How To Write A Freelance Proposal (Plus 8 Mistakes To Avoid)

Writing a great freelance proposal is often the difference between getting a new client and going back to the drawing board. But as a beginner, it can be tough to know how to write a freelancing proposal.

The 10 steps to write an epic freelance proposal are:

  1. Write an engaging introduction
  2. Add personalization
  3. Clearly define your approach
  4. Showcase your expertise
  5. Offer transparent pricing & deliverables
  6. Have a clear timeline
  7. Address potential concerns
  8. Include your value proposition
  9. Add a call to action
  10. Proofread & polish your freelance proposal

Below, I’ll draw on my freelancing experience to walk you through the creation of your own freelance proposal. I’ll discuss why you need one, what to include, and what not to include to get more clients!

Why You Need To Write A Good Freelance Proposal

Picture this: You stumble upon an incredible freelance gig that aligns perfectly with your skills and interests. You’re eager to apply, but the client asks for a proposal outlining your approach.

You panic a little.

Where do you even start? Should you just list your past experiences and call it a day?

Well, here’s the thing: A freelance proposal isn’t just a formality. It’s not a dull, bureaucratic hoop to jump through. No, a proposal is your chance to shine, to showcase your expertise, and to convince the client that you’re the best person for the job! It’s your sales pitch, your first impression, and your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

When you write a compelling freelance proposal, you demonstrate professionalism, attention to detail, and genuine interest in the project. You show the client that you’ve taken the time to understand their needs and that you’re committed to delivering value.

Clients want to work with freelancers who are proactive, communicative, and reliable.

Remember, you’re not the only freelancer vying for that project. There’s fierce competition out there, and a well-crafted proposal is how you can land the client ahead of everyone else trying to do the same.

But how do you even begin to create a freelance proposal?

Note: There are lots of tools out there that can do a lot of the legwork for you. One example is Bonsai, and they have a handy library of free proposal templates to get you started!

How To Prepare Your Freelance Proposal

Before you start typing away at your freelance proposal, you need to gather some essential information and set yourself up for success.

Understand The Project Requirements

First things first, you must have a crystal-clear understanding of the project requirements. Read the job posting or client brief carefully and make notes of the key deliverables, deadlines, and any specific instructions.

If there’s anything you’re unsure about, don’t hesitate to ask the client for clarification. The more you know, the more targeted (i.e. better) your proposal will be!

Research The Client & Their Business

Take some time to research the client and their business. Visit their website, read about their products or services, and get a sense of their company culture and values.

Understanding their business will help you tailor your proposal to their specific needs and demonstrate your genuine interest in working with them. Showing that you’ve done your homework can go a long way here.

Identify The Pain Points & Goals

Try to identify the pain points the client is facing and the goals they want to achieve through this project. Are they looking to increase sales, improve their website’s user experience, or revamp their branding?

Knowing their pain points will allow you to position yourself as the solution they need.

Clarify Your Role & Scope Of Work

Make sure you have a clear idea of what your role will be and the scope of work you’re expected to cover. This includes the tasks you’ll be responsible for, the timeline for each task, and any deliverables the client is looking for.

Knowing the scope will help you avoid misunderstandings down the road.

Set Your Price & Payment Terms

Decide on your pricing for the project and consider how you’ll structure the payment terms. Will you charge a fixed fee or an hourly rate? Will you require a deposit upfront?

Be transparent about your pricing and payment expectations in your proposal.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask the client questions if there’s something you’re unsure about. Whether it’s about the project, the client’s preferences, or their budget, seeking clarification shows that you’re thorough and genuinely interested in providing the best possible service.

It will also help you craft a freelance proposal that is more in line with what they’re looking for.

Check For Additional Requirements

Some clients may have specific requirements for their proposals, such as including samples of past work, a timeline breakdown, or references. Make sure you check for any additional requests and incorporate them into your proposal as needed.

