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How to Write a Work Proposal: Writing Project Proposals Made Easy

Jun 8, 2023
Max 5 min read

A project doesn't just come together one day. To do it right and obtain the support it needs to succeed, it frequently requires strategic planning and a sizable amount of effort. That's why it's important to effectively present your ideas to fast-track approval for an internal or external project. While a strong elevator pitch may be useful in some situations, it is frequently insufficient. This is where creating a project proposal comes in.

A work proposal serves to present your project in a brief, yet effective, way. Here at Indy, we strive to make freelancing simple. In this guide, we'll walk you through what exactly a work proposal is, its components, tips on research and preparation, and how to write one for your next project.

What Is a Work Proposal?

A project proposal is a written document that specifies the schedule, budget, objectives, and goals of a project to stakeholders. Your project proposal should summarize the specifics of your project and sell the idea to encourage stakeholders to support it.

Your project proposal's goal is to:

  1. Secure outside funds.
  2. Win the support of stakeholders. 
  3. Amplify the excitement and momentum of your project. 

There are several types of project proposals, depending on your target audience (this could be external or internal stakeholders, partnered companies, etc.) and project type. Here are a few examples:

Solicited project proposal

A solicited project proposal is sent as a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP is a document that is submitted to a qualified organization. It announces a project, describes it, and requests a bid.

RFPs are competitive and frequently pit firms against top contenders. They come with very detailed instructions and require deep research and compelling writing skills.

Unsolicited project proposal 

An unsolicited work proposal is exactly that—unsolicited. In this case, no one has requested your proposal, and there is no RFP. A well-executed unsolicited project proposal, on the other hand, can be a game-changer in the right circumstances.

One disadvantage of unsolicited project proposals is a lack of understanding of a stakeholder's demands.

Perhaps you've identified a problem and a solution. While the opportunity is present, you will require resources to bring your idea to life. This is when you should consider submitting an unsolicited project proposal.

Informal project proposal

A client may contact you with an informal request for a project proposal to be provided to them. 

The rules, however, aren't as well established because this isn't an official RFP. This indicates that this type of proposal is unlikely to be provided with much context. You will have to conduct extensive independent research.

Renewal project proposal

A renewal is used when a project has finished and must be restarted. The research that goes into this type of proposal is often based on the previous project's success data. 

The purpose of this project proposal style is to exhibit ideal former project results. If the outcomes are valuable, you should attempt to persuade project sponsors and other stakeholders that you are capable of producing comparable—or even better—results in the future.

Continuation project proposal 

Continuations usually occur on a calendar basis when a project enters a new phase or new resources are required to assure the project's continuation. These proposals do not necessitate as much labor because the project has already been approved and is operational.

For example, if you want to extend the duration and scope of a project or continue a current project beyond its initial funding period, you can submit a continuation proposal.

Supplemental project proposal 

A supplemental proposal, similar to a continuation proposal, is required when you have gone over budget or require more resources than you originally requested.

In essence, the project scope has expanded beyond initial estimates. To address unforeseen events or take advantage of new opportunities not included in the original plan, you must adjust the project's scope, budget, or timetable.

By demonstrating the value of the modified scope or project, this proposal aims to encourage stakeholders to invest more resources. 

Keep your audience (i.e., the stakeholders) in mind at all times when writing your proposal. Remember that the purpose of the proposal is to win over your audience, and not just provide the details of your project.

For example, if you're developing a new editing tool for a children's publishing business, can you assess whether your stakeholders are parents and appeal to their emotional side when convincing them to invest in your product?

Tailoring your work proposal to your specific audience can further your chances of receiving funds and required resources from the right stakeholder for your project.

Research and Preparation

A successful project proposal includes extensive research. Prepare to back up your problem—and solution—with credible references, case studies, data, or infographics to avoid leaving your audience with questions. Put yourself in the reader's shoes when crafting your proposal and ask:

  1. Why is this a problem?
  2. How is this a solution to the problem?
  3. Has this issue ever been addressed before?
  4. What are the project costs?

If you can answer these questions, you've probably done enough research to support your proposed ideas. 

Additionally, make sure to gather all relevant information, such as project goals, objectives, timelines, and resources required. Research on your target audience (such as company history, targets, beliefs, etc.) is also crucial and can help you tailor the proposal to specifically suit their business and project needs.

