Creating an effective project proposal template is essential for freelance businesses today. A professional, comprehensive business proposal can be all it takes to impress leads and land a new client, and earn more money. Before I started using templates for my freelance writing business, a huge portion of my time got eaten up by creating project proposals. Starting with a quality project proposal template can save you a lot of time on pitching, and help you land more clients in the process.
In this post, you’ll learn all about project proposals, what they are, why they’re important, and what yours should include. You’ll also get access to a free proposal template, including all the important elements that help me land clients.
What is a Freelance Project Proposal?
A project proposal is a document you submit to potential clients explaining your skills and services as a freelancer. It’s tailored to their unique project and needs.
A proposal is a lot like a job interview for the digital world. It’s your chance to convince leads that you’re the freelancer they should hire. That’s why it’s so important to make each and every project proposal you submit perfect. No matter if you’re apply for gigs on job sites for writers or pitching a new client, your proposal should illustrate your skills, explain your services, and ultimately convince the client to hire you. A proposal should be super formal and professional, and start out with a cover like this one:
What Does a Freelance Project Proposal Include?
What sections a freelance proposal should include depends on who you’re talking to. Everyone organizes and categorizes them a bit differently. You can also auto-create proposals and contracts using a freelance project management tool (There are many options out there – I use Bonsai). Just make sure you adapt the template to fit your needs.
Here’s an overview of the key elements all freelance proposal templates should have:
1. Project Information
Professional proposals should have a cover page that includes the following elements:
• Project name
• Freelancer business name
• Client’s name
• Your contact information
• The proposal date
This section is where you outline what the client wants and how you’re going to meet those goals. This is your chance to show your understanding of their needs and illustrate why you’re the right person for the job. Detail what specific services you’ll deliver and what impact they will have on their business.
Here’s an example of what the goals section could look like:
Your goals section is designed to be very brief. In the deliverables section, you can go into more detail about your services, including the kind and number of specific deliverables (e.g. you’ll write 3 blog posts per month). Don’t be vague here. Consider the overall project and break it down into steps.
You should also be clear about the scope of the project and outline any additional services that may not be included. For example, your service could include one round of revisions, with additional revision requests at an extra cost.
Here you’ll explain when the client can expect to receive said deliverables. Indicate if it’s an ongoing project or if there’s a set start and end date. Some proposals include a detailed timetable illustrating project milestones and expectations. This should not only include when you will deliver project elements, but also expectations for clients. For example, a freelance graphic designer could submit a logo for review within 2 weeks, and the client has 1 week to request revisions.
Here you’ll explain the overall cost of the project or price points for specific deliverables within it. Add a disclaimer here that any tasks outside of the original scope of the project will incur additional fees. You can also state what kinds of payment you accept, as well as when you expect payment.
Here’s an example of what fees and deliverables might look like:
6. Statement for Moving Forward
To encourage potential clients to become paying customers, you must guide them on the next steps in the process. This can be something really simple, such as emailing you to discuss the project more. Or you can prompt them to sign a contract. Just make sure it’s clear what they should do next to keep the project moving.
What About Cold Pitches?
I’ve noticed a lot of new freelancers get confused about the difference between a project proposal and a cold pitch. A proposal is something you send to potential clients at their request. They’ve either posted a job on a freelance site or job board, or asked you personally to submit a service proposal. A cold pitch is something you send out to prospects without them asking. You’re soliciting them and trying to get them interested in your services.
A cold pitch might look like this:
Cold pitches and proposals contain some of the same elements. They’re both designed to illustrate your value compared to the competition. But proposals are much more detailed than a cold pitch.
Most freelancers need to send out cold pitches then follow up with a proposal at the request of the client. So with my freelance project proposal template, I’m also including 3 cold pitch examples you can adapt and use.
What About Job Site Proposals?
It’s a smart idea to have a project proposal template designed just for job sites. 91% of skilled freelancers find work using freelance websites, for numerous reasons:
A proposal you submit to job sites for writers or other freelancers should contain all the key information as a full proposal, but it needs to be much more succinct. If you submit a full 2-page proposal on Upwork, very few potential clients will read it. I recommend using your full proposal as a template to create a much briefer message for job sites like Upwork. Don’t worry, my free freelance proposal template also includes a sample Upwork proposal template.
So you get:
• 3 Cold Pitch Samples
• An Upwork Proposal Sample
• A Full Proposal Template
These are pretty much all you need to apply for gigs and pitch clients. I wish I had seen freelance proposal examples like these when I first started out!
