When you’re a freelancer or small business owner, you should continually work on getting new clients. This is because your success depends on your ability to generate new business. Sometimes, you can get new gigs through referrals or networking, but more often you’re going to be sending a proposal email to clients.
Sending a proposal email to a potential client can be one of the most challenging parts. This is because you must quickly and clearly convince them that you are the best person for the job. It’s easy to make big mistakes when writing your first business or freelance proposals, costing you potential jobs.
Many businesses send out proposals to potential clients before being hired for a job, including contractors and B2B businesses. While these might seem to be completely different situations, winning proposals actually have many things in common.
How to write a business proposal
Here are the top 5 things to keep in mind:
1. Be clear
It’s essential that your proposal emails include all of the information that your potential client will need. This should include a summary of the business or freelance proposal, a detailed cost estimate, a timeline, provisions, and your contact information. Your client wants to understand exactly what they would be getting into if they entered into a working relationship with you, and your proposal should make that clear.
2. Do your research
When you are sending a proposal email to a client, you don’t want them to think that you are sending the same proposal to dozens of companies. You’ll need to understand their businesses. Unfortunately, skimping on research is one of the most common mistakes when creating a proposal. Everyone likes to feel special, so take the time to learn about the company that you are writing a proposal for – their mission, their success and failures, and their competitors. When you understand what they need and what they have done in the past, you’ll have a better chance of creating a proposal that will get you hired.
3. Share your skills
Don’t forget to explain why you’re the right person for the job! You probably have a wide range of skills, but only some of them would apply to this particular project. Make sure you customize your proposal for each job to share what experience you have and how it would be relevant. Use project management tools to keep your clients organized, so that you have clear notes to reference as you write your proposal. Potential clients want to know that you can solve their problem, so make sure your skillset is clear.
4. Move fast
Whether you’ve had an in-person meeting with a potential client or just saw a request for proposals online, moving fast can help you get the gig. In fact, you’re 25 percent likelier to be hired if you send the proposal within 24 hours. Moving fast makes you look like someone who will get work done quickly and will make people more likely to hire you. Plus, if you did have the opportunity to talk about the project in person or over the phone, you’ll still be top-of-mind for the potential client if you send your business or freelance proposals quickly
5. Keep it short
When sending proposal emails to clients, it’s essential that you keep it short and easy to read. The people you are writing to are busy, and they don’t have time to read thousands of words about your extracurriculars from college. Make your proposal easy to skim, with headlines, lists, and images if applicable. You want people to be able to tell at a glance that you’re the right person for the job. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a proposal template. Although you want to be sure to customize it to fit the unique needs of your client.
Once the proposal you sent to the client gets a positive reaction, you can start thinking about creating a solid contract. Contracts help ensure both you and your clients know exactly what is expected. Even if many of your proposals receive few responses, when one does, no client wants to wait around for you to reply with the details. That’s why creating professional business or freelance contract is as essential as creating a professional proposal. Therefore, remember to think ahead and be ready for when you do win that contract.
Follow up your winning proposal
When you write great business or freelance proposals, you’re going to find yourself getting hired for great jobs with awesome clients. You want the rest of their experience working with you to be just as great, so that you can continue to be hired for freelance opportunities. If they love your work, they might even recommend you to their network.
There are many ways to impress new clients. However, one of the most important things that you can do is have excellent follow-through. Remember that your proposals are just the first step in your business relationship. Your client will also expect clear contracts, easy business or freelance invoicing, and regular updates on how your work is going. You will set up expectations for all of this when sending proposal emails to clients, but your follow-through is what will make the difference on whether you get more work or not.
With practice, you’ll be amazed how easy it can become to create winning proposals that land the type of clients you used to only dream of. When sending a proposal email to a client, you should be confident that the document you are sending is a great example of your skill and professionalism, so that they can be confident in hiring you to do great work. Keep our tips close and you’ll be winning great clients in no time.
***This is a guest post from Matthew Brown. Matt is the founder of Bonsai, an automated contracts, proposals, invoices and time-tracking product used by 100,000+ freelancers and agencies globally. He lives in San Francisco, where he enjoys surfing, science fiction, and leafy green vegetables.***