If you’re in a media service business like photography or creating video production or sound recordings, then you are always looking for new clients. Most contracts in these businesses are of short duration, so you need to line up as many contracts and clients as you can. The best way to do that is to master the art of writing a business proposal.
You probably don’t consider yourself a writer, but creating a proposal is not difficult once you understand the basic structure and ingredients that all winning proposals need. You already know the services and the quality you have to offer, and you probably have a good idea of what most clients want, so you have all the basic information you’ll need. And after you have written one proposal, you’ll find that you can use a lot of the same information in every proposal from now on.
Let’s focus on structure, and you’ll see how easy writing a proposal can be. All service proposals have a standard structure: introduction, client-focused section, services-focused section, and then finally, a section focused on you or your organization.
The introduction part is very simple. The first thing you need in a proposal package is a Cover Letter that explains who you are, why you’re sending this proposal, and what you want the reader to do after considering your proposal. Naturally the Cover Letter should contain all your contact information, too, so the client can easily phone or email you with a response. A Cover Letter isn’t always part of the proposal, but should introduce your proposal when appropriate.
At the top of the proposal itself is a Title Page, which is exactly what it sounds like–just clearly label your proposal. Examples might be “Photography Proposal for Birchfield Wedding” or “Recording Services for QRX Band” or “Proposed Audio Book Recording of The Only Witness.”
If your proposal is only a few pages long, that’s it for the introduction. If your proposal is complex, you might need a Table of Contents and a Client Summary page next–that’s a short summary of the most important points you want to make in your proposal, and such a page is generally only needed when there are executives who must approve your proposal but may not have time to read the entire package.
It’s important not to start off with a sales pitch that’s all about you. Save that for the last part of the proposal. Successful proposals are customized to the potential client. They are more about satisfying the client than about bragging about the service provider.
So, after the introduction comes the client-centered section. In the client-centered section, you prove that you understand your potential clients and their needs and concerns. Put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes. At a minimum, this section should have a Needs page that spells out what the clients have already asked for or are likely to ask for. For example, a photographer proposing a shoot for a sports magazine might list events that the client wants covered and an approximate number of shots per location or event, or a recording studio might list the number of recordings and the final formats that the client has asked for. In some cases, you might know more about what is needed than a new client, so be as specific as possible. This section might include a Requirements or Specifications page to spell out technical details, and topic pages like Budget or Limitations or Schedule that mention any concerns of the clients or restrictions on the project.
After you have described what the client wants or needs as well as any restrictions, it’s time to explain how you propose to fulfill those needs. Describe your services in detail. The pages in this section will vary according to your particular business and the project. Be as specific as possible about what you will do, when, and how much it will cost. You’ll probably want a Services page and a Cost Summary page, and maybe Options or Packages, Venue, Schedule, and Equipment or other topics that explain everything you have to offer. If you offer a Guarantee of satisfaction or a Warranty on a product you deliver, include that in this services-focused section, too.
In the final proposal section, it’s your turn to brag about yourself. Explain why you are the best choice for the project. You might include pages like About Us, Clients Served, Projects, Awards, Certifications, Testimonials–in short, anything that shows that you are an expert in your field and can be trusted to deliver on your promises.
That’s it–you’re done creating a draft of your proposal. Now, be sure to proofread every page to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes, and make sure every page looks good, too. If possible, enlist a person who is not familiar with your proposal to do the final check; it’s too easy to overlook mistakes and omissions in your own work. You want the proposal to represent you at your professional best. After every page is perfect, print it and mail or hand-deliver it, or package it in a PDF to attach to email, whichever method is most likely to impress your potential client.
Want to get a jump start and speed up the proposal writing process? Consider using a proposal kit of pre-designed documents, which are designed for writing all sorts of business documents. A good proposal kit will come with hundreds of templates to cover any topic you might want to include. Pre-designed kit templates will also contain instructions and examples to guide you, so you’ll never feel clueless about what to put on a page. The best proposal kits will also provide many detailed sample proposals you can use as guides when writing your own proposal.