Missing these when they’re required is a sure-fire way to have your proposal ignored!

Prepare Your Portfolio

If you have relevant samples of past work or a portfolio showcasing your skills, be ready to share them with the client. A portfolio can provide concrete evidence of your abilities and give the client more confidence that you’re the right person for the job.

Be Professional & Courteous

From the moment you initiate communication with the client, maintain a professional and courteous demeanor. Promptly respond to their messages, show appreciation for the opportunity, and be respectful of their time.

Okay, you’ve done your research, and you’re ready to start writing a freelance proposal! Let’s walk through the steps in more detail.

Note: You may decide to provide your client with a brief cover letter before sending a proposal (or along with it). You don’t need to do this, but it can be a quick way to tell your client more about you and what to expect in the proposal.

How To Write An Epic Freelancing Proposal

1. Write An Engaging Introduction

Start your freelance proposal with a warm and engaging introduction. Greet the client by name, express your enthusiasm for the project, and show appreciation for the opportunity to submit your proposal.

Briefly mention how you came across the project and why it caught your attention. This is also where you can explain who you are and why you’re the right person for the job. Consider mentioning your experience and any specific qualifications that back this up.

2. Add Personalization

Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by addressing the client’s specific needs and goals. Reiterate the key points you gathered during your research and highlight that you understand their pain points.

This personal touch will immediately grab the client’s attention and make them feel valued. It’s also a quick way to show them you’re not just sending a generic freelance proposal to all your potential clients.

3. Clearly Define Your Approach

Outline your proposed approach to the project. Detail the steps you’ll take to achieve the client’s goals and overcome the challenges they’re facing. Be clear and concise, and avoid using jargon that the client might not be familiar with.

For some projects, you won’t need to say much more than a few paragraphs here. But for larger, more complex projects, especially with new clients, you might have several pages here.

Note that more is not necessarily better, as clients don’t have unlimited time or patience. But sometimes you will need to be very detailed if it’s a project that may last several months for example.

Top Tip: No matter how long your freelance proposal is, it should be concise and free of fluff or unnecessary content

4. Showcase Your Expertise

This is your time to shine! Showcase your relevant experience, skills, and achievements. Provide specific examples of past projects that align with the current one.

Highlight the results you achieved for previous clients and how your expertise can directly benefit the client’s project. If you have testimonials or recommendations from other clients, this is the time to include them as well.

5. Offer Transparent Pricing & Deliverables

Be upfront about your pricing and what the client will get in return. Break down the costs if possible and align them with the scope of work you defined earlier. Also include a comprehensive list of deliverables so the client knows exactly what to expect from you.

Put a focus on the value you can provide here, rather than just the cost. Clients want to see a return on their investment, so you need to make it clear (throughout the entire proposal) that what they spend on you will result in far more money coming back to them in the future.

6. Have A Clear Timeline

Present a clear timeline for the project, breaking it down into achievable milestones if need be. This shows the client that you’re organized and committed to delivering on time.

If the project has specific deadlines set by the client, make sure you address them and assure the client of your ability to meet them.

7. Address Potential Concerns

Anticipate any concerns the client might have and address them in your proposal. This proactive approach demonstrates that you’ve thought ahead and have solutions in place. It also builds trust and reassures the client that you’re the right person for the job.

Basically, imagine you were the client reading your proposal: are there any gaps or things you haven’t fully explained?

8. Include Your Value Proposition

You need to emphasize what sets you apart from other freelancers. What unique skills, perspectives, or techniques do you bring to the table?

Explain how your approach adds value to the project and how working with you will be an exceptional experience for the client. You can use past experiences or client testimonials here to back this up.

9. Add A Call To Action

End your proposal on a strong note. Express your excitement to work with the client and convey your confidence in successfully completing the project.

Reiterate your appreciation for the opportunity and invite the client to contact you for any further discussions or questions. This could be the call to action, or you could provide the option for them to sign it and enter into a contract.

