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Your Proposal is Not a Novel: My Time-Saving Guide to Writing Proposals

If the proposals that you send to prospective clients are more than a couple of pages, stop. Just. Stop.

What on god’s good earth are you doing to your clients?

Seriously, you are torturing them. They do not have time to read your novel, and you don’t have time to write one.

Plus, stupidly long proposals just bug me. If you’re already at the point that you are sending a proposal, that means you’ve already talked to your prospective client. He or she already knows who you are and what you do.

I will concede that it’s nice to remind them about why you are so damn awesome, especially if you are up against other companies. But you don’t need several pages to do that.

My proposals keep the focus on the client, not on me, and they tend to be one page, maybe two. Never longer than that.

Here is my time-saving guide to writing proposals:

Basic introduction

OMG – no cover page! Nope – never. I jump right in with the date, name of client, name of project, and two or three sentences that provide a general overview of the project and its goals.

If you really feel the need to elaborate on your value proposition, do it here. Add a short two or three sentences about why your company is particularly suited for this job, and include links to either case studies or other projects that further illustrate why you are the obvious choice.

Project breakdown

This is the heart of the matter, and really, it’s all anyone cares about. In two or three sentences, I discuss our approach, and then I bullet point specifics around what we will do. I also include details like tone of voice, workflow, and anything else we discussed on the phone.


Finally, I add the cost of the project and a disclaimer of sorts that says any additional work beyond the scope of this proposal will be billed at a $100 hourly rate.

Contact information

My proposals go out on company letterhead, so my phone number, email address, and website address are all included. I don’t add anything extra beyond that, because, as I’ve said before, we have already emailed and talked on the phone. They know how to reach out to me.

Time to hit send

The above formula works really well for me, but I recently read that they key to closing the deal and winning the project is to insist on a phone call during which you and the prospective client will review the proposal. This gives you the opportunity to answer questions and reiterate why you are the perfect person for the job. If you find yourself losing out on a lot of projects, I would definitely consider going with this approach.


So, do you agree or disagree with my approach? What do you consider your winning formula when it comes to writing proposals?

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