How to write a winning proposal for freelance work

Sheree Whiteley Sheree Whiteley
How to write a winning proposal for freelance work

Freelancing is hard work, regardless of your industry. Unless you have some sort of agent or get enough referrals to keep a steady stream of clients coming your way, part of your time is spent finding new jobs and landing new clients. A well-crafted proposal for freelance work can help your potential clients see just how much of a professional you are, and help you beat out competitors—even if they have brand recognition working on their side. Let’s take a look at how to write a winning proposal for freelance work.

Parts of the Proposal

If you’re new to the proposal process, you may be wondering what the point of a proposal is and what to include in it. Basically, a proposal shows that you understand the potential client’s ask and needs, highlights your relevant skills, and outlines your plan. Exactly what you include can vary by your industry, but here’s the gist of what you’ll want to include:

  • A summary of the project. This is where you demonstrate your understanding of the potential client’s ask, and your solution.
  • A cost estimate. Be as detailed as you can be here—nobody likes surprises when it comes to money. If you’re bidding on something like an interior design project, which can be difficult to put an exact price on until the job specifics are fleshed out with your client, include your rate (hourly or otherwise) and a rough budget for materials, etc., while noting that the actual price can change.
  • Breakdown of the process and timeline. One question every client is sure to ask is “when will this be done?” Provide a detailed project outline and tentative timeline for each task.
  • Provisions and payment. You’ll likely delve into this more with a contract, but include any provisions (how many revisions are included, etc.) and payment specifics (how much is due when) so your potential clients know what to expect.
  • Signatures and contact info. Let your readers know how to get in touch with you, and provide signature lines for you both to accept the proposal’s terms. Consider sending your proposal electronically and allowing potential clients to agree with esignatures. This will expedite the process and could give you a competitive edge.

It’s Not About You … Completely

If you’re one of the 60 percent of American freelance workers who made the jump to freelance by choice, you’ve probably got some skills—at least enough to be confident that you can go it alone and be successful. Sure, those amazing skills are your bread and butter, and your potential clients should know about them. However, when you sit down to draft your proposal, think about the potential client first. Instead of immediately focusing on all of the tools you have in your toolbox, focus on the client’s problem and what’s going to resonate with them.

Do your research and figure out exactly what they’re looking for. Look through the company’s website, staff directory, and check out their competitors. If you know their business, competitive landscape, and what skillsets their team members already have, you’ll know how to present yourself and your services in your proposal, and you can include some points in your proposal that show you’ve done your homework.

Showing Your Skills

While demonstrating that you understand the client and their problem is key, you’ll also want to introduce yourself to the client. Consider including an About section, and be sure to sell your skills in the intro.

It’s tempting to show potential clients everything you can do, but ultimately they only care about what’s relevant to them. If you have an RFP or job description, study it and make sure you highlight any relevant skills, experience, and/or degrees you have. The knowledge you gained while researching the client can help you decide what experience and skills you should tout. You should also consider including some social proof—client testimonials go a long way. And, of course, relevant samples speak for themselves.  

Show That You Care

Part of landing any job is showing not only that you can do it, but that you want to do it. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, mention some points you’ll include in your work or provide a rough outline of the blog that you’d like to create for your freelance client, and use a tone similar to theirs. You don’t need to do the project for free, but show that you’ve given it more than a little thought. This will demonstrate that you have the skillset, and that you’re a self-starter.

Make It Shiny

Nobody likes to read boring stuff, and the world is full of skimmers. You have a lot to convey in your freelance proposal, but try to keep it brief and make it engaging. Subheads, bulleted lists, images, and the like can help make the information in your proposal more digestible.

And remember, even the most well-written proposals will benefit from looking good. Make sure yours is on-brand with your logo, brand colors, etc. Ensure that it’s well organized, free of spelling and grammatical errors, and looks polished. Customizable templates can help you make sure all of your documents look professional, and can be easily saved and re-edited the next time you send out a proposal. By delivering beautifully constructed proposals, you’ll gain plenty of clients and keep your freelance business rockin’.

See also: