If you’re a freelance graphic designer, odds are that many of your projects will be pretty short. So you continually need to establish relationships with new clients and land new contracts. How are you going to get the jobs you want? You need to master the art of writing a proposal.
But you’re a graphic designer, you protest, not a writer. That’s okay: you already know what you can do for your clients, what it will cost, and you can explain to them why you’re the best choice for the job. And that’s the bulk of the information that goes into a proposal.
Graphic design can encompass a lot of different services-company logos, web sites, product packaging, book design, printing-you name it. That variety means that the specific topics in your proposal will be a bit different than someone else’s. But no matter what your specialty is or what the project might be, there is a basic structure that every proposal should follow.
Here it is: introduction, a section about your client, a section describing your goods or services, and then a section about why your company can be trusted to deliver on your promises. That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
You don’t need to start off with a blank page, either. You can use a pre-designed proposal kit to take a giant stride forward toward the finish line. A good proposal kit will have hundreds of proposal topic templates with instructions and examples to help you get the right information down on each page. There are sample proposals in these kinds of kits, too, including one on corporate branding and one on marketing-these will give you great ideas on what your finished proposal might look like. And the best kits also offer contract templates for graphic designer services, which can save you more time and legal fees.
But for now, let’s work through that proposal structure from the beginning. The introduction is the shortest section-generally just a cover letter followed by a title page. The cover letter should explain who you are, why you’re writing, and provide your contact information. The title page simply names your proposal. The title should say exactly what the proposal is, like “Corporate Branding Design Services for XYZ Corporation” or “Design and Print Proposal for Your Christmas Catalog.”
If your proposal is relatively simple, you’re done with the introduction. If it’s complex, you might need to add a Client Summary of important points, or insert a table of contents here when you’re finished writing the proposal.
The next section should be all about your prospective clients’ needs, goals, and requirements. It’s important to show that you understand their point of view, so ask yourself-what do they need from me? What are the objectives they want to accomplish? Are there any restrictions, such as budget, schedule, interfacing with other parties, and so forth?
Don’t insert your ideas yet; in this section, you should show that you know what the clients are looking for. If you don’t know much about the clients or the project, then you need to do your research before you start writing. A good proposal is never all about you; focusing on the clients’ needs is what separates successful proposals from proposals that end up in the recycle bin.
Next comes the section where you explain how you can meet the clients’ objectives and follow those requirements that you just described. No bragging yet-just explain in detail what you propose to do, how much it will cost, and how the clients will benefit from your solutions.
The pages in this section will vary from proposal to proposal, because projects and services differ. For example, you might need to include a topic on Packaging or Prototyping, while another graphic design company might need to include a topic about Printing.
In the final section, it’s time to tell the prospective client why you’re the best. You’ll add pages like Company History, Experience, Credentials, Education, Projects, Case Study and so forth, to show that you have the experience and know-how the client needs.
And it always looks better when you can add compliments from others, so insert pages like Awards, Referrals, Testimonials, and so forth-use all the ammunition you have to support your claim that you’re the right pick for the job. The very last page should be a Call to Action, requesting the proposal readers to take the next step-contact you for a meeting, send in the contract, whatever it is that you want them to do next.
Now you have the structure filled in with the topics you need. But you still have two tasks to complete before you send out the proposal. First, make it look good-you’re a graphic designer! Add splashes of color with page borders or logos or other style elements; use special bullets or fonts. Second, proofread every page to make sure your proposal sounds professional; if your proposal seems carelessly thrown together, your potential client might assume your design work will be sloppy, too.
Finally, deliver the proposal. You might attach it to email as a PDF, or print it and deliver it by mail service or by hand. Use the method that you believe will most impress your client.
That’s all you need to know about writing a proposal. You’ll use a lot of the same pages in all your proposals because you’re describing your organization and your services, but each proposal will be a little different from the next, because it will be tailored to a specific client and project.
Using a ready-made proposal kit will make your proposal projects faster and more complete.
Ian Lauder has been helping small businesses and freelancers write their proposals and contracts for over a decade. => For more tips and business proposal and legal contract writing best practices go to http://www.proposalkit.com