When I was new to freelancing, I always thought that creating a proposal wasn’t necessary…
It was the mentality of someone who doesn’t see freelancing as a business. I never knew that creating a freelance proposal is key to securing premium rates.
The first time my proposal worked, my eyes were opened. A freelance proposal that outlines recommendations to clients on how to achieve their business goals will get you the job. Heck, they’ll even agree to whatever services you’re offering as long as the prices are appropriate too.
Is it hard to make such a proposal that would make your client want to work with you? Fortunately, it’s not. However, it doesn’t mean that creating one is as simple as writing a letter to your client. There’s more to it.
Let’s get right into it!
What exactly is a freelance proposal?
A freelance proposal is a document designed to persuade the client to avail of your services and form a contract with you. It’s like an elevator pitch or a sales letter that explains why the client would benefit from partnering with you.
But you know what? I’ve since learned that an effective freelance proposal isn’t just a sales tool, it’s a way of communicating to the client how you would be able to help him solve his business problems.
The proposal shouldn’t be about you — who you are, what you can do, and how much your services cost.
In fact, the section that explains how much they will have to pay you should be at the bottom. A freelance proposal should be more important to your client than to you.
Why write a proposal to your client?
Writing a proposal to your client isn’t just a way to showcase your services. By doing so, you’re showing to him that you care about the success of his business. That you’re thinking of ways to help him achieve what he wants for his business.
When I sent my first proposal, I was already working with that client on his website’s content. I noticed that there are many gaps I could fill in — things I could do, or could easily learn. I didn’t want to keep interrupting him to say…
Hey, so I was thinking about what we’re doing on the site. What if we do this and that? Would you be interested in that?
I did that with a lot of my clients and it mostly worked. But every few weeks or so, I always notice things I could do that falls within the domain of my work. I didn’t want to keep sending the same message.
That was why I thought of writing a proposal that would include everything I could possibly do to help his business.
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What to include in your proposal?
Your proposal shouldn’t seem like you’re just after the money. If you were, then I’m sorry to say, it wouldn’t work. Clients will be able to smell it a mile away.
That’s why your proposal should start with the client’s problem. Then, proceed to highlight your recommendations you know would be able to solve his problem. After that, suggest ways to track the results.
Once you’ve done all that, then that’s the only time you should proceed with the rates or prices. Never discuss anything related to the payment beforehand.
Many freelancers refer to a proposal as the “initial quote” or “offer”. They’re not wrong. However, if you would like the proposal to work for you, then you should make those parts as small as possible.
After all, the proposal isn’t just about “how much your client expects to pay you”. It’s “how much you would be able to help him”. Once you got that nailed down, I assure you, your proposal will work like magic.
With that, let me tell you the steps into creating an effective freelance proposal that works:
Step #1: Start with the problem
The best way to start the proposal is to reiterate the client’s problems, challenges, and goals. They should be clear as crystal since these are the very things you will be addressing in your recommended actions.
In this step, you can go along the lines of…
“As we discussed, the problems your business is currently facing right now is…”
Naturally, you wouldn’t be able to do this section if you haven’t had any talk with your client. That’s why it’s important that you interview him first to find out more about his business, intentions, motivations, challenges, problems, and goals.
Most interviews are the other way around. (I know, I’ve been through them too!)
However, if you keep on talking about yourself, then you will find it hard to help your client since well… How would you be able to help if you don’t know the problem?
Once you got the facts about your client’s business, you can do this part even with your eyes closed.
Step #2: Sell your services as “recommendations”
The next step is to recommend actions to solve the client’s problems. These are services you could do (or could learn) to help him with his goals. In short, this where you specify your offers but toned down to “suggestions”.
There are two things you should keep in mind here:
Be Specific With Your Recommendations
Let’s say you’re a virtual assistant who helps entrepreneurs with social media tasks. Your client’s problem is that he doesn’t have enough time to manage all the social media pages of his business.
Further reading: Becoming a virtual assistant is a good way to start your freelance career. If you want to learn how to to become a virtual assistant, check out my virtual assistant guide.
If you recommend that you take charge of the client’s FB and LinkedIn pages, you’re just scratching the surface. Isn’t that what the client generally needs right now? How would you be able to stand out from the rest who also submitted their own proposal?
What you really need to answer here is…
What specific things will you do to solve his problem and achieve his business goals?
Will you be posting social media updates? How often? What will these posts contain? Will you be using images and videos? How about the comments on those posts? Will you be answering them too?
Specifically, identify the deliverables and tasks of your recommendation.
How does that recommendation help achieve the goal?
Establish the connection between your recommendation and the client’s problems or goals. Be clear on how the tasks or deliverables will help his business. Use statistics and case studies if you have to.