Structure and Components of a Work Proposal

Regardless of the various types of proposals available, vital information must be presented in a way that is digestible and expected. Here are the components of a work proposal, and what information is required for each:

Executive summary

Your project proposal's executive summary serves as its introduction. This section, like a report summary or an essay opener, should summarize what's ahead and urge the stakeholder to keep reading. Your executive summary could be one paragraph or several paragraphs long, depending on the complexity of your project.

Your executive summary should include the following information:

  1. The problem that your project intends to address.
  2. How your project will solve that problem. 
  3. The significance of your project. 

You should just mention these points swiftly in your executive summary because you will go into greater detail about them later in your proposal.

Project background

This section allows you to delve into the project's history.

When putting together the project background, it's vital to explain the current state of the problem and why your audience should care about solving it. In this section, using references and data can help you make your point more successfully.

Some topics to discuss include:

  1. A deeper look at the issue your project is addressing.
  2. What is already known about the problem.
  3. Who has addressed the problem previously.
  4. What research is currently available (if any).
  5. Why previous research has been insufficient in resolving the problem.

This section can also be used to describe how the problem you seek to address is directly related to your business. The ideal practice is to restrict this section to one page.

Project solution

After presenting the problem in the project background section, the next step in proposal writing is to provide a solution. This part gives you the opportunity to go over your project strategy in further detail.

Some items to consider are:

  1. Your project's mission statement.
  2. Your project's timetable, including key milestones.
  3. Roles and duties of the project team. 
  4. A risk register outlining how you intend to manage risks.
  5. The deliverables of the project. 
  6. Tools for reporting that you will utilize during the project. 

You may not include all of these components in your proposal structure, but you can choose what to include based on the scope of the project. As you'll cover everything involved in implementing your proposed solution, this section will most likely be the longest and most extensive section of your proposal.

Deliverables and goals

A critical step in creating your project proposal is defining your project deliverables. Stakeholders want to know what you'll deliver at the end of your project, whether it's a product, a program, a technological upgrade, or something else.

You should include the following in your deliverables:

  1. The final output or goal of your project. 
  2. A project timetable indicating when deliverables will be ready.
  3. SMART goals that are in line with the deliverables you're producing.

While it is crucial to demonstrate the problem and solution to your project, it can often be simpler for stakeholders to visualize the project when the deliverables are defined.

When defining goals and objectives for your project proposal, use the SMART system:

  • Specific - Make sure your goals and objectives are clear, concise, and relevant to the job at hand.
  • Measurable - Make sure your goals and objectives are measurable so it's clear when things are on track and going well, and conversely, when things are off track and concerns need to be addressed. Measurable goals make it simple to create the milestones you'll use to track the development of the project and establish a feasible completion and/or closure date.
  • Attainable - Every project must have a "reach" goal. Achieving this goal would result in a project that goes above and beyond expectations.
  • Relevant - Ensure all of your objectives are directly related to the project and address the scope within which you're working.
  • Time-based - Timelines and exact dates should be central to all goals and objectives. This keeps the project on pace and ensures that all project team members can manage the task that has been assigned to them.


After you've defined your problem, method, solution, and deliverables, you can get specific about the resources you'll need to complete the project.

You should include the following in this section:

Project Budget: The project budget includes everything from the supplies needed to build a product to ad rates and team salaries. Include any budget items required to complete the project here.

Cost breakdown: This section should include research on why you need specific resources for your project so stakeholders understand what their investment is being utilized for. This breakdown can also assist you in avoiding unforeseen charges.

Resource allocation plan: Include an overview of your resource allocation plan that details where you intend to apply the specific resources you require. For example, if you calculate that you need $50,000 to accomplish the project, do you intend to spend it on salaries, technology, materials, and so on?

Hopefully, by this stage in the proposal, you have persuaded the stakeholders to support your proposed project, which is why saving the necessary resources for the end of the paper is a wise strategic move.


Finally, close your project proposal with a confident and appealing conclusion. The conclusion, like the executive summary, should clearly summarize the problem your project addresses and your solution to that problem. In the conclusion, you can emphasize the significance of your project, but make this section timely. 

Appendices and supporting documents

Your project proposal will require a significant amount of data and research. However, in order to stay on schedule and keep the proposal brief, not all of your information should be included in the proposal's body. In your proposal, use references and show where you acquired your information in the appendix.

