Writing a Successful Proposal


I am on Elance or oDesk a few times a week writing proposals for projects, looking for work, or meeting with local businesses to talk about web design projects.  Typically as I am working on Elance in particular, I get responses to proposals before I even finish my quota of connects for the day.  Frankly, that is a good problem to have!  In this article, I will outline some of reason for my successful Elance work.

I was reading through some articles at Freelance Switch when I found one entitled ‘3 Reasons Your Proposals Aren’t Working‘ and I wanted to comment on those reasons and talk a little bit more about successful writing.

1. Too Much Detail Deters

The author points out that placing too much detail into the proposal is not good.  I fully agree.  I know from posting a few jobs that many contractors will place in a proposal.  If your proposal has too much information, it will not be read, and therefore, not considered.  Balance is the key here.  You want enough information to make it known that you are credible and can complete the job, but if they are asking for a brick, do not try to sell them your wall!

Do not try to overwhelm your prospective employer with too many details about the profession, or your skills.  Be sure to read their requirements and only give the details that are pertinent to their job.  Show them specific points from portfolio projects that meet their need.  Leave out the extra suggestions at this stage; save those for a first meeting.  Have just enough details, but not too many.

2. Propose a Solution

Ask any marketer and you will find that the best way to sell your product is to sell the solution that it contains.  Do not overwhelm your prospects with details about how great your website is, or how people of generation X like your brochure designs or content writing.  Your client is not looking for a flashy website, a cool brochure, or content; they are looking to increase their sales.

Rather than dwell on why you are the best web designer, you need to sell the client on why your designs are going to sell their product, move traffic through their business, or increase their bottom line.  They have a written or unwritten problem and your job will be to find that problem and write a proposal on how to deal with that problem in a way that meets their needs.  Remember to propose a solution, not promote yourself.

3. Make Something Relevant

As you look through online job boards it is common to see people say something like, ‘at the top of your proposal, write “I am human”‘.  This occurs because of the number of robots spamming job boards, but also because it will prevent many people from taking a quick glance at the job and pasting in a pre-made proposal.  Make sure that you are reading the job post and responding to specific needs.  This shows that you have read the job post and are ready to work on it.  This is your first filter of communication with your client and if you have specific items about your job abilities here, it will make a great first impression.

To complete this task, I like to read through the proposal a few times and then go through my portfolio and point them to specific items that I have completed that relate to their job.  This way I have scattered my portfolio through the proposal rather than having a list of items at the bottom.  To be sure, I do have a list of specific skills that I paste into the proposal at the bottom.  The end result is that the first few paragraphs are specific to their project, then I list my qualifications after that.  This part is specific to me, so it is not usually original.

4. Persistence Pays Off

The final thing that I do to get many jobs on Elance and elsewhere is persistence.  It is not easy to keep up the fight, especially when you expect the majority of your proposals to be either rejected or ignored.  But once you realize that each ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes’ then you will just start the process of writing without concern for whether or not the job will come.  If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.  That is the same for looking for work as a freelancer.


About Tom

Tom has been building websites and interacting online with blogs, forums, and social media since 2005. In 2010 he launched out full time in web design with the company Western Mountain Web Design. In his first year of business he completed projects in over 15 states in the US. In 2011, he launched the web hosting company Murhost and the blog Murhost Success with the goal of equipping small business owners to succeed with their online strategy.
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