What is a design proposal and why is it crucial?
Your design proposal is a document that states what you propose to do for your client. At this stage, it’s likely that you already had a conversation with your client to get to know each other, but, because clients usually have many options to choose from, it is essential to write a design proposal that stands out so they can see the value you have to offer.
Worry less about impressing them with very difficult vocabulary, and more about making it comprehensive and accessible. You’ll always win points if you’re able to turn the words that came out of your client’s mouth into a visual and trustable solution, so don’t hesitate to fill your proposal with the language the client gave you, and of course to include everything that you've discussed in the initial interview.
Your goal with this document is to clearly show them you’re the right person to help with something they need to get done. If you can communicate your solutions better than others, you win - even if you're way more expensive. Remember: when value exceeds cost, transactions take place.
Although how you create your proposal will be down to your individual preference we’ll guide you through a typical design proposal example:
- Cover Page
These are the basics. Some proposals will include extra information like customer references, testimonials, or case studies but what you decide to write in the proposal is entirely up to you.
How to Determine What to Include in Your Design Proposal
What to include in your design proposal really depends on the type of project that you’re presenting and your relationship with the prospective client.
If you were just introduced to this new potential client or are approaching it from a cold outreach or via Linkedin, oftentimes more information is better. Including a Bio, testimonials, and case studies are all important here.
If you’ve worked with a client before, it’s not necessary to go into details on who you are and what you’re about. Often times your client already knows, or if you’ve come from a referral, you can often share your information and references before you even put together a proposal.
1. Cover Page
This is going to be the first thing that your client sees, so make sure to start off on the right foot! Your cover page is a great way tool to show clients that even somewhat paperwork can look professional and unique.
So rather than just sending out a quick Word document, take some time to create a simple but refined cover that makes an immediate visual impact. Make sure to include your logo, the name of the proposal (ex: Branding + Web Design Proposal), your email, and website.
A professional design proposal template can be really helpful in helping you create a beautifully designed cover that will impress your client. If you decide not to use any proposal’s tool, dedicate some time to come up with something that translates your taste and style.
People want to work with real people, not machines. Have that in mind and use this section to make your proposal look personal and original. Even if you tone it down and just include a short bio description, aim to highlight points from your story that you think may be relevant or interesting to that client in particular.
If you already have a client partnership, you may not need to focus on why you are the right professional for this project. But If you are still in the process of showing the client that you are the right person for the job, use this section to highlight your experience and present your unique design qualities.
Attempt to speak from an honest place about why you’re excited about that particular project or industry (if nothing about it excites you, it may be best for you to pass on the project anyway!)
The Scope is your proposal's heart, and potentially the most critical section. It's where you can outline what you're going to be working on and how much it's going to cost. Defining the scope in the design proposal will also help you establish an overview of the project and set realistic expectations.
Write a comprehensive list of what you’ll deliver the client by the end of the project and make sure they know that anything extra will require adjusting the budget and scope by clearly defining the limits of what you’ll design for the client as part of the project and its budget.
Once you’re ready with the actual content of your project, it’s time to define the schedule of delivery. This is an essential aspect of the proposal, as a straightforward timeline brings clarity and shows confidence in your skills.
Make sure that the timeline in your proposal is easy to read and that all times are based on approximations. Perhaps the client input will be necessary in some steps, so make sure you clearly show this on your proposed timeline by creating gaps for the client to respond, if that’s the case.
Create specific touchpoints where you will ask for feedback from the client, or where the client will be somewhat involved in the decision making. By keeping the client in the loop, you’ll be able to quickly receive any extra information you might need to give them exactly what they want.
Generally, it’s recommendable that even before you start working on the proposal you ask the client, directly, what their total budget for the project is. This will help you to decide if you want to pursue the project in the first place or not.
This section will help you break down the cost to its minute details, and show a comprehensible breakdown of costs and a total, which is good not only for your clients but also to help you set the right price for the project, without overshooting or underpricing it.