In the freelance world, business proposals are greetings cards and business cards wrapped into one. They’re a firm hello for a potential client that showcases what you can do and why your client should go for your proposal over everyone else’s.
In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know when putting together your next business proposal. We’ll cover everything from what to include in your proposal template and some best practices for writing a winning business proposal.
We’ll close out with a free template you can use for future proposals and some frequently asked questions on the topic.
Let’s get into the details of your business proposal and get you winning that client!
A business proposal is a formal document that introduces and outlines who you are, what you do, and what that can do for your potential client.
A business proposal template is your go-to skeleton structure for all future business proposals. It includes all of your business essentials you can rinse and repeat and leaves you space to adapt the template as per each client and their needs.
But, what do you need to keep in your business proposal template? We’re pleased you asked. Read on.
Note: If you’re looking to up your business game and start delivering on the fundamentals quicker than ever before, sign up for Bonsai for free and get instant access to everything you need.
Every business proposal is different. However, there’s a lot of information about your business and skillsets that can be reused. The good thing about a business proposal is that it’s not a publicly available document, it doesn’t affect your business’s SEO, and the only people who see it are those you send it to.
This means you can keep a relatively large amount of information the same and leave yourself space to make any tweaks. Just don’t forget to do them! There’s nothing worse than receiving a proposal and seeing another company’s name halfway through the document.
Here’s what you need to include:
Say hello with a bang using a cover page your client will remember you with. This cover page is truly your first impression. It helps build trust, build brand awareness, and get things started on the right foot.
Keep your cover page short, include a relevant visual if you can, and make sure you include everyone’s contact details. It’s also not a bad idea to include your company’s tagline to start showcasing your mission and getting your brand remembered.
Win readers’ attention with your cover page, and give them just enough info and excitement to keep reading.
Your executive summary is your TL;DR = too long; didn’t read. It briefly wraps up the contents of your business proposal. It should include a table of contents, letting clients know where they need to go for what information.
There’s a high chance your business proposal will change hands in the decision-making process, so make it easy for readers to bring themselves up to speed with what’s on the table and jump to the section relevant to them.
Now we’ve got that covered, a short paragraph or two giving the reader a better overview of who you are and what you do is a great trust and relationship builder.
Don’t go into too much detail here; this proposal still needs to revolve around your client. However, let them know there are humans behind the branding, let them know the mission and vision of your business, and inspire them with any CSR initiatives you may be running.
Continuing on the human-to-human theme—it’s a good one, trust us. It’s time to introduce your team if you work with one. Headshots are a good idea at this point.
People can relate to faces over fonts, so match those headshots up with names, roles & responsibilities, and perhaps a line or two from the team member. At the same time, if you’ve got quite a large agency going, you don’t need to introduce everyone on your team. Introduce those team members that are relevant to the project at hand, and those that are most likely to have face-time with your client.
This chapter of your business proposal template needs to be in flux. We recommend that you switch out your portfolio of work to reflect the business you’re proposing to, what that business does, and what services they’re interested in.
Showcase work relevant to the project at hand, but avoid showcasing any work that may be a conflict of interest.
If you’re sending your business proposal digitally then it’s always a good idea to include links out to your portfolio, with a short summary of your work within the proposal itself. Give potential clients just enough information to understand and appreciate your portfolio, but don’t overwhelm them with information. If they want to read more, make sure the CTA to do so is clear.
Next up, all of your business proposal templates need to include project scope. What’s included in your scope of work for the prospective client, and what isn’t. Known as ‘scope creep,’ if you skip on what’s not included within your agreed service package, then you run the risk of your client pushing you for more work you weren’t accounting for, and feeling obliged to deliver.
If you provide a niche service, then there’s a high chance that your project scope will remain roughly the same. So, streamline your proposal process by leaving in the essential information you can transfer from one potential client to the next.
Every business proposal needs to include a project schedule. In what timeframe can you deliver your proposed solution, and what are the project milestones along the way? Although a business proposal is your chance at winning a client, you need to keep this chapter as realistic as possible.
It’s all well and good raising eyebrows with an impressive project timeline for your business project. However, if you can’t deliver on those timelines, then you’ll lose clients down the road and damage your brand’s reputation.
The visual example we’ve provided above makes your project schedule scannable, and avoids any confusion. The whitespace helps the reader concentrate, and it perfectly manages expectations on each project milestone.
This brings us to deliverables. What are you delivering with your business proposal? All of your business proposals need to cover the end deliverable, as well as any KPIs or micro-deliverables that will showcase you’re well on your way to a result.
Try to assign a way to track the success of your deliverables and quantify your efforts into data.
For example, if your prospective client wants to “build trust” with their target audience, then your business proposal ideas for building trust need to be accompanied by quantifiable ways to show you’re hitting that goal. In this case, this could look like fewer negative reviews, more sales flow completions, or a larger social media following.