However, you may wish to have a separate freelance contract that you send either along with or after the proposal.

10. Proofread & Polish Your Freelance Proposal

Before hitting that send button, thoroughly proofread your proposal. Check for any spelling or grammatical errors and ensure the formatting is consistent and easy to read. A polished proposal reflects professionalism and attention to detail.

Do not skimp on this step!

If a client finds mistakes in your proposal, they may doubt your attention to detail and professionalism. This is absolutely key for freelance writers in particular.

Now that you know how to write a freelance proposal, let’s take a look at a few things you shouldn’t include on it.

8 Mistakes To Avoid In Freelance Proposals

1. Irrelevant Personal Information

While it’s essential to include your name, contact information, and a brief introduction, avoid adding excessive personal details that are not relevant to the project or your professional qualifications.

2. Long Introductions

Keep your introduction brief and to the point. Avoid going into unnecessary details or unrelated anecdotes. Don’t lose the attention of your potential client before they’ve even got to the meat of the proposal!

3. Unrelated Work Experience

Only include past work experiences that are directly relevant to the current project. Irrelevant work experience can clutter your proposal and distract from your key qualifications.

4. Negative Remarks About Previous Clients

Never speak negatively about past clients or projects. Maintain a positive and professional tone throughout your proposal.

5. Unsubstantiated Claims

Avoid making unsupported claims about your skills or achievements. Back up your statements with concrete examples and evidence of your past work.

6. Pricing Without Context

If you choose to include pricing details, provide context and explanations for the costs. Avoid merely listing numbers without justifying the value you bring to the project.

7. Overwhelming Visuals Or Graphics

While some visuals can enhance your proposal, avoid using too many images or graphics that may distract from the content. Keep the focus on your qualifications and approach.

8. Large Blocks Of Text

Break up your content into digestible sections with headings and bullet points. Avoid lengthy paragraphs that may be challenging to read.

Do You Always Need To Write A Proposal As A Freelancer?

Writing a freelance proposal is not always a strict requirement for every project or client. The need for a formal proposal may vary depending on the nature of the project, the client’s expectations, and the complexity of the work involved. Below are some scenarios where you likely will need to write a freelance proposal.

Larger Projects: For large and complex projects that require detailed planning, a proposal is often expected. Clients may want to see your proposed approach, timeline, and pricing before making a decision.

Formal Requests for Proposals (RFPs): In some cases, clients issue RFPs, which are formal documents outlining their project requirements. Responding to an RFP typically requires submitting a detailed proposal that addresses the client’s specific needs.

New Clients: When dealing with new or unfamiliar clients, submitting a proposal can help build trust and establish your professionalism. A well-crafted proposal demonstrates your understanding of the project and your commitment to delivering value.

Competitive Projects: In competitive situations where multiple freelancers are vying for the same project, a proposal becomes essential to showcase your skills, experience, and unique approach and help you stand out from the crowd.

Fixed-Price Projects: For fixed-price projects, a proposal is often necessary to outline the scope of work, deliverables, and associated costs.

When You Might Not Need A Freelance Proposal

However, there are instances where a formal proposal might not be required or where a more casual approach is enough. I discuss a few of these below.

Small or Simple Projects: For small, straightforward projects with clear requirements and a short duration, a brief email or message outlining your services and pricing may be enough. This is typically the approach on freelancing websites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Established Relationships: In well-established freelancer-client relationships, both parties may prefer more informal communication, skipping the formal proposal process. You’ll have to gauge for yourself whether a given client relationship falls into this category.

It’s crucial to gauge the individual client’s expectations and requirements. Some clients may explicitly ask for a formal proposal, while others might prefer a more casual approach. Always be open to discussing project details with the client and be prepared to submit a proposal if needed.

Remember, there are pre-built solutions for your freelance proposals – such as Bonsai’s many free templates.

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