Write amazing design project proposals and get more clients

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Drafting up a design project proposal can be extremely scary. For freelance designers, every time you submit a proposal, it’s like applying for a job. Proposals determine whether clients choose to hire you, and clients are the life-blood of your design business.
In essence, your entire success or failure as a designer depends on how well you can sell yourself or your services. This article will teach you ins and outs of a successful design project proposal, and how to use a proposal to get more clients.

The basics of project proposals

Before we get started on how to write an effective project proposal, it’s important to understand what a project proposal is. Project proposals are documents designed to do three particular things:

  1. present a plan of action
  2. outline the reasons why the action is necessary, and
  3. convince the reader to agree with and approve the implementation of the actions recommended [source]

Put another way, the purpose of a project proposal is to convince your potential client that you have a great solution to their problem, explain how you will solve their problem, and why they should choose you over anyone else.

When to write an amazing proposal

Now that we understand what a project proposal is used for, perhaps you’re asking yourself when the best time to write a design proposal might be. Some designers might argue that you can send a proposal whenever you feel the urge. If, for example, you are browsing through some local web sites and find a site that needs some serious help, you might just find success in sending a proposal/pitch to that company.

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Designers from the other camp might argue that you should only send a proposal when a potential client requests one. This is know as a request for proposal.

Without taking sides, I would have to say the best option is simply whatever one fits you best. If you are a bold, confident designer, approach companies with proposals in a “cold-call” sort of way. If not, wait for companies in need of your assistance to come to you. There are definitely pros and cons to both of these approaches.

Writing an amazing design project proposal

Okay, now that we have gotten all of the preliminary details out of the way, let’s talk about how to write a truly amazing design project proposal that will definitely get you more clients. It’s been my experience that a solid, impressive, result-getting project proposal includes the following: (I would also love to hear what else you might add.)

Although you are managing a design business, you are still a person. The recipient of the proposal is a person. Take a second to be personable with them. Greet them professionally but in a friendly manner, and let them know you are pleased to offer this design project proposal.

Always include a short introduction of who you are professionally and what kind of business you are involved in. When appropriate, mention other projects you have worked on, clients you have worked for, experience you bring to the table, etc. If you have an elevator pitch for you and your company, this would be a wonderful time to use the same verbiage and details from your pitch.

Although this may not be the “main event” of your proposal, it is still the “show opener” and needs to get your audience pumped up about what’s coming.

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Now to the main event. This is (if you’ve done everything else correctly so far) what your potential client has been waiting for. This is the climax of your proposal. So don’t blow it!

Take time to explain the problems your potential client is facing, but do it in a way that will not offend them. Demonstrate a genuine concern for the company or organization’s success and offer positive solutions. If appropriate offer solid research or evidence that your solution will work, why you can carry it out better than any of your competitors, and how your potential client will benefit from hiring you.

After amazing your potential client with a stunning, solution-oriented proposal, include important details such as pricing and timeline. Make sure to include a statement about how excited you are to work with them in solving any design problems they currently face. If you feel bold, you can even offer to make a follow-up phone call a few days after sending the proposal, if you don’t hear from them.

Close your proposal be recapping the strongest details, most amazing solutions, and a promise that you can help them achieve the success they are looking for.

Welcome new clients with open arms

It’s been my experience that if you follow the few simple tactics mentioned above, you will have an increase in clientele. When any new client comes your way, welcome them, thank them, and make them feel like they are the most important client you have. Just because you “won” the proposal, you shouldn’t assume everything else will work out without a problem. Take care to treat your clients with respect and be an easy person to work with.

What if you don’t get any new clients

Lest I get sued by anyone who follows my council and still doesn’t get any new clients, I have a few words of advice. Keep trying. One thing I used to do was politely ask those who chose to hire someone else what I could have done better. Many times I found it wasn’t necessarily that I wasn’t qualified, but that I didn’t present myself in the right way. Take note of what you learn from your failed attempts and eventually you’ll get it right.

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  1. You are so right, every proposal is like a new job application. And every first meeting like an interview!
    But after the first meeting when I have already briefed them about my work and discussed their requirements, how do I proceed with a quotation/cost and time frame proposal. If a basic design needs to be adapted to a different format how do I charge for it, I would like to mention this in my initial proposal as this will form a major part of the work.

  2. Great advice. You’re right, a proposal is like applying for a job. It can also take a long time to get something together that you are happy with, but with these straight forward rules it could probably cut some flaffing out!

  3. wow, interesting article! I never had the chance to draft design proposal yet…but after reading this, I think I should start to do that to get new clients!! Thanks for the tips!!

  4. To me it depends how much the prospect gives attention to contacting me with some thought behind their request. If they just write a one liner in a rush, then I know they are just price shopping. I do not care for those prospects, they tend to waste my precious time. However if they respond back with my questions or fill out my questionnaire form or care to leave me their phone number and a real name to be contacted, then by all means I will put more thought into my quote.

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