How to Write a Great Proposal

By Robert Williams

Freelancers don’t have time to waste on proposals that don’t close. That’s why this post is a collection of the best tools I’ve found for improving your proposals.

Below we walk through an exclusive free template, tips for increasing your chances of landing a sweet gig, and more.  

You can use the process to apply to any of our awesome website design RFPs or other contract design opportunities you find on Folyo.

So let’s get started!

Simply, using the process below won’t win you a project but it sure will increase your chances!

Step 1 – Download Jonathan Stark’s Website Proposal Template
This is a special proposal template created by my friend Jonathan Stark that’s easy to customize and gives you a great head start at creating a persuasive proposal.

Study the copy. Look at the way Jonathan is speaking to expensive problems. This is how you win high-value work. Look for expensive problems that a client needs solved, then mirror those back in your proposal.

Step 2 – Put the Template into Bidsketch
One of the best ways to speed up the proposal process is to make creating and sending them easy. My favorite app for this is Bidsketch because it comes with a bunch of additional templates and tools for customizing your proposal.

Step 3 – Track and Follow Up on Your Proposals with Pipedrive
Following up on your proposal is one of the biggest levers you can pull to increase your close rate. Some Folyo members even report this being the #1 factor to landing six-figure contracts. 

But very few people remember to do it and as a result baking it into your process is a huge advantage. Pipedrive is great for this because it’s designed around the proposal workflow. Here’s a video I made walking through how to set it up:

Step 4 – Read Up on How to Improve Your Proposals
Beyond software, a sound sales approach will have a huge effect on your proposal’s success. Here are a few book recommendations that will help you optimize your proposal process even further.

  • Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro: Mike’s now famous “Fuck You, Pay Me” presentation is maybe his most well-known resource, but Design is a Job is one of the all-time best books on running a design business. He walks through: proposal tips, working with contracts, presenting your work, and a ton more.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: During the proposal process you will ideally communicate with your clients in a variety of ways, not just over email. This is a great book on an overall approach to building a relationship in any setting, regardless of the medium you happen to find yourself in.
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini: This is quickly becoming a marketing classic because it’s hyper effective at generating results. I recommend you go through each chapter individually and implement each idea into different areas of your process. By the end, I guarantee it will generate huge results for you.

Step 5 – Customize the Website Proposal Template for Your Business
We analyzed over 500 RFPs, and listed out the most commonly requested elements. Create these once, put them in Bidsketch, and have them ready to add to your template to save a ton of time.

  1. Create Your Own Cover letter
    Introduce yourself in a friendly and concise way. Add something unique to the project you’re applying to.
  2. Write Your Own Bio
    Share with clients who’s behind the proposal. Have a bio ready to go that tells them why you’re awesome.
  3. Answer the Question: Why You?
    Tell your clients why they should hire you in particular and what makes you different than anyone else.
  4. Include Contact Info
    Make it clear what the best way to contact you is. Ideally, include this info on every page (especially first and last).
  5. Mention Team members
    Define roles for members on your team. Let the client know who else will be working on their project.
  6. Propose a Solution
    What are you proposing? What’s the benefit? It’s surprising how often you can re-use “custom” solutions.
  7. Clearly Define Your Price
    How much is it going to cost? Create a few packages you can offer for any budget range.
  8. Ask Questions
    Most RFPs have a Q+A process baked in. Always have a couple of questions ready to go for any project.
  9. Remember to Pick Up the Phone If an RFP starts dictating button colors, pick up the phone. It’s a cry for help and your opportunity to create mutual understanding. Speaking directly to a designer may be what they need, much more than getting 325 replies to a badly-formed RFP. Remember, not all organizations who send out formal documents have to.
  10. Offer a Roadmapping Session and Create a Productized Offer This is one of the best ways to save time in a design practice. By specializing on one problem area and refining your expertise, you create irresistible proposals by default. 
  11. Always include options in your proposal
    No matter what the budget is or how the scope is laid out, giving potential clients options in your proposal will double or triple the chances you’ve hit the spot for them.

    Ask a question with your proposal
    Keep in mind, there’s people behind the scenes. Remember to use the Q+A system built into the process. Asking a question can help build a relationship. A good starter: “I know you have a spot in the RFP for questions, but I wanted to quickly check-in and ask if you already have a firm in mind to handle the project?”

Step 6 – Find RFPs and Contracts Worth Pitching
Finding website RFPs and other contract opportunities worth pitching is near and dear to our hearts. We’ve been finding hundreds of awesome RFPs for our customers every year for the past 5+ years. That’s why we designed the best place to get every RFP on the internet in one place for one low monthly cost.

Time to get lucky!

There’s always going to be some luck involved. However, you can also create the opportunity for luck to strike by putting yourself in the right position. Most RFP issuers I’ve interviewed receive less than 30 proposals. That means by just being average, you have a 1/30 chance. Be consistent. Follow up. Send 50-100 RFPs this year and suddenly, you’ll get a lot more lucky.

Folyo members get the best RFPs on the web delivered to them. They get a head start on this entire entire process and get $10k+ graphic, web, and UI/UX design projects sent to them daily. You should sign up for a free trial today!

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