You may think, “well, isn’t it obvious?”. To you, it is. But to your client? There’s a reason why they’re asking for help…
Back up every recommendation you give. Cite and link articles from established experts in the field and why they suggest such a thing. You can include a snippet or two. Persuade the client of the usefulness of the recommendation you’re giving.
Here’s an example from my own experience:
As a content strategist, I know for a fact that long-form blog posts work better than short ones, especially on the business-to-business space. To guide my client to see my point, I linked an article from WordStream and even included a nice infographic from serpIQ.
My client liked the idea and he agreed with me that there should be a lot of long-form posts on his blog.
Step #3: Suggest how to measure the results
To be honest, I’m always tempted to skip this one on my proposals. Why? Because tracking and measuring results is a work of its own. It’s not some passive task that you could forget and expect for reports to come when you need it.
However, this is part of showing to the client that you actually care. One truth that you must’ve heard for the hundredth time is that “clients pay for results”.
Your recommendations only work if they bring results. Of course, there could be some other factors that may result in negative results. That’s one more reason why you should track and measure results.
In this section, enumerate to the client what you both could do to track and measure the results. Include instructions on what they should do to provide you access on the platform they’re using so you could check the metrics.
For example, whenever I’m dealing with a client who needs help with content marketing, I always make sure to include instructions about how to add a user to Google Search Console and access in Google Analytics.
Step #4: Call it an “investment”
Instead of using the terms “fee”, “payment” or “rate”, use “investment” instead. This may be a simple change in terminology, but it has a profound effect on how the client will see the services you’re offering.
Calling it an “investment” makes it sound like the client is paying for an asset that will help generate income (compared to “payment” that sounds like a normal “expense”). It also makes the price figures easier to swallow when the client sees them as an investment.
In this section, all you have to group the recommendations earlier into different packages that you offer. Again, be specific with the deliverables and tasks. Then, give each package a price. The more things to do, the more expensive it gets.
Of course, I won’t dictate you to only include packages here. You could design this part according to how you like it. But personally, I find packages to work better than any other pricing methods.
Here’s another option:
You can also include a project timeline within each package. Or, you can create a separate section for the project timeline. I find that this is more of personal preference and will depend on the services you’re offering.
Step #5: What to do next?
After presenting the investment your client could take, what action will he do next? Will he send you an email? Will he sign a contract? Can he change anything?
This is the part where you highlight the next steps. What do you want him to do after you send him the proposal?
At the very least, make sure to indicate that you’re open to further discussion and that you would gladly answer any question your client has. He may want to change a few things before proceeding with the contract signing.
Step #6: Why should the client trust you?
I like to refer to this as the “why choose me” section. The objective here is simple:
To persuade the client that he can trust you to always be after the results. Sell your strengths here and why you’re the best one to execute the recommendations you have given.
This is also a good place to mention your past works, portfolio, and even successes. It also helps to include feedback from your past clients. Words from your past clients will definitely help you earn the trust of your current client.
By the way, you don’t need to place this section after the “next steps” section. Some put this after reiterating the client’s problem or even before the investment section.
The important thing is that it’s here and that the client gets to read it.
Step #7: Identify the terms and conditions
Lastly, provide a “terms and conditions” section so your client is well aware of such things during your partnership. It’s also a protection to you should any dispute arises. That’s why you have to be clear about the terms and conditions.
Expound clearly about the “permission rights” on the deliverables.
Naturally, the client will be the rightful owner of whatever it is that will be delivered to them. However, you might want to include a clause where you retain the right to use the outcome as a case study or part of your portfolio.
Of course, that will be subject to the client’s approval. But consider it as putting a foot in the door in hopes that he would agree to it.
Don’t forget to include payment terms. When are you getting paid? What day or week of each month should you expect the payment? Will you be paid first or paid later after you submit the deliverables?
My tip is, you might want to think like a lawyer here. Not that you’re expecting a case. But that everything should be clear between you and the client especially about the payment terms. If the client misses the payment window time, does that automatically cancel the contract?
Make Your Freelance Proposal Work for You
As you can see, creating a freelance proposal that works isn’t really that complicated. You just have to think more about how the client will benefit from your services and be genuine about it.
Before you create a proposal, make sure to get to know your client’s business better. Know more about his problems, challenges, and business goals. Think like his business partner because, flash news, you actually are!
After creating your first proposal, the succeeding proposals will be a piece of cake. Since you already have a working proposal, all you have to do is to modify it to fit the client you’re sending the proposal to.
Now it’s your turn. Here’s what to do now:
- If you haven’t started creating a freelance proposal yet, follow the steps outlined above.
- Then, come back here if you have any questions or clarifications. Make sure to get back here too once you get a response from your client.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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