8 Tips for Writing a Project Proposal
The first step of writing an effective project proposal is to remember you’re not writing a contract and not writing a summary document; you’re writing a sales document that is meant to persuade the client that you’re the right choice to complete the work.
Once your project proposal is complete, you should have shown that you understand the goals and objectives of the project, described how you are going to execute the project, explained the outcomes your client should expect, and described how and why they should choose you or your company to complete the project.
Below are 8 tips that will help you write a better, more effective project proposal.
1. Understand What the Client is Looking For
Your project proposal is a presentation of your capabilities to execute the outcomes desired by the client or company. In order to write a good quality project proposal, you need to start with a complete understanding of why the client or company is seeking to complete the project, what outcomes they hope to see, in what amount of time they hope the project to be completed, and any specifics about how they would like the project completed.
Nothing can kill a proposal faster than misunderstanding the project and presenting something that’s off the mark. Take the time during the initial consultation to ask questions and understand the project.
2. Know Your Costs
One of the most important factors in writing a project proposal is to have clear knowledge of your costs. If you don’t currently have a good tracking system for actual project costs and profitability, it may be time to get one. That’s because without a clear tracking system for costs and profits, you may be undercharging or overcharging for projects and may not know it. This improvement in information can have a huge impact not only on the accuracy of your project proposal, but also on the profitability of your project as a whole.
3. Know Your Team’s Capabilities
You should have a good understanding of your team and what they’re capable of accomplishing before you promise outcomes to a client. In a project proposal, it’s also important to know your team’s current workload so you can present an accurate timeline.
Not only will this help you provide a more accurate timeline for the project, but it will also help you see whether any contractors or additional hires will be needed to complete the project.
4. Be Specific
While a project proposal is not a final contractual document, it will serve as the guideline for your client and project stakeholders’ expectations, as well as for how you organize the execution of the project. Remember, you’re proving in this document that you have the knowledge, experience, and resources to get the project done—and get it done well.
It can be helpful to start by drafting a list of the steps you’ll need to take from inception to completion of the project. This can be your outline for the statement of work (SOW). You can choose to take the key pieces or deliverables from this list and add them to the scope of work or project outline, or you can include all the steps. In your project proposal, you will want to expand upon these steps to describe what, exactly, they entail, including:
- Expected deliverables
- Challenges your specific expertise will help overcome
- Predicted timeline for certain steps
- Budget and expected costs
5. Avoid Excessive Jargon
It can be tempting to throw in acronyms or other technical jargon to prove you are an expert in your industry, but in many cases too much jargon can be detrimental to your project proposal. Jargon can make your audience feel like you’re talking over their heads, making them feel alienated or decreasing trust. If you’re not sure whether the decision-maker is savvy with your technical terms, tone the jargon down and add more inclusive descriptions that can be understood by a wider range of readers.
6. Include Persuasive Proof
Don’t forget that your client is likely receiving multiple project proposals. This means they’re not only looking for a breakdown of what the project would look like in your hands; they’re also looking for proof that you can do what you say you’re going to do. A good addition is to include persuasive elements such as positive reviews, case studies, “before and after” photos, descriptions of work provided, statistics, and other supplemental documents that prove that you’re well qualified for the work.
7. Provide a Call to Action
Any sales or marketing professional will tell you that it’s important to guide a potential customer to the “next step” toward closing instead of hoping they’ll figure it out on their own. This can be as simple as adding a “next steps” section to your project proposal that includes a description of what moving forward would look like. This might include a preliminary planning meeting, drafting and approving a contract, an onboarding call, and dissemination of information to support the project. You should consider this as a way to guide the decision-makers to the finish line.
8. Include Your Contact Information
This one goes without saying, but it’s also one that is often accidentally overlooked. You should make sure your project proposal always includes your contact and company information. There should never be a point where your client is reading the proposal and wondering, “Which company is this from, again?” This information can be included in the header of your document, in the footer of every page, and on the final page of the proposal.
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