they could be results previous clients have seen with similar projects.
However you choose to include data in your proposal, make sure your figures are clear and accurate.
Nothing is quite as boring as a plain text document. To help keep your prospective client’s attention, explore ways to include visuals throughout your proposal.
These visuals could take the form of past projects, mockups for the reader’s project, your headshot, or graphs. Whatever you include, make sure the visual is relevant to the proposal and professional.
If the choice is between a grainy photo and no visual at all, it’s best to keep things plain.
Land Your Next Project Today
Whether you consider yourself a small-time entrepreneur or an industry leader, crafting an expert business proposal could be the difference that lands your next job.
Of course, you don’t want to let your presentation fall short after your proposal is accepted. Small touches, like professional-quality estimates and invoices, will elevate your work above the competition — even when the job comes to an end.
At invoicely, we work with freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses to offer streamlined invoicing, payments, and expense tracking. Combined with a killer business proposal, our services will help you stand out from the crowd and leave behind a great impression with every client you serve.
Learn more about how invoicely can step up your presentation and help you land your next project.