I am going to give you the punchline right from the top. This is the take home, people, so take it home:
Project proposals are not sales documents. By the time you have written your proposal, you, your understanding of the project and your ability to add value should already be established.
When you think about how to write a project proposal, don’t think of it as a sales letter. Some people make the mistake of thinking that, at the point of writing up their proposal, they are still selling.
Let Your Proposal be The Culmination of a Well-Constructed Relationship
Your project proposal is not the beginning of the relationship. It is the result of the relationship. Get to know your prospective client and what he or she is trying to achieve before you start writing.
If you have built the relationship with your prospective client ahead of time, the project proposal can serve the following 10 purposes:
- Sum up your thoughts and those of your prospective client
- Give a broad view of the project objectives
- Describe how you will measure the success of your project
- Clearly state the value your client will be getting out of the project
- Give a “big picture” of how you will carry out the project
- Divide the project into phases with associated timing
- Clarify the details of those phases
- Explore joint accountability
- Provide terms & conditions and
- Make acceptance of the contract explicit
Although a 10 part proposal might seem like a lot, if you have already developed a shared understanding of the project, each of these sections can be quite brief.
Sum up Shared Thinking
Situation Appraisal. This is where you state the problem the client is having and the solution they are seeking — based on your conversations and shared understanding of the situation.
Broad View of The Project Objectives
Project objectives. This is a short, bulleted summary of what the project seeks to achieve.
How You Measure Project Success
Measures of success. In this section, you clearly state how you will measure success. Be as specific as possible. For example, “Client will have 1,000 Facebook likes in the first year.”
Clearly State The Project’s Value
Value. This shows you really understand what is important to the client, and why. Another bulleted list, now you can say why these measures of success are important. Building on the Facebook example, the value of an increased social media presence is that it enhances and popularizes the client’s brand.
Provide a “Big Picture” View of The Project
Methodologies & options. Personally, I like to give a prospective client three options with a summary of what I will do in each option. I keep it general, because I don’t want to micro-managed. Option 1 is the least expensive option, Option 2 is a medium priced option that builds on the first and Option 3, the most expensive, has all the “bells and whistles.” People like to feel free and this also helps them clarify their own budgets and how serious they are about the project.
Provide Project Phases And Timing
Project phases & timing. In this section you break down the methodologies you listed in your options and create a preliminary timeline. Most likely, the timeline will shift as a result of a clarified project description and the research you do following the initial project definition.
Most projects include the following:
- Project definition
- Research and analysis
- Project “meat” — which is very dependent on each type of project
- Training and
Project phase details. This portion of adds clarifying details to each phase of the project in paragraph form. Although it may seem a bit repetitious, it helps cement the shared understanding of the project and also to avoid the dreaded “project creep” in which you keep adding those little extras that add up and take away from your bottom line.
Explore Joint Accountability
Joint accountability. As a consultant or coach, you are in a relationship of equals with your client. It is important to let them know, in writing, that the project can only be successful if they do their part. This often includes:
- Meeting deadlines
- Showing up for meetings
- Providing agreed upon content
- Being willing to make decisions
- Setting up accounts that need to be in their name
- Providing testimonials or other social proof
- Providing access to materials or people who can help with research
Joint accountability will need to be tailored depending on the project.
Provide Terms And Conditions
Terms & conditions. This is the part where you lay out:
- The prices for each option
- When and how you would like to be paid
- How expenses will be billed
- How you will handle work that broadens the scope of the project and
- Your guarantee
These things are matter or preference, to some degree. For example, I like to be paid half up front and half near the end of the project. I also offer a small discount for paying up front in full.
Sign on The Dotted Line
Acceptance. Now all that is left to do is have the client sign the document. This is a formality, but an important one. However, I start work when I have the money in hand because providing money shows the client is serious and ready to start work.
How to Write a Project Proposal That Expresses Shared Values And Serious Intent
I said at the beginning of this post that I wanted you to get that your proposal should, in effect, be a writeup of what has already been understand by you and your potential client. Namely:
You and the client have a shared understanding of the desired outcomes and value of the project.
Except for one thing, which might be obvious but maybe isn’t: the proposal attaches a price tag and allows clients to “put their money where their mouths are.”
How do you write proposals? Include your tips in the comments.
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