Freelance clients are reading more business proposals than ever before. The average turnaround time to produce a proposal has reduced by 70% over the past five years. Hence, freelancers need to write convincing business proposals in less time to increase their chances of getting clients.
Here is a comprehensive guide to writing a winning business proposal that will help you get more clients and grow your business.
What Is a Business Proposal?
A business proposal is a document created by business-to-business (B2B) or business-facing companies to obtain a specific job or persuade a consumer to buy a product or service. A business proposal is different from a cold email or direct mail letter. It is a document tailored specifically as per the client's needs, and in most cases, it's sent after a prospective client requests it.
Types of Business Proposals
There are two types of business proposals: solicited or unsolicited.
- Unsolicited Business Proposals: These proposals are sent to potential clients even if they didn't request one. You send unsolicited business proposals to clients who are in the consideration stage.
- Solicited Business Proposals: These proposals are sent when a client requests one. You send solicited business proposals to clients who are in the decision stage.
Here, the consideration stage means a client has identified their problem and is looking for providers. The decision stage means the client has shortlisted the names of a few providers and is reviewing all of them.
Essential Elements of a Convincing Business Proposal
The first step in writing a good business proposal is to get the fundamentals right. Here is an overview of what a proposal must include.
Start with the Title Page
Any business proposal should start with a title page. You should share some basic information in this section, such as company introduction, client name, and a few lines to demonstrate your professionalism. Your title page should act as a tone-setter and encourage the readers to read further.
Create a Table of Contents
Table of Contents (TOC) is another prominent section of the business proposal that you'll find in every business proposal template. The TOC should mention all the sections included in the proposal.
Although optional, you should add page numbers in front of each section to enable seamless navigation. If you are creating an electronic proposal, include clickable links for each section in the TOC.
Create an Executive Summary
Next, you need to have an executive summary that answers the following questions in brief:
- Who are you?
- To whom are you sending the proposal?
- What problem will you solve?
- Why is your solution the best pick for the client?
An executive summary is like a cover letter. Two ingredients make a great executive summary: brevity and specificity. Clients who don't plan to read the entire proposal will read the executive summary and skim through the other sections.
Mention the Problem
The next section should be the Problem Overview (also known as Event Overview) that discusses the problem faced by the potential client. This section is important because it gives you a chance to show that you have clearly understood the pain points of your prospective client.
Discuss the Proposal & Solutions
One of the most important steps of writing a business proposal is to discuss your solution and how you can help the client resolve their challenge. You can make this section as detailed as you want to be. Ensure that you explain the scope of the project without sparing any details. The best idea is to make this section personalized. Share your product benefits and align them with your potential client's problem.
Share Your Qualifications and Social Proof
Think from a consumer's point of view. They like what they've read thus far, but why should they trust you? How will they know that you are capable of achieving what you're claiming? Here is where including your qualifications and testimonials comes into the picture.
Qualifications include your expertise and experience. Mention how long you have been in the industry and how many clients you have successfully served. Again, include numbers to make your claims more credible.
Pricing can be tricky, as you don't want to underprice or over-price your product or service. Here are three effective ways to approach the pricing section in your business proposal solution.
- Fixed Pricing: If you have a fixed price policy, you can include your pricing tables in the proposed solution.
- Competitive Pricing: If you're uncertain about your pricing, check how much your competitors are charging and develop a pricing plan accordingly.
- On-Request Pricing: Nowadays, many vendors follow a price-on-request policy to decide a price based on the client's specific requirements. This method can be effective if your products or services are customizable and come with various add-ons.
Include Terms and Conditions
Any other information that you haven't covered yet can be included in the Terms and Conditions section. Some essential points to discuss are:
- Legal aspects, such as contracts and agreements
- Entire project timeline from beginning to end
- Payment methods and schedule
If you aren't versed in writing business proposals, we recommend using a free business proposal template.
Include Agreement & CTA
The final step is to include a signature box and let the clients know that signing in the box means they agree to the terms and conditions discussed in this proposal.
You can also include your contact information and a call to action (CTA), such as "Give a Call" or "Send a Message" at the end of the proposal.
How to Turn These into a Short Business Proposal Useful for Freelancers?
Sometimes, freelancers may also need to write concise business proposals of 200-500 words. These may be useful to include in an email or on a job board such as Upwork or Fiverr.
It is essential to summarize the components discussed previously and create a short business proposal that outlines what you can do for your clients.
Ideally, a short business proposal should highlight the problem you'll solve, why you are the best fit, and your charges and deadlines. It should (in minimum words) provide all the information a potential client needs to decide whether or not you are the right choice for their project.
A brilliant way to add depth to a short proposal without adding length is to use hyperlinks to your website, previous clients, or a review site if you have received positive reviews for your work. The potential client can research these, but can also ignore them if they are in a hurry.