How to Write a Proposal That Lands New Clients
Having a quality freelance proposal template is only the first step. You need to use it as a guide to creating a proposal that will wow prospects and land you new clients. No matter if you’re creating a design proposal template, marketing proposal or pitch for writing services, here are 9 key tips you can use to ensure your actual pitch is a winner:
1. Be fast
Most likely, you’re creating a proposal because a potential client posted a gig on Upwork or some other job site. Your proposal will be just one among tens or more than a hundred other submissions. You can submit an amazing proposal that shows you’re the best freelancer for the job, but it won’t matter if the client never reads it. That’s why it’s in your best interest to be one of the first proposals for new jobs. You don’t want to be the 53rd person to submit a proposal for a gig. No one will read it and it’s a waste of your time. As a general rule, whenever I apply for gigs on a job site or Upwork, I only bother submitting proposals for gigs that were posted in the past 24 hours or so. So if you see a gig you’re perfect for, don’t stall. Get out your template and submit a winning proposal as soon as possible.
2. Keep it short and simple
Clients are busy people, that’s why they’re hiring freelancers to help them out. Maybe you’re showing them your thorough work ethic by writing a lengthy, detailed proposal. But more likely they’re just not going to read it. Don’t give your clients a chance to get lost in your proposal. If your proposal is more than 2 pages, that’s probably too long. Keep it short and simple, only including the most relevant information. You can always give potential clients the option to contact you if they need more details.
When submitting proposals on a site like Upwork, I recommend summarizing key points then including your full proposal as an attachment. Most Upwork freelancers never bother to create a full professional proposal. By attaching a full proposal, you’re showing the potential client that you’re professional without inundating them with too much information.
3. Make it unique
Having a template for your freelance proposals can save you a lot of time and effort. But you should never copy and paste it without making some major changes. Create a proposal that’s tailored to the client’s unique goals and needs. This is especially true if you’re submitting your proposal to a job site. Employers can identify a copy-and-paste proposal after just reading a sentence or two. That’s all they need to weed your application out.
4. Capture their attention
Most potential clients will never bother to read a full proposal. They have a lot to review and are looking for a reason to weed applications out. Your job is to capture their attention in the first few sentences so they feel compelled to read on and see what you’re all about.
One way you can do this is by mentioning key details you know about their company and business goals. Maybe even do a little research beyond what their brief provided to show that you’re paying attention. For example, you could mention how your services can help rejuvenate their content program after the merger they underwent last year.
Or you could capture their attention by highlighting something that sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. One of my favorite things to mention on cold pitches and job site proposals is that my work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Not many other freelancers can say that.
5. Focus on client goals
When adapting your proposal template to individual clients, be sure to mention and address each of their outlined goals. Focus on their needs and illustrate exactly how your services will help. It’s worthwhile to anticipate potential questions they might have and answer them proactively in your proposal. Say, for example, they want you to redesign their website. They’re probably wondering how your new design will be better than their current one. Take a look at their website then make specific suggestions for how your approach can improve on it.
6. Include relevant work samples towards the beginning
Potential clients shouldn’t have to take your word for it that you have relevant skills and experience for their freelance project. You should be able to show them this is true with samples of your work. These can come from previous clients or sample work you’ve created. Make sure you select the most relevant samples for the work outlined in their brief. Offering unrelated samples might suggest that you don’t have experience in the exact area they’re looking for.
As a freelance writer, I like to provide a few links to paid writing gigs I’ve done on different websites, then offer a link to my full writing portfolio, which is published on my website. This makes me look way more professional and experienced than someone who just attaches a Word Doc sample to their proposal application.
7. Focus on why they should work with you
In an effort to keep your proposal short and relevant, it’s good to focus on why they should work with you on this particular job. Don’t describe your whole resume. Instead, stick with the experience that makes you perfect for this particular job.
For example, I’m a freelance writer in the digital marketing niche. When I submit a proposal, I focus on my 5 years of experience in this area. I never mention the fact that I also have a master’s degree in anthropology. In the past, when I applied to write for a culture and human rights blog, I did mention my MA because it was relevant to the gig at hand.
8. Be friendly and personable
It’s important to let your potential client know that there’s a real person behind the proposal. You need to be able to work together and build a business relationship online. Being friendly and personable can show them you’re prepared to do that.
First off, always address them by their name in the proposal. Simply writing “Hi” or “Dear Sir” shows them you didn’t even bother copying their name over from the job brief. You can also use phrases to show that you’re considerate, such as “I know you’re busy, so let me briefly explain…” and “Thank you for your time.”
9. Offer options
If there’s any part of a proposal that scares potential clients off, it’s the cost section. You’re quoting them a price for a big project, and it’s going to come off as expensive. You don’t want potential clients to navigate away thinking that paying a big bill is the only way they can hire you. That’s why it’s important to present options with your service offering, so they can choose the one that works with their budget and needs.
For example, in addition to quoting your project rate, you could also break down the price of individual deliverables. If you’re an editor, for example, you can also quote a price for editing services that include a trial edit, so they can see if you’re a good fit before committing to the whole project.
Download Your Freelance Proposal Template
What are you waiting for? Scroll up and grab my FREE freelance proposal template and start using it to land gigs! I based it on my experience creating freelance writing proposals for my potential clients. But it can be adapted to any freelance business niche: web design, social media marketing, editing, translation, marketing and more.