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Learn to write the perfect freelance design proposals

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Craft beautiful branded proposals in seconds with templates from Bonsai.
Craft beautiful branded proposals in seconds with templates from Bonsai.
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Updated on:
December 11, 2022
December 11, 2022
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Craft beautiful branded proposals in seconds with templates from Bonsai.
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Writing a perfect freelance scope of work template or preparing a winning quote template is the heart and soul of getting new business. Without them, it’s terribly difficult to showcase your unique approach to helping them meet their goals. It’s what sets you apart from the competition, and it’s also one of the most dreaded parts of having your own business.

Are you curious as to how successful freelance UX designers, illustrators, and other creatives put together a home-run interior design proposal template or a logo design proposal template that’s more finesse than frustration? Use these tips to build the framework for your next pitch, and you can worry less while you grow your clientele.

Include The Essentials In Your Proposal

Not every freelance design proposal will include every one of these elements, but these are the most common sections to include:

  • Cover page that includes name of services, client name, your name, and date
  • A summary of the understood client needs
  • A summary of how needs will be met via goals and expectations
  • Fee summary
  • Optional additional services
  • Project timeline
  • Next steps
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Signature page to accept or ability to decline/request revisions
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Remember, some projects will not be that complicated and will not need many of these. You will also want to communicate a deadline to accept or decline the proposal. (You don’t want the prospect holding out too long before coming to a decision.) And don't forget to include both parties' signatures using Bonsai's online signature maker.

By enforcing a due date for action, you are valuing your time and ensuring you can keep your sales pipeline moving!

Remember Who It Is About

Yes, you need to really wow them with your knowledge of the industry and how you’ll distinctively capture their vision with a polished project. Before that, however, you need to show them that you know who’s boss. (And it isn’t you.)

Make sure your freelance design proposal starts out by capturing their business needs, their industry, and their specific obstacles. They are, after all, hiring you to help them – not the other way around. Speak language that shows you wouldn’t be there without them.

Get Informed

If you’re increasing your business at all, you’ll be continually learning new things. A branding proposal template is not the appropriate time to reveal that, however. Act confidently in your assessment of their challenges by taking time to research, research, and research some more.

Do some research before writing your freelance design proposal.

What industry-specific solutions can you offer them? How are they going to rise above the competition through this project you build? You should be spending twice as much time researching in preparation for writing the proposal as you spend writing the proposal itself.

Include Case Studies and Client Testimonials

This isn’t a brag session, but it’s wise to backup your ideas with actual proof. Did this same approach bring in extra revenue for another client? Will it be easy to adapt to this prospect’s needs? Have other industry experts vouched for the method through studies, stats, or white papers?

While you shouldn’t treat your proposal as a case study, be OK with pulling out important quotes or stats that show you’ve done your research and that you are on track with a plan that has been proven before. While trailblazing is admirable, it’s also risky. Clients want reassurance you know what you’re doing.

Build Upon What Works

Yes, it’s OK to use design proposal templates. Professionals do it all the time. Just be sure you are customizing it to be the most personal, professional proposal you can possibly create. It’s not a sign of laziness, provided you don’t actually get lazy with the creation.

Freelance Design Proposal template

Bad freelance design proposals built from templates have included sections that don’t apply to the industry, client, or services offered. Other faux pas examples include leaving in filler text (“Lorem ipsum” is a no-no!) and even forgetting to switch out the previous prospect’s company name in the final pitch. Comb through any templates as carefully as if you were writing them yourself.

Break out Your Business Offerings

The best thing you can do in any freelance proposal is really show the value. List out all of the work you’ll be doing, line by line, so that they can see what goes into doing a project. You want to make it hard for them to object to your pricing by providing how much they will get for their money.

Doing this also shows them that you have thought the project through. Listing out “4 hours of research and brainstorming” or “3 hours client feedback” shows that you know what to expect and that you anticipate every step of the project. It gives them a realistic idea of what it will take to get the job done, as well, something that all prospects should have before they accept or reject a proposal.

Give Other Options

In an ideal world, a prospect will tell you what they want, you’ll understand it completely, and your design proposal will be accepted with no questions asked. Unfortunately, that almost never happens. In fact, it’s more likely that a proposal is just the starting point for attempts at negotiation and trying to get more for less. It’s just the nature of the business.

Offer different options in your design proposals.

You can meet these realities head on by providing your ideal situation in a proposal, then also introducing two other options for both service and price. Take one option a level down in service (think a “lite” plan) without some of the bells and whistles that you normally provide but that aren’t essential for the project to be completed. (This could be reporting, for example.)

The other option should be a price up from what you want – often referred to as a “premium” package. This would have all the possible extras you could throw at a project, with premium pricing attached. Be sure that you are providing value for the add-ons, but that they are things you can easily scale and get more money for – without an incredible amount of extra headache. (If you hate doing something that’s unnecessary, it’s best not to even offer it.)

Rinse and Repeat

You should always save all of your proposals, so that you have a template for future work. (Even rejected proposals have good bones for new projects.) If a client comments specifically on a feature of your bid, be sure to mark that for inclusion in new proposals and possibly even bring that section front and center. (I had a proposal include a chart that the prospect just loved. I made sure to push that closer to the front of proposals after that, even spending more time to make it a full-color, in-depth feature.)

A Word on Outsourcing Proposals

There have been some freelancers who swear by hiring someone to do their design proposals. It’s really up to you if you consider this to be a good investment, but I’ve found that going through the proposal process yourself is essential to really understanding the prospects needs and personalizing the outcomes in a way that makes sense for your business.

With the tools offered in many freelance management solutions, it’s also easier than ever to do your own. The templates given are setup to help you put your best foot forward. Even if you aren’t a writer, the sample language can be a good start at communicating how you’ll be the best candidate for the job.

You can still have someone proofread your proposal for grammatical errors or even for clarity, but most creatives find that they have what it takes to put together their own proposal in a competent manner, and the exercise helps them to grow professionally! A well-written proposal is a trophy in itself; an accepted one is a true victory in freelancing!

Timeliness is Key

Finally, it’s important to share that you shouldn’t spend too much time crafting a proposal (and when writing graphic design contracts as well). Why not? Because studies show that 35-50% of sales go to the first vendor who responds to a request for proposal. That’s a pretty powerful statistic! Don’t delay in getting your pitch out there.

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Craft beautiful branded proposals in seconds with templates from Bonsai.
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