All business proposal templates need a chapter on pricing and payment. Whether you’re sending unsolicited business proposals or a requested business proposal outline by your potential client, you need to include your pricing and payment methods.
An effective business proposal is a part of your business’s sales process, and it needs to be treated as so. You wouldn’t have a sales process without actually discussing cost with any other product or service, so don’t do yourself the disservice here.
Be upfront about what you charge, be firm in your payment terms, and stick to your word. Your client will respect you for it and have more faith in your services because of it.
We’re big fans of the below example for its productization of services. Here, you’re giving your clients options, broken down clearly, so that they can find something within budget, and worth your time. It’s important to get your costs in your proposal so you know that you’re at least pitching in the same ballpark as your clients and can avoid any awkward conversations further down the line.
The “next steps” chapter is not something unique to a business proposal template. It should be a must-have chapter in every proposal template you write: from a sales proposal template to marketing proposals, solicited proposals or not—they all need this CTA.
What do you want your potential clients to do next? What does your onboarding process look like for new clients? Give a clear overview of what’s next, so the client knows that the ball’s in their court.
That’s everything you need to know to include in your proposal template to help sway potential clients. However, it doesn’t stop there, whether you’re putting together unsolicited proposals, or writing one for a particular project, there are best practices worth noting. Read on.
A few best practices emerge with every well-written business proposal sent on Bonsai. To understand these best practices, we looked at some of the following templates:
Business proposals need a mix of quality writing, alongside succinct story-telling, statistics, and visuals. New clients look for a sturdy business plan, a trustworthy company, and someone that can go beyond ‘talking the talk.’
Here’s what we found as a common success factor for business proposals:
A solid business proposal understood the potential client’s problem and addressed it head-on with a unique value proposition. People don’t hire nice-to-haves; they hire need-to-haves, so frame your proposal template as a must-have solution to a business problem the client perhaps didn’t even know existed.
If you want your business proposal to be picked over the rest, then you’ll need to stand out, time and time again. Look at your proposal template as a good branding campaign. Drive home your company name, your name, and your USPs.
You can do this with your copy, visuals, and an innovative structure to your proposal template. Remember, once is not enough. Drive your brand home and leave your business at the top of your clients’ minds when they walk away from their desks.
Remember the executive summary we mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s an important part of every proposal template, but it’s more than that. It should be a frame of mind for your entire proposal.
Remember, you’re only pitching your business at this point; you’re not laying down the full plan of action.
It’s a fine line, we know, between under and over-delivering. But, if you can keep this mindset throughout the piece, you’ll give the client just enough to have faith in your services and won’t lose too much time putting together your proposal.
No matter how great you are with words, visual aids will always be able to lift them further. Seriously consider where you can use visual aids within your proposal to express your point, highlight an example, break up your copy, or leave a strong brand presence.
You can also transform what would usually be blocks of copy into visual blocks. Things like pricing, testimonials, or ‘meet the team’ sections will all benefit from a graphic element to help your proposal ping, while remaining on brand.
Successful proposals are personal. That means they’re personal to you, and they’re personal to the client. Remember to keep it this way throughout your proposal workflow. It’s best to use the company’s name wherever possible, alongside the person you’re addressing it to.
Take things a step further by showcasing you’ve done your research on the company, mention noteworthy things they’ve worked on in the past that are relevant to the project at hand, showcase you’ve done your homework on their competition, and win more business by staying true to your client’s problem.
Right! That’s all you need to know on winning potential clients over with quality proposals. Take these best practices into account when writing your next proposal and you’re onto a winning recipe for a healthy, profit-bound business. Next up, let’s take a look at how to create a proposal with Bonsai.
Whether you’re looking for a sales proposal template, a business proposal template, or something else, Bonsai has got it all. In a few clicks, you’ll get access to over 400 free proposal templates, and there’s no limit to the amount you can use.
Sign up to Bonsai today to download your free project proposal template and more, save yourself time, look professional, and keep winning those clients you deserve.
Plus, Bonsai is so much more than proposal software. When you sign up to Bonsai, you’ll also get access to invoice templates, contract templates, agreement templates, time-tracking tools, everything you need to take your business up a gear.
Whether you’re writing a solicited proposal, project proposal, sales proposals, or something else, here are the top questions we see on proposal templates.
A business proposal must be short, sweet, and give just enough information to leave your potential client wanting more. New business can be hard to win; however, once you nail writing a project proposal, you’ll find that new business comes easier every time.
A simple proposal template can be as little as a one-page proposal. However, one page rarely provides enough space to add any real depth to your proposal. Keep your proposal around 5-10 pages, and ensure there’s plenty of white space within those pages, so you don’t overwhelm your reader with text.
Business proposal templates are simple to create if you’re using Bonsai. In fact, they’re already created for you. All you need to do is select the type of template you need, fill in the blanks, and send it to your client—all without ever leaving the Bonsai platform.