How to Write a Better Project Proposal

In a previous articles, we learned how writing an effective business proposalstarts with setting a clear expectation for a client & how to avoid Common Proposal Mistakes. Let’s continue to dig into this topic.

Someone that can write effective project proposals probably learned from their past mistakes in client communications. Here are some of the most awesome names in web design and development giving their tips on how to write a project proposal.

Industry Experts Tips On How To Write A Project Proposal

Give a Client Deadlines

nGen Works has “The Pause Clause”: “If a client deliverable, such as input, approvals or payment is late more than 10 business days, the project will be considered ‘on hold.’ Once the deliverable is received and the project is re-activated, the project will be rescheduled based on nGen Works’ current workload and availability. Just to say it loud and clear, it could be a month or more to get you back in the system if the project is put on hold.”

Never Wait on a Stalling Client

Marcus of Bluefish Design Studio gives an example: “Recently, through a turn of events, I learned how important it is to have clauses in your contract for response times for content requests when building a site. A company we were working with had great difficulty in putting together their content and after 6 months we were still nowhere with the site. The lesson I learned: have verbiage in your contracts that outlines your expectations for your client and THEIR deadlines. The proposal or contract needs to outline the repercussions of missing a deadline as well. This is not to be used to browbeat your clients, but merely to act as a motivator for both parties to respond quickly so that the timeline does not slip.”

Use Examples of Past Works

“In our proposals we show examples of past deliverables so the customer knows what they’re getting.” – JD Graffam of simplefocus

The use of examples in your project proposals shows the client what to expect as a deliverable, plus being graphical in nature they get the client excited about the potential of their upcoming project.

It’s Just an Estimate

“For larger, hourly projects, we let the potential client know the proposal is just an estimate. We’ll state clearly that if the scope of the project changes, we will go over budget. Depending on the project and client, we sometimes guarantee that we’ll do X, Y and Z and make sure it fits their budget. Having a fixed fee portion of a project gives the client some peace of mind, but leaves you wiggle room with the overall budget.” – Roy from SliceCraft

Be Specific with What You’re Delivering in the Estimate.

Dan Croak from Thoughtbot made early mistakes in not being clear enough on what their Ruby on Rails consultancy was delivering.

  • In my time estimates, I forgot to include time for IE testing.
  • I did not set the client’s expectations appropriately for what their server costs would be.
  • I didn’t set the client’s expectations for how many iterations a typical app needs to achieve product/market fit.
  • I overloaded designers (1 designer, 3+ developers) and made them feel rushed, trying to fill the task hopper for developers.

In Conclusion

I want to thank the people above for allowing me to speak about their business. Their transparency about mistakes they’ve made in project proposals will hopefully save others much time and frustration.

Do you have tips writing a project proposal?

Read On…

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