You’ve made it this far.
You’ve decided to give your freelance business a try, and started offering your services to prospective clients.
And it worked! You’ve got potential customers who are interested in hiring your services.
It’s now time to create a proposal specifying a few things: What are you set to achieve, how are you going to achieve it and, most importantly, how much are you going to charge for it.
A well-written proposal can be very powerful. It can turn hesitant prospects into enthusiastic customers who can’t wait to start working with you.
A proposal is also a way to show customers how you work. If you write a messy, complicated and unclear proposal, it will give your customers a bad feeling. Is this how you are going to deliver your work? It can cause you to lose a contract.
On the other side, if you write a simple, intuitive and clear proposal, you will give your prospects a strong sense of professionalism and expertise.
Below, we have listed several things to keep in mind when writing a proposal for your freelance business:
Don’t talk about yourself
Most beginners think that the proposal is a document where they have to prove themselves as the perfect consultant for the job. They do so by providing a list of previous accomplishments, test results, professional experience and educational background.
This is wrong for two reasons:
First of all, this information is not only useless but also makes you look like you’re doing this exclusively for yourself. You are so focused on getting the consulting project that you forgot why you are here: to deliver solutions to your potential client.
This is the equivalent of going to a job interview and using your “do you have any questions?” moment to ask only about salary. It’s an instant rejection.
And second, this information should have been provided beforehand. If you got to the proposal stage, your potential customer has probably already done their due diligence of looking at your resume/LinkedIn profile. And it’s also very likely that they might have reached out to previous employers or customers.
Focus your proposal on results
A proposal is not the place to describe your extensive experience and qualifications in whatever field you work in. It is also not the place to define your internal processes and definitely not a to-do list.
Your customer is probably asking himself: “Okay, I have an idea on how much I am going to end up spending on this project, but what am I getting in return?”.
Your proposal needs to be 100% focused on what you are going to deliver to your customer. What’s the value that my customer will get from me? Here, you can write a list of deliverables and results you expect to achieve.
Even better, provide them (if you can) with a clear ROI (return on investment) that clearly shows the value you are going to generate for them.
Keep your proposal short and simple
Let’s go back to our school days. Remember what you’d do when you had to answer question you had absolutely no idea about? Yes, you wrote something anyway. Even more, you tried to write as much text as possible, adding a bunch of unrelated facts and explanations you weren’t asked for in the first place. You would hope that, although your teacher could probably tell you had no idea what you were talking about, you could still get some points for the effort. Truth is, good teachers never fall in that trap.
Your customers are that good teacher. They can smell BS from miles away.
Writing a long proposal doesn’t mean that your service is any better than your competitors. Think of your proposal as your resume: your future client probably has dozens of other proposals to go over and the fact that yours is two or three times longer than your competitors can be a instant turn-off.
There isn’t a fixed rule for the length of your proposal – it really depends on many factors: the industry you’re working for, your area of expertise, the length of the project, etc. But a good rule of thumb is to not to add any information that isn’t absolutely relevant to the client.
Example: Your customer probably doesn’t care about the tools you are using, so creating a list of the software/online tools you will be using to get your job done is a waste of ink.
Have a clear structure
Divide your proposal into several sections that focus on only one specific thing, and try not to mix topics. Also using lists and bullet points is a great way to summarize ideas.
A good proposal can follow these steps:
1- Preliminary study of [product/technology/state-of-art/etc]
2- Research on [distributors/clients/manufacturers/competitors/etc]
5- Results and expected ROI
6- Price and payment terms
Section 6 of this proposal example brings me to the next point:
Display your pricing openly
This is always a complicated topic to talk about.
The following is an easy exercise you can use to know if you have written a good proposal:
Picture a board room with several people in it who are supposedly the ones who are deciding whether or not to hire your services. One of them starts reading your proposal out loud. They go through every single one of the points you have written until they get to the pricing section: what’s their reaction?
Their ideal reaction should be: this a no-brainer!
That’s why focusing on the value you are generating for your customer is crucial. You need to present them with a proposal that wouldn’t make sense for them to reject. If the reaction of your imaginary board room isn’t to instantly say “yes!” you need to review your messaging.
Don’t rush to write your proposal
Try to finish your proposal a day or two before you are supposed to send it and use these last 24-48 hours to correct any mistakes you might have made while drafting it.
Even better, ask someone from your network for feedback and help reviewing it – most of the time an external opinion can see things the writers have overlooked.
A good tip for this is to print your proposal on paper, get a red marker and start highlighting parts that need improvement, and don’t edit the actual document on your computer until you have read the entire proposal on paper.
These are just a few ideas to keep in mind when writing a proposal, which can be especially helpful when you’re just getting started on your freelance business.
Ps. Got questions on how to write a proposal? Would you like us to review one for you? Feel free to reach out through our contact section.