An entire work day. That’s how long it took to create the 8-page project proposal you wrote, edited, and packaged to perfection for a potential client. It’s the third one you’re sending out this month.
It looks ready. It feels ready. You’re confident it’s going to blow the client’s socks off.
You wait a couple of days. The client hasn’t responded yet. Did he get the proposal? Should you send a follow-up email? Maybe send another copy of the proposal just to be sure (might have been trapped in their spam folder by accident).
Eventually, you hear back from the client. But his email brings in some shattering news: He thinks you’re a talented professional, but he decides to pass on your project proposal.
It’s tough to handle the rejection after putting in all those hours. But the truth is many freelancers struggle even in just convincing the client to read their proposal its entirety and to truly consider their offer. Besides losing out on potential business, these service providers spent time and effort they can never take back and reuse on actual paid work.
READ ALSO: Why Designers Should Get Paid for Proposals (designinstruct.com)
Rather than beating ourselves about it, let’s try to understand the reasons why clients aren’t interested in our proposals so we can tweak our approach to create better ones.
Your Proposal Doesn’t State the Problem You’re Solving
If you can’t identify the client’s problems and needs, it tells them that you don’t understand their business. Employers are hesitant to work with people who aren’t on the same page.
Before sitting down to create your next proposal, ask yourself these two questions:
- What problem is the client trying to solve with this project?
- What solution can I offer to the problem?
Successful proposals present solutions that will address the problems and needs of the client. It has to be detailed enough so the client can see how you are intending to deliver on your promises.
Most project proposals get thrown into the trash folder because they focus too much on credentials, past work experiences and capabilities of the service provider. Their proposals read like a resume.
The 8-page proposal you spent an entire work day on? It’s filled with fluff meant to increase the proposal’s page count, and doesn’t mention anything that can move the needle forward for the prospective client.
But if you want to set your proposal apart from the rest of the proposals the client will be reading that day, you need to be bold and state what you will achieve for them.
Will your proposed solutions improve customer acquisition? Will the project open up new opportunities for revenue? How?
In other words: What objectives will be met after the project has been completed?
In his article on Forbes.com, August Turak emphasizes the importance of knowing and stating the goals in a proposal:
"Great plans start with projections or outputs, and work their way back through the activities and money needed as inputs. Poor plans focus instead on activities and ‘budget’ in the forlorn hope that if we just stir up enough dust some of it may magically settle into money."
Your Proposal Isn’t Supported by Facts
For your proposal to have a stronger argument and a tighter hold on your client, invest some time in research.
Find relevant data, articles and research study results, then use these resources to bolster your proposed solutions.
Your Proposal Doesn’t Describe Your Project Methodology
Traditional proposals are often written and presented to the client without a project plan. It’s because, at this early stage, you won’t have enough data to plot out how and when the project will be completed.
However, you can outline the general stages of your projects, such as the research phase, planning phase, production phase, post-launch phase, and so on. Perhaps you use a standard project methodology like Agile, Getting Real or Lean Startup — you could mention that too.
Describe how your methodology helps complete projects efficiently and successfully.
Doing so gives the potential client an idea of what it will be like to work with you. And it shows that you mean business.
Also, describing your project methodology adds to the perceived value of your services.
By understanding the prospective client’s needs, he will be more likely to take your proposals seriously. And at that point, you will be a step closer to winning the client’s trust and landing new business.
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