How to Write a Good Freelance Proposal
If you’re a freelancer, clients are the lifeblood of your business. If you want to make more money, it means finding and booking more of the right clients. And if you want to book more of the right clients, you need to nail your freelance proposal.
Hands down, when you know how to create a winning freelance proposal, it will be the thing that helps you successfully and consistently land high-paying clients and finally reach your income goals.
Whether or not you have a strong freelance proposal can make or break your business — and I don’t make this claim lightly.
Before starting my agency, I made over $100k per year as a freelancer for more than a decade, and I can trace every dollar that hit my account back to a winning proposal. In fact, it was my experience with writing hundreds of proposals at the agency I worked at which gave me the inside scoop on what made a strong freelance proposal, so when I went out on my own, I knew exactly what to do.
From day one as a freelancer, that gave me an unfair advantage, and I want you to have that same leg up so you can get more clients to say yes.
Writing Proposals Doesn’t Have to Suck
I hear all the time from freelancers about how much they loathe writing proposals. It takes way too much time and energy, and they struggle through the process.
A big reason for this struggle is that they’re just not sure how to write a proposal effectively. Either they don’t know what to include, so they spend hours searching the Internet for examples and overthinking it, or they spend hours starting from scratch each time trying to perfect it. Either way, they are losing time and money and feel like the entire process sucks.
The good news is that writing proposals doesn’t have to suck. Because the truth is that when mentoring freelancers here at Small Business Boss, I’ve found the one thing that makes a difference in their business isn’t what they think it will be. It’s not their branding, website, social media, or advertising, but rather it’s getting good at creating their freelance proposal and fine tuning their proposal writing process.
Here’s How to Create a Freelance Proposal That’s Designed to Sell:
Demonstrate You Understand Their Needs
All too often, freelancers make the mistake of trying to sell themselves right from the start. Rather than launching into presenting a particular package or solution, you should begin by demonstrating to the client that you’ve taken the time to understand their specific needs.
Use the information you gathered during your consult call or discovery process to provide a succinct overview of what you discussed. Your goal is to let them know you were paying attention and that your focus will be on solving their most pressing needs.
Position Yourself as an Expert
Once you’ve made it clear that you know what their needs are, the next step is to show them you’re the one they should hire to deliver a solution to their problem. Not only do you want to demonstrate that you’re capable of doing the job well, but you want to position yourself as the best option — better than the competition.
The best clients aren’t looking for a warm body or the cheapest option; they’re looking for an expert. This is why you need to learn to sell yourself.
What’s your story, and how has your experience prepared you to deliver what they’re looking to get done? What are your capabilities, and how can you prove your ability to get results? What unique value do you bring to the table? The better you can answer these questions, the better your proposals will be.
Pitch the Benefits of Working Together
Most freelancers know to include a list of deliverables in their proposals. Yes, it’s important that the potential client knows exactly what they can expect to get, but this tends to be where most freelancers stop. They figure the job of the proposal is to spell out what the final product will be — such as a website, a series of blog posts, or a marketing plan.
However, this is where you might be missing the mark. In addition to listing what you’re going to deliver, you need to let them know the results they can expect. If you want them to follow-through and choose you, you need to make a case for the business impact that can come working with you — it’s what will make you stand out.
Define Your Process
The truth is, high-paying clients are discerning. More than likely, they have hired their share of freelancers. Some have delivered, and others have fallen short, which gives them a healthy level of skepticism in the face of your proposal promises. So when it comes to drafting a freelance proposal that impresses, you’ll want to do what you can to instill trust. One way to do this is to define your process.
This will paint you as a professional, and it lets them know you’ve been there done that and built a process around it. Laying out your process, step-by-step, helps to remove uncertainty and assure them they’ll be taken care of. Knowing exactly what it will be like to work with you can go a long way in putting them at ease and towards getting them to say yes to your proposal.
Include a Clearly Defined Timeline
If you don’t include a clearly defined timeline in your proposal, you are leaving too many questions unanswered. On any given project, there will be a lot of moving parts, and what you deliver might need to pass through many different layers of input, feedback, and approval. Plus, the client could be up against tight deadlines that you need to be able to meet.
It’s your job to demonstrate in your proposal that you are aware of the constraints and process on their end and that you are prepared to stay on track and deliver on time. This section also serves to let the client know about your expectations of them so you can keep them on track as well, and everything can run as smoothly as possible.
Make Your Professional Fees Easy to Understand
The section outlining your professional fees should be towards the end of your proposal. Once you’ve demonstrated that you understand their needs, positioned yourself as the best solution to their problem, defined the business impact your work will make, and outlined what it will be like to work together, you have established context for the value you provide.
By the end of the proposal, you have done what you can to prime them for your price tag, so you should be ready to list your professional fees with confidence. So many times I see freelancers have this right at the start, and it can result in sticker stock as it lacks context.
Be sure to break down what each deliverable will cost, outline the payment schedule, and include details, such as your policy on refunds, rolled over hours, items above the scope of work, and how payments can be made. Lay everything out, so they’re not just looking at fees but what they can expect when you work together.
Prepare and Send Your Freelance Proposal Quickly
If there’s one place you can improve your systems and productivity in your freelance business, it’s in streamlining your proposal process. Once you do this, you’ll thank me later for saving you tons of time and energy.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re currently taking longer than an hour to write your proposals, then you definitely have room for improvement. Unless you have ultra complex scopes of work, most of the proposal should be templated and simply require some customization to each client.
If you’re making your clients wait days or even weeks for a proposal, you’re missing out. Studies have shown that when proposals are sent within 24 hours, they result in a 26% higher conversion rate and a faster time to sign too.
One of the biggest ways I’m able to win more proposals in less time is by using a tool designed for creating proposals, which is a game changer. At this point, I’ve tried them all, and my current favorite is Proposify.
When you freelance, proposals are how you land clients, so creating winning proposals should be a priority for you. The more proposals you’re able to win, the more you’ll be able to grow your business, and you’ll soon be on the way to doubling your revenue.