Additional Project Proposal Tips

Following the steps outlined above will ensure your project proposal contains all of the necessary information. However, if you want to impress and gain the favor of your readers, your writing must stand out. Here are a few additional tips to consider when writing your work proposal. 

1. Plan beforehand

When it comes to planning, even the most capable businesses sometimes fall short. They frequently depend too heavily on their track record and fail to devote the necessary time and effort to proposal preparation. Proper preparation is critical for demonstrating to stakeholders that your business is professional and capable.

2. Use a cover letter and contents

Submit your project proposal along with a cover letter. Your cover letter might be as short as a few paragraphs sent by email. This letter, together with a table of contents, will help prepare your audience for what they're about to read.

3. Be persuasive

Persuasion is vital in a project proposal because you hope your audience will read it and help you in return. If your reader isn't interested in your project, they won't want to help you. If you describe your product without mentioning the numerous features it will provide, how it will assist clients, and its beneficial impact on the industry, your audience will question, "Why should I care about this project?"

4. Keep it simple

While you should go into detail about your problem, strategy, and solution, your project proposal should not be unduly complex. For example, if you're writing a project plan for an editing tool, you can talk about the project without getting into specifics about the coding the engineers will use to make each feature work.

5. Use the 5 W's

If you're ever stuck on how to explain something in your project proposal, remember the 5 W's. What, why, who, where, when, and how, just to be safe. You'll be surprised by the information these simple questions can prompt. 

6. Keep it brief

Understand your limit. You'll have the reader's attention at first, but even the best writers can only hold it for so long. Keep your project proposal to two pages at most, with the appendix taking up the third.

7. Proofread your work

We cannot emphasize this enough. Before you submit your proposal, have a second set of eyes, or just rested eyes, look through it. It will help you create trust and avoid miscommunication.

8. Use pictures or graphics

While quality text is essential, images and visuals can help to further reinforce your point. Make sure your images reflect the main idea of your proposal and improve your argument. Don't go overboard—too many images or graphics can soon become overwhelming. This can be particularly relevant in the design industry, such as graphic design, in which visuals can support your proposal and demonstrate your abilities to stakeholders.

9. Use a template

Although creating project proposals is an unavoidable aspect of any project manager's job, it does not have to be challenging. There are methods to make the process considerably easier. Using a project proposal template is one method. Using a template can save you time, as they provide a pre-built framework that only requires you to fill in the blanks.

With Indy, you can create a proposal template, customize it in minutes, and amaze your potential clients with a professional proposal. We offer over 100 customizable proposal templates, and adjust the text, font, colors, and images to suit your project, business, and industry!

10. Reference your points

A strong project proposal includes photos and other data points to back up what you're stating. Customer testimonials, customer complaints, user statistics—whatever your argument is for your project idea, make sure it is based on facts rather than emotions. That way, you're more likely to get it approved.

How Indy Can Help with Work Proposals

Here at Indy, we aim to help freelancers with the day-to-day running of their business. In addition to our proposal templates, our easy-to-use proposal software can help you turn leads into clients, and make intriguing, professional-looking proposals and estimates. Use a template or build from scratch, and send your proposal in just a few clicks through Indy. By creating a free account, you can view your previous templates and submissions, or create a new proposal, all from your Indy dashboard.

Here are some other ways Indy can help:

  • Our Time Tracker tracks your hours for you. If you are billing customers based on hourly rate, Indy's time tracking widget shows you how many hours have been billed, or still need to be billed, and can be filtered to your projects for easy timekeeping.
  • Our Calendar tool allows you to easily schedule meetings, track time, and see your deadlines. It also syncs with your Google Calendar, so you can keep up to date with everything!
  • Indy easily interacts with hundreds of your favorite apps to automate your workflow, allowing you to get more done in less time via Zapier, a no-code automation tool that lets you connect multiple tools. Zapier links Indy to the applications you currently use, allowing you to streamline and automate your workflow.

With Indy, you can manage all of your business tasks, create contracts, send invoices, and safely store important files all in one place! Sign up today and try for yourself.

Final Thoughts

A work proposal serves to present your project in a brief, yet effective, way. A concise and well-written proposal can help secure support from external or internal stakeholders. By following the steps and additional tips above, you can write a project proposal that is tailored specifically to your audience, uses concise and persuasive language, and addresses all of the key information for your project.

For more tips on writing project proposals, you can check out our guide Avoiding Project Failure: The Art of Writing Proposals

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