How To Write A Project Proposal (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 11, 2021
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Project proposals are critical tools for converting potential clients into long-term business partners and valuable project contracts for your company.

Organizations are always comparing the processes, prices, and projected outcomes offered by different companies when choosing a vendor to solve their problems.

An effective project proposal allows you to communicate how you exceed the competition in all of these aspects and provide maximum value for the client.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of a clear project proposal and why it’s absolutely crucial to create one. We’ll also explain the different types of project proposals, as well as how to write an effective one.

Why Do You Need a Project Proposal?

Without a compelling project proposal, potential clients would have little reason to choose to do business with you over other vendors.

A project proposal is essentially a sales document. It allows you to persuade stakeholders and key decision-makers that your organization possesses the resources and expertise necessary to complete a project that meets their satisfaction.

Project proposals also serve to get everyone on a team thinking about the same priorities as goals.

They’re the perfect tool to secure a new project for your company and direct the team in a unified direction.

What Are the Advantages of a Clear Project Proposal?

Investing the time to create a clear project proposal provides numerous benefits when your company is attempting to secure a project contract:

  • Stand out among competing vendors. Perhaps the most important purpose of a project proposal is to highlight what your business can provide over competing firms.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    If your company offers better prices, superior processes, or better-projected outcomes, a project proposal allows you to clearly communicate these benefits and sway the potential client’s decisions.

  • Ensure project understanding. By outlining the project’s purpose and scope, project proposals ensure that both parties understand what the project itself entails.

    This mutual understanding makes communication more efficient moving forward, and establishes trust between a client and sponsor.

  • Establish credibility. A clear project proposal details how the vendor intends to complete a project and fulfill a client’s expectations.

    Project proposals may also bring up potential risks and provide solutions for addressing them.

    This extensive level of communication helps to convince potential clients that you understand the details of a project and what’s involved in tackling it.

  • Highlight a problem. Project proposals can also be used to highlight a problem that a company didn’t even know it needed to solve.

    Your document may explain the urgency of a client’s issues and why they need to solve them.

    For example, a freelance writer creating a project proposal to write a blog for a company could explain the traffic their website is losing by not having one.

  • Propose a budget and estimated timeline. Although a project proposal isn’t a formal contract, it lays the groundwork for the budget and timeframe for a project to be completed.

    The document allows vendors and stakeholders to come to a preliminary agreement on the resources and time involved with handling a project.

  • Inform project planning. Once you’ve secured a contract with a client, the project proposal acts as an outline to help you schedule resources and decide on a strategy to fulfill the project’s goals.

The Different Types of Project Proposals

There are various types of project proposals that fulfill slightly different purposes:

  1. Unsolicited. Unsolicited project proposals are ones where the client didn’t ask or expect to receive one.

    These are typically created when a vendor hears that a company is seeking to solve a problem that they specialize in. They send a document of intent that details their expertise and suggested approach to spark interest in the client.

    While unsolicited project proposals can lead to valuable project contracts for your firm, they often require much more research and finesse since the prospective client is unaware that it’s even coming their way.

  2. Formally solicited. If you’re a well-known firm or received a recommendation, other companies may seek your services to tackle their projects.

    In this case, a client would send you a Request for Proposal (RFP) document that describes their various needs and demands.

    In response, your company would create a formally solicited project proposal to target and answer their concerns specifically.

  3. Informally solicited. While informally solicited project proposals are also created at the behest of a potential client, they aren’t made in response to an RFP or any other formal document.

    Suppose at a business convention, an official from another company asks if you could potentially solve their problems.

    Your firm would then create an informally solicited proposal request that explores the viability of the project and the general approach it would take.

    These requests are also much vaguer than formally solicited proposals, lacking granular details such as the specific deliverables, goals, and methods.

  4. Continuation. Continuation project proposals are created to remind or update clients on ongoing or already approved projects.

    These are continuations of already approved project proposals, rather than their own separate documents.

    They simply provide the client updates on details such as the current progress, budgeting outlook, and upcoming phases of a project.

  5. Renewal. Renewal project proposals are created in an attempt to revive terminated projects.

    Their purpose is to convince the client that investing more resources in completing the project would ultimately be worth the cost.

