Sending out a business proposal template or a simple quote template can be an intimidating and even downright scary process. This goes for new freelancers sending out their first business proposal, but also for experienced business owners who are applying for their first gig with a big-name company.
Freelancing is getting increasingly competitive in some fields. According to Forbes, it’s estimated that 50% of the workforce is going to be made up of freelancers by 2027! That means it’s becoming more and more important to figure out how to make a business proposal that stands out if you want to grow your business.
At Bonsai, we want to help freelancers make their lives a little bit easier (after all, you’re juggling all the hats). Creating a winning, convincing basic proposal will only get easier with time, but the most important thing is to first know the necessary steps. So, without further ado, here are our six steps to writing a winning proposal, each and every time.
Before you figure out how to make a business proposal, it’s important to understand what it is and what it’s used for.
A business proposal is a professional document that you send to a potential client. It tells them about the products and services you offer, specifically in relation to a need or problem that they have, and is your chance to explain why you’re the best freelancer for the job. (If you're wondering what actually does make you the best freelancer for the job, maybe a branding questionnaire can help.)
Business proposals are usually solicited, which means they’re being sent in response to a job posting or a proposal request. This is also often called an RFP, or a ‘request for proposal’. However, you might also sometimes send an unsolicited proposal if you identify a problem the recipient might not be aware of; or, if you have a unique solution that would simply make their business operate better.
Not every job opportunity you come across is going to be deserving of a business proposal. A brand ambassador proposal template or a PR proposal template, for example, should take you a considerable amount of time when done right, and you don’t want to be wasting that effort on clients that aren’t the right fit for you and your business.
Before you go too in-depth with your proposal process, you’ll want to skim-read the job posting or RFP to identify whether sending a proposal is worth your time. There are three key things you want to identify:
Only after answering these 3 questions should you move on to the next steps for making a business proposal, and to ask yourself if you should consider spec work.
If you have decided this is indeed a job you want to submit a project management proposal or a Wordpress website proposal template for, now is the time to go through the job posting in more detail. Make sure you look to see if the client has attached any relevant documents that could help you, such as a creative brief if you’re a designer.
Read very carefully and ask yourself some questions. You want to identify the client's underlying problems and issues, not just the deliverables they’re looking for. This approach will help you think outside the box and come up with your own solutions - possibly even solutions your client hasn’t thought of! They’ll appreciate your creativity and ability to make suggestions. Pull from your previous work when thinking of solutions.
This is also the time to make sure you identify what you need on your end and outline the project scope. Would you need to bring on sub contractors? Will you incur any costs for resources? How will you estimate your labor costs? If you need any help figuring out what to charge, Bonsai has freelance rate databases for designers and developers and for marketing consultants.
Now it’s time to figure out what sections you want (or need) to include in your business proposal. You want to cover all your bases and provide all the necessary information, without overwhelming your client. Try to keep your proposal as short as possible, otherwise you may inundate them with too much information (and they’ll pass you over for a less complicated proposal).
According to Business Insider, there are 10 key things you’ll want to include in your business proposal: two testimonials (one in the header, one in the footer); an opening statement; a scope of work statement and detailed description; a description of deliverables; “investment” details (aka pricing); a return on investment statement; a call-to-action statement; and a thank you statement.
While this is great advice, be sure to assess each opportunity individually and alter your business proposal accordingly. Once you have this outline in place, you can save time on your future business proposals by creating templates in the Bonsai freelance proposals tool.
Now that you’ve decided which elements to include, your next step in figuring out how to make a business proposal is to actually write the content you need. Pay particular attention to your cover letter. This is often the first thing your client will read, and it might make the difference as to whether or not they decide to continue reading your proposal.
If you know who will be reading your business proposal, make sure to address them by name and don’t hesitate to make your writing conversational. Finding the right tone of voice is key, as you don’t want to alienate them. Think about how you relate to the client and the situation in which you’re submitting your proposal.
Is this someone you’ve worked with before, or a client operating in a more creative industry? If so, get creative and personable with your tone to keep things light, approachable and casual. If you’re sending a proposal to a government body or industry leader, you may want to be more formal to appear more professional.
Either way, you want your writing to be persuasive and clear and you want to use language that positions you as a leader in your industry: someone who is knowledgeable and able to deliver what the client needs. This article from business author Mike Michalowicz, gives some really good tips on writing a highly persuasive proposal.
Before they start reading what you’ve delivered, the way any proposal looks will make a very important first impression, be it an animation proposal template or even an artist residency proposal template. Even if you’re not a designer or are not operating within a creative industry (like finance or accounting), it’s still really important to consider the design of your proposal.
You’ll want to identify how to make a business proposal that looks professional, clean and easy to read. Here are some great examples you can use as a guide. Make sure your chosen design reflects your brand (like its colours and logo) and uses design elements that are memorable without detracting away from its key content. The Bonsai proposal tool can help you create a professional-looking proposal in seconds, including elements like your logo and a custom background image.
Congrats - now that you know how to make a business proposal, it’s time to pull everything together and send it off. Be sure to give your proposal a once-over before you send it to the client and, whenever possible, send it to someone you trust for a second look.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to send a follow up email after the proposal! You’re not bugging them, and in fact the client will expect your message. Bonsai includes a read receipt function, so you know for sure that your client has seen your proposal and can follow up at the right time. Check out these great follow-up email templates from HubSpot as a starting point.
Want to use an all-in-one freelancing tool that allows you to write, design and send professional looking proposals in minutes? Try Bonsai today - for free!
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?