How to Write a Business Proposal?
All freelancers write business proposals. How can you stand out? Here are some essential tips to follow to make your business proposal unique and more convincing.
Research Your Client Really Well
Consider your business proposal as marketing collateral to get a new customer. The first step in landing any customer is to know them well, including their problems and the solutions they are looking for. Writing the proposal after understanding the customer will give you an unparalleled edge over others.
Define Your Market Gap Early On
The reader should learn about the market gap your business addresses in the first few seconds of reading your business proposal. Identify the gap your client is facing and discuss how you can fill it.
Stick to the Right Format
Your proposal should be in the right format. Take a look at business proposal examples and stick to a proven format when writing the proposal. Also, make editing and proofreading an essential part of the proposal writing process.
Be Sensible and Realistic
While the purpose of submitting the proposal is to show that you are the best, it is equally essential to be realistic and sensible. Don't make unrealistic claims, and back all your claims with numbers and social proof.
Elaborate Your USP
That said, don't refrain from highlighting your unique value propositions. Elaborate on your Unique Selling Point (USP) and mention what it is that you have and other businesses don't.
Use a Business Proposal Template
Using a business proposal example or business proposal templates allows you to create an accurate, well-formatted, and well-written business proposal. You can also use a proposal software solution to automate the proposal writing process.
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Make Your Proposal 'Scannable'
Even though a business proposal isn't an extremely lengthy document, the prospective client may not be willing to read the entire piece. You can make their task easier by making your proposal 'scannable'. You can make your proposal easy to scan by:
- Giving appropriate titles to pages
- Including bullet points
- Bolding or highlighting important words and phrases
- Italicizing words when necessary
Follow the PSPP Method
The PPSC method – Problem, Solution, Process, and Price – is a proven formula to write effective and convincing business proposals. By covering these four elements in essentially the same order as mentioned makes your proposal more persuasive.
Here's a quick overview of the four elements:
- Problem: Mention the problem your potential customer is facing
- Solution: The solution you can provide
- Process: The process you will follow to solve their problem
- Price: The price you'll charge for it
Make Your Proposal Visually Appealing
Imagine reading two business proposals with similar content, but one has only large chunks of text, whereas the other has high-quality images illustrating the points better. Which proposal would you like better?
Including visuals in your proposals has two benefits:
- It makes your proposal appealing and attractive.
- It makes your proposal interesting and easy to comprehend.
Both the benefits contribute towards making your proposal more convincing.
Demonstrate Your Planning Skills by Establishing Milestones
When reviewing proposals, companies aren't just looking for providers with the best solutions. Instead, they're in search of providers who can implement those solutions and drive guaranteed outcomes.
Show your planning skills and competence by pairing your claims with specific goals and milestones. You can do so by including the following elements in your proposal.
- Start and end dates
- Dates for each phase of the project
- Budget for each project phase
Some Business Proposal Mistakes to Avoid
Don't Exhaust Your Client's Time
An effective business proposal should be detailed, but if it is too lengthy, the reader will skim through it. If you want a potential client to read your entire proposal, try to include all the important details in the minimum possible words.
Don't Complicate Things
It could be tempting to use industry jargon and heavy vocabulary in your business proposal, but try limiting them to necessary areas only. Filling your proposal with jargon will make it more complicated to consume, which will negate its purpose.
Not Editing Your Proposal
This may seem like a minuscule issue, but it can get your proposal rejected instantly. If your proposal has spelling and grammatical errors, it will not only be hard to read and understand, but it will also leave a terrible impression. How can you handle your client's requirements if you can't even write an error-free proposal?
Not Selling the Benefits
It might be tempting to mention your company's capabilities and strengths in the proposal. But guess what? The person reading the proposal won't be interested in why your company is the best. What they are interested in is how you can help them overcome problems and succeed. So, instead of elaborating on your capabilities in your proposals, sell benefits and results.
A business proposal is like marketing collateral for your business. It informs your prospective clients about the services you offer and how you can help them achieve their goals. Since business proposals are one of the most crucial points of contact between you and your client, ensure that you follow all the rules and submit an effective business proposal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a business plan and a business proposal?
A business plan is a comprehensive description of the activities, objectives, and strategies of your business. It includes information about your products/services, marketing strategy, and financial planning. A business proposal is a sales document that describes how you will approach a job and create value for the client.
How many pages should a business proposal be?
If you're creating a proposal for a freelance job, your proposal should not be longer than one page. For bigger B2B dealings, your proposal could be of a few pages. The best approach is to include all the essential details in the minimum words.
Can I use a business proposal for cold outreach?
Yes, you can. While most freelancers send proposals after a client's request, you can send unsolicited proposals to potential clients as a part of your cold email outreach campaign. This way, you can get more clients and get a competitive edge.