    These documents may also be created in response to the rejection of a previous proposal in an attempt to convince the client further.

  6. Supplemental. Supplemental project proposals are written when a project requires further investment and resources to reach completion.

    The document’s main goal is to prove that adding more resources to finish the project would be worth the cost. It also provides the client with an updated timeline-to-completion that takes into account that additional investment.

Project Proposals Are Not Business Proposals

A quick but important point is that project proposals differ from business proposals.

It’s commonly misconceived that project proposals are legal contracts. Rather, they’re signed simply to confirm that both client and sponsor agree and understand the budgeting and planning details contained within.

It’s only after a project proposal is signed and approved that lawyers begin drafting a binding business contract with specific legal terms.

How to Write a Project Proposal

Once you’ve decided on the appropriate type of project proposal for your business’ situation, it’s time to start creating your document.

Use the following important steps to guide you along:

  • Determine the specific audience.

  • Define the problem your proposal seeks to tackle.

  • Research the state of the problem and its potential solutions.

  • Estimate and argue how this project would positively impact the client company’s success.

  • Determine the number of resources required and establish a timeline.

  • Begin outlining the project proposal.

The main structure of your project proposal should include:

  1. Project information. Begin by outlining the most critical project details to provide a high-level view of the project.

    In this section, you should provide the:

    • Organization name

    • Project title

    • Project summary

    • Project timeframe

    • Prepared by

    • Attached documentation

    • Project contacts (key individuals involved with the project)

  2. Project summary. The project summary is composed of two main sections:

    1. Project background. Quickly and concisely clarify the problem that the project seeks to solve.

      Explain the problem’s current state and why the prospective client should care to solve it.

      If you’ve ever used the STAR method during a job interview, you probably understand the persuasive power of using rhetorical skills to convince an audience.

      Make sure to employ such techniques in your project proposal.

    2. Project objectives. Explicitly state and describe the goals that your project will attempt to achieve.

  3. Project methodology. This section of the document explains the course of action your company will take to tackle the problem faced by the organization.

    The purpose of this section isn’t just to convince the prospective client of a certain methodology’s viability but to establish a sense of credibility and prove that you’ve done your homework.

    Include the following subsections:

    1. Project approach summary. Quickly explain your company’s overall approach to the project. Describe the tools involved and how your team will be organized.

    2. Task breakdown. Break down the major tasks of the project and provide estimated timelines for each one.

    3. Project deliverables. List all of the deliverables that your company will provide upon project completion. This could be items such as products, reports, or information for a client.

      For example, a freelance writer may include a website blog in this section.

  4. Risk management. Clients understand that unexpected circumstances often arise that obstruct a project’s completion.

    This section serves to list possible risks and address how your team would tackle any potential issues.

    You should also explain what steps your company will take to minimize the chances of any such problems arising in the first place.

  5. Project costs. This section establishes a budget and estimates the total cost breakdown of the proposed project.

    Include different subsections to cover the:

    • Budget. Provide a detailed, line-item budget summary that includes varying project categories, such as staff salaries, supplies, and travel.

    • Budget narrative. Include any required clarification or justifications regarding the budget structure or any of its items.

    • Additional financial statements. Complex projects may need additional financial statements, such as a tax return or project and loss statement.

  6. Conclusion. The conclusion should provide a summary of any important information or points made thus far.

    This is also your last chance to make a lasting impression on the prospective client.

    Emphasize the severity of their problem, the value that remedying it would generate for their business, and your firm’s ability to solve that problem.

    Lastly, you may thank the reader and tell them that you look forward to a fruitful business relationship between both parties.

  7. Appendix. This section holds all the reference material that was cited throughout your project proposal.

    Such items may include:

    • Images

    • Graphs

    • Charts

    • Reports

Final Thoughts

Being able to write a convincing project proposal is crucial to the success of your business.

You may be well aware of your business’s expertise and resources, but your prospective clients aren’t.

There are numerous other firms competing to win the same contracts that your business is attempting to secure.

Unless you can clearly communicate how your company is uniquely positioned to tackle another organization’s problems, you’ll be turned down for many valuable business opportunities.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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