At our agency here in the UK, we spend on average around 40% of our time putting together proposals to help secure new projects and contracts. Over the years we’ve learned how to condense and structure our proposals in such a way that gives us a higher win rate. The information we include and the way we present our proposals has developed over time based on feedback we have been given by clients and by monitoring the success of our documents.
Here is an outline of the absolute essential items to include, along with an overview of how best to present that content to the client:
1. Structuring your winning proposal
As a guide, you’ll want to separate your key sections out clearly with an easy to follow flow, avoiding too much content within each page. Begin with an overview of yourself or company, leading into case studies relevant to the job your pitching for. The remaining pages would be some initial concept artwork (if the budget is adequate enough) and wrap things up with your costings and timeline. We like to include an itinerary or index at the beginning of our proposals and always include break out sections to introduce each new section, giving the reader breathers throughout.
2. About section
After you’ve setup your index of content and put together a visually engaging and most importantly professional front cover, you need to introduce yourself or your company in the right way. We’ve adapted our about sections of our proposals over time, condensing the large amount of info into the following three sub pages:
Use this slide as a bulleted overview about your specialities, targets for clients and reputation in the industry.
– Client list
We like to use a page of our favourite and most notable clients logos on their own for this section.
– Team members
Introduce the key players and or an overview of yourself if freelancing, touching on achievements & qualifications.
Clients don’t just want to know how successful you are, they want to see a breakdown of the processes you take to complete a successful project. Tailor your process overview for the type of project your pitching for with a timeline or flow of events outlining the key steps.
3. Understanding the brief
After introducing your company, you’ll want to show your understanding of your clients brief and their requirements, You can use this section to outline all of the key deliverables required and talk about the actions you will take to effectively achieve these. This gives a client confidence that you’ve taken time to not only read the brief but that you have already planned the actions required to get the job done.
4. Case studies
Relevance and quality are key here over quantity. You’ll want to only include projects that match the industry, project type or aesthetic style of the project your pitching for. 3 full page case studies that match the client’s requirements is way better than 10 irrelevant case studies. Even if they are beautiful projects the client won’t be able to relate to the artwork and will most likely choose a supplier who has taken the time to hand-pick work that proves you can achieve the result they are looking for.
5. Project timeline
Break up the structure of how you would complete this specific project in a timeline of events for the client to visualise. You’ll want to spend adequate time here but eventually you will be able to use a template for different project types that you can tailor and tweak to the project your pitching for. You don’t need to include every single step in your project timeline, just outline the key delivery and feedback stages.
6. Outline of deliverables & costs
In most cases a client will be reluctant to share their budget or will not have a fee in mind especially if they have never worked with an agency before. Take a look through our What should I charge for my design services guide to give you further information if you havn’t yet figured out your pricing structure for specific project types too.
When it comes to actually laying out your cost section in the proposal, you’ll want to initially include a list of all the deliverables so the client can see the full package of what’s involved. Even for say a logo; in the clients mind, it may just be a logo.. but any professional agency or designer knows there are many more factors and steps involved, from research and brainstorming, to moodboarding and sketching etc.
Include as much detail as possible to a client so they can understand just how much is involved, this will also justify your pricing to complete the project.
Every designer or freelancer works differently and getting your proposals spot on takes alot of trial and error. Essentially one of the main things to remember is there’s no quick way round it.. If you want to win the work you need to blow your client away and stand out amongst the crowd. The value of the project is your indication of how much time to invest here and don’t let the rejections knock you back. Work hard, put the time in, follow the above steps and you’ll start winning with your proposals.