How to write a work proposal in 6 simple steps
Until you make it big in the freelancing sector (and sometimes even after), you’ll need to pitch to clients for work. But it doesn’t matter how great of a freelancer you are in your industry or field if you can’t convince clients that you’re the right man or woman for the job. Proposals templates are your opportunities to get work that can elevate you in the freelancing industry and ensure you make your bills on time.
However, there are good proposals and bad proposals. If you want to snag all the jobs you can, you’ll need to learn how to write a work proposal well and consistently. Don’t know how to write a service proposal? Here’s a rundown.
1. Why do your work proposals matter?
Why even bother learning how to write a work proposal?
Your proposals essentially serve as outlines for your project and the value that it can provide to your client. Think of it from a prospective client’s perspective; they don’t know your real talent, even if they take a quick look at your portfolio, and they may not be 100% sure if you’ll be the right freelancer for a given job.
Your proposal has the potential to set you apart from other freelancers that might be proposing similar gigs. Even better, it clearly outlines your project’s scope, budget, and deliverables, which makes negotiating over contracts and extra work easier if you draft the proposal properly.
In a way, your proposal sets the tone and stakes for a given project. A good proposal more often precedes a lucrative and reputation-boosting job than not. So learning how to write a work proposal or job proposal is critical.
2. Writing a work proposal – understand the key elements
How do you write a proposal for a job? You need a few basics. Every proposal regardless of the job or industry will need to contain these key elements.
2.1. Summary or pitch
Your pitch (also sometimes called the executive summary) is the part of the proposal designed to capture the attention of your potential client. It has all your best work proposal ideas. This will get them excited about your project and ignite their imagination, while also providing a quick look at what you can provide in terms of practical work or value.
Your pitch doesn’t need to be too long, but it should be descriptive and optimistic (within reason). All in all, the key goal of the pitch is to motivate your client to hire you and not the others who might be petitioning the client for similar work.
2.2. History of work
When considering how to write a design proposal, consider your previous work history.
Your proposal should also contain a short history or miniature portfolio of your previous successful projects. Naturally, these projects should be as close in scope and deliverables to the project you’re applying for as possible, although you can use any good work in a pinch.
More importantly, the historical part of a proposal establishes precedent and shows how former clients were pleased with what you delivered. Nothing shows a client you’re trustworthy more than former completed work, especially as it shows you can manage multiple projects at once.
It’s also a good idea to add a sentence or two describing how your previous work reflects on your ability to complete the advertised job.
2.3. Overview of needs and solutions
As you think about how to write a work proposal for a new client, think of why you’re pitching to them in the first place.
Every good proposal also needs a quick summary of the requirements of the job and your proposed solutions. Restating things in this way shows that you understand the job at hand and have already come up with a general project outline that you can deliver on. It’s one thing to say you can handle a job; it’s another to say how you will handle a job.
2.4. Determine authorities
Next, make sure that your proposal covers decision-making on both your side and the client’s side. State clearly that you’ll take responsibility for the work (or, if you’re working for a team, describe who that person will be).
2.5. Additional information
Lastly, you can add any ancillary work proposal ideas or information to your proposal. For instance, details about your project’s idea or which team members will be involved can be added here for further client clarity and peace of mind.
One great way you can fast-track the proposal writing process is to use a freelancer tool suite like Bonsai. Our proposal tool, in particular, is a phenomenal resource that allows you to create, send and track various proposals to clients professionally and easily; it provides you with flexible templates and customization tools to make your proposal stand out and reflect your unique brand at the same time. If you're ready to experiment with this feature and the many other integrated ones, sign up for a free trial of Bonsai.
3. Writing for your audience
One big thing to remember when learning how to write a service proposal: always tailor writing to the client.
Whether you’ll make your proposals freehand or with a tool like Bonsai, make sure that you write the proposal for your audience. Don’t just copy/paste a basic work proposal and fill in the blanks. Demonstrate that you understand what your potential client is looking for by adding details about the industry, explaining elements of the industry you’ve already mastered, and more.
Furthermore, be sure to tailor your writing style to the client based on your information. You might already know from past jobs that they prefer a personal approach as opposed to a more professional voice, for example.
4. How to write a proposal for a job – 6 step outline
Wondering how to write a work proposal from scratch? Here’s a basic outline you can use for the majority of your work proposals.
Step one: define and understand the problem
Firstly, define your problem at the beginning of the proposal – this should be what you write immediately after your cordial introduction. Your client isn’t looking to mince words. State what you aim to provide their business by showing a problem or gap in their coverage. Then, show that you understand the problem by explaining how it hurts their business model. This creates an opportunity that you can use.
Step two: explain your solution
This step will have you present your solution in a concise and actionable way. Start by providing a general overview of your project and specifically highlight how it will solve the problems that you described above.
Another good idea is to anticipate questions or objections to the project by having the answers written out in this section already. Furthermore, it’s an even better idea to explain the larger impact of your project – what long-term value can you provide a client? Use facts and research-based data whenever possible, as this sways decision-makers better than pathos-powered arguments.
Step three: define your success criteria and all deliverables
Deliverables matter, whether someone’s delivering a marketing pitch or talking about real, physical products.
Your proposal should next define your success and be specific about your deliverables (i.e. any actual content you’ll deliver to the client). This includes outlining your delivery date, the number of words, pages, amount of site code, or any other quantity of product you plan to produce and hand over.
Keep this well organized and summarize at the bottom of the section so the client can skim when returning to the proposal if they are considering multiple.
Step four: outline your plan and budget
Go into more detail with your solution by thoroughly outlining your plan in a step-by-step manner. It’s also a good idea to summarize every step with a budget, then present a final proposed budget at the bottom of this section. Breaking down the budget this way shows the client what every dollar they spend gets them.
Step five: summarize
Do another summary and bring all your work proposal ideas together, restating the aforementioned problem, your proposed solution, and the project intended to provide that solution. Detail your budget and your step-by-step process and delivery date.
Step six: don’t forget to proofread!
Learning how to write a work proposal is one thing. Making sure it’s airtight is another.
Many beginning freelancers don't proofread their proposals before sending them over. This is a terrible idea. Every proposal should be thoroughly proofread to check for typos, tone, and language. Remember, your proposal is also often a first impression, and you only get those once. It helps to go over every sentence you write and make sure the tone or sound of the proposal is particularly well-suited for the client at hand.
There’s no getting around it: learning how to write a proposal for a job takes effort. But the time you spend learning to write a proposal well will result in more (and better) jobs and more satisfied clients. If you're ready to take the next step and explore how Bonsai can help, now is the time to sign up for a free 2-week trial!