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How to Write a Design Proposal: The Ultimate Guide

You’ve got a new lead! Congrats. Before this person or company officially signs on the dotted line and becomes your client, you have to persuade them to do so.

How do you go about this?

The perfectly prepared and written design proposal is the difference between getting new clients and watching opportunity after opportunity leave you behind. Unless you’re working as a full-time designer or you’re likely in business for yourself as a freelancer — which means that you’ll have to write a number of design proposals over your career to constantly get new clients.

With all of that in mind, let’s get cracking.

After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to take on new projects with greater confidence than ever , creating the right proposal for the right client.

Step 1: Talk to Your Prospective Client to Find Out What They Want

Sitting down and talking to your lead is always the first step because you need to understand what’s going on with your client. You have to figure out what the client’s problem is and, therefore, what your design expertise and services can do for them to solve their problem.

Thanks to the power of web inter-connectivity, sitting down with any prospect can take place virtually, just as it can still take place in your local coffee shop or at the client’s offices if they’re local. But if not, don’t fret: simply make arrangements to talk to your client over Skype, the video-chat messaging service that most everyone already uses. The beauty of Skype is that it features both a video and voice-only call option, so if you’re not looking your best (or simply haven’t combed your hair yet), you can always just do a voice call with your prospect.

Don’t like Skype or can’t use it for whatever reason? No sweat. Here are some equally awesome and free communication and messaging services:

  • Google

  • Hangouts

  • InZoom

Let them talk for as long as it takes; be a great listener because you’re collecting as much intelligence as possible to determine how you can best help your prospect. Ask relevant questions, and don’t be afraid to ask as much as you think is necessary. After all, a prospect who realizes you ask a lot of questions is a prospect who realizes that you’re doing everything in your power to understand their predicament, and that’s impressive to prospects.


Step 2: Do a Lot of Research

Hopefully, your first meeting with your prospect went well enough that they wanted you to go ahead and draft a proposal. Now, the heavy lifting on your part really begins.

At this stage, you’ll need to conduct a lot of research to understand your client’s brand, product, or service inside and out. Ask if you prospect has any proprietary documents or materials to help you understand their situation any better. 

To that end, use the Internet to research your prospect further. Figure out:

What their competition is doing (use an SEO tool like Splayfoot get an exhaustive SEO profile of your prospect’s competition, including keywords they’ve bought through paid search, keywords they’ve ranked for, and ad variations)How many people are talking about them online (use social listening tools like Hootsuite to get a better idea)How highly their website currently ranks (use Alexa to give you a fair indication of that)

Step 3: Use the Right Software or Tool and prepare killing presentation

Step 4: Structure Your Proposal Sensibly by Starting With the Problem

  • You’re ready to write the actual proposal! The whole point of your design proposal is to solve your prospect’s problem, so it follows that your first section ought to be about their main issue.

  • Remember that your would-be client doesn’t really care about you or your brand: they care about their business problem and how you can come on board to solve it quickly and painlessly for them. The purpose of your proposal, therefore, is to persuade them that you’re precisely the designer for this ambitious job.

  • Impress your client right off the bat by using the first section of your proposal to clearly lay out the problem they’re facing. This should be a cinch because you’ve already had a meeting with your client, during which time you would’ve kept notes when they were explaining their problem to you.

  • In this section, recap what the problem is that the prospect told you about during the meeting. Be extremely specific, and use any relevant stats, figures, and data to buttress the gravitas of the prospect’s problem. Using specifics like this shows your prospect that you not only understand their problem, but that you take it seriously.

Now, they’re looking to you more than ever for the presentation of a solution! Don’t disappoint them.

Here’s how to structure the solution.

Step 5: Explain Your Solution

  • This is where you have to make it count. Your prospect has read this far because they know that you’re the right designer for their project. Now, all that’s left is to confirm their suspicion by presenting them with a solution to the aforementioned pain point.

  • A good solution should include all of the following particulars:

  • A specific course of action to outline individual steps to achieve the solution Hard stats and data to support the course of action being proposed An explanation of how your strategy will help your prospect and solve their problem

  • Opportunities to review the strategy at consistent and specific intervals

  • A well-written solution is the heart of your design proposal, the section that has a huge impact on whether or not your prospect will take you up on your proposal or not. From personal experience, I can say that my own clients spend the most time glancing at my proposals’ solution section.

  • To help you see the possible structure of a winning proposal, here are some more proposal templates from our marketplace

Step 6: Clarify the Next Steps

If the prospect is reading up to this point, congrats! It’s usually a really good sign that they’re going to convert and sign on the dotted line. Before they do, however, they’ve got to get through the next steps.

This last section is where you basically outline what the prospect has to do to finalize a working relationship with you. This includes payment terms, general terms and conditions, and when your working relationship begins in earnest.

When deciding on the payment terms, there are a number of factors to consider, with your guiding principle being that you shouldn’t shortchange yourself by asking for too little! With that said, here are the factors to consider in your estimate:

The complexity and length of the project The number of hours you expect to put in The urgency of the project Your experience How your portfolio-looks (how many projects you’ve already completed)

The terms and conditions can include anything from how many revisions you’re offering to how freely you make yourself available to your prospect to get another round of feedback. This is entirely up to you.

It’s also extremely helpful to spell out in no uncertain terms when your working relationship will begin. Though your prospect might sign your proposal right after reading it, it’s always a smart plan to declare that your work on the project will only begin in a few days’ or even weeks’ time. This way, you can prepare yourself for the new project and tie up any loose ends on any current projects and clients with whom you’re dealing.

In this final section, you should also include motivational persuaders, such as excitement at the reality of working with your prospect or enthusiasm about the fact that you can’t wait to solve your client’s problem and verify to them that they’ve made the right decision in choosing you for your design services. Such final persuaders can go a long way in pushing your prospect to convert by finally signing your proposal.

After all, when you’re confident in your presentation, your prospect immediately senses it, feels they’ve made the right choice, and then is more likely to choose you. This can set off a sort of positive reinforcement loop that’s just the right touch with which to end your design proposal.

A Project in and of Itself

The reality with writing a design proposal is that it can take a lot of time and work. This can’t be any truer than when you’re still new to charging for your design work and haven’t written one yet or only have put together a handful. It’s not just the actual drafting stage that can be time-consuming: it’s also the preparatory steps, such as first meeting with your prospect and then researching their brand to empower you to fully understand what they need.

Sure, you’ll get better with practice. The more design proposals you create, the easier and more efficient you’ll eventually become. And don’t forget about the great software and tools on the web that can help you create a proposal in just a few steps. Even so, you should look at preparing a proposal as a real commitment that will take time to do right.

It’s not just that writing the perfect proposal can lead to a lot of work, money, and even a recurring and long-term client. While that’s certainly the goal of every designer, there’s more to writing a proposal than just the monetary possibilities. It’s about the pride in being professional.

When you sell your services as a designer, you’re telling the world that you’re a professional and deserve to make good money for your expertise and work. The more you hone your skills at proposal writing, the more professional you’ll make yourself look, and the more you’ll eventually land bigger and better design clients, which can make your portfolio truly stand out.

WELL! To make your work much easier , I have collected Free Proposal Templates for you,  But REMEMBER These are the basics, You are Welcome to edit it and make  it stand  out.... Its just a Basic help with the structure  and content.



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