How to Write a Web Design Business Proposal (Tips & Templates)

If you’re a designer, let’s face some cold, hard facts. There’s over 400,000 companies dealing with graphic design in the world, according to latest reports from December 2018. That’s a lot of competition – but there’s some good news too. The total revenue made from design in 2018 was more than $46 billion.

As a designer, that means that there’s plenty of work to do and money to be made, but getting to the actual clients can be quite a drag. If you’ve already wowed them with your impeccable portfolio and talent, you’re halfway there. Now comes the hard part – making an offer and closing the deal.

Once you got your client hooked, it’s time to send a proposal, offering your design services and giving them all the information they need to know. If you’re a solo freelancer or a small agency, writing and sending out proposals can be one of your weak spots and the very reason why you’re losing interested clients.

Today, we’ll help you learn how to write more effective proposals so you’ll never lose another gig again because of proposal anxiety – no matter if you’re working solo or as an agency. Let’s dig in.

Use Templates

Use templates

Between chasing new business, doing revisions and entering changes required by demanding clients, there’s very little time to deal with proposal writing. After all, who wants to sit down and type out 10 pages of text to pursue a client you’re not even sure will end up working with you? For a designer, it’s just a hassle and we can’t blame you for not loving proposal writing.

The way around this is to cut down your time on them by using templates. Instead of spending hours each time on a proposal, you can save significant time by creating a great design proposal template. Every time a new job comes up, simply edit the template with all the key information and it’s ready to be sent out.

This way, you spend 20 minutes per proposal, which leaves you with more time to do actual design work. Moreover, if a client drops out, it’s not such a big harm in terms of time spent on writing. Win-win situation.

Your proposal template is a pretty big deal because it’s a tool you will rely on to woo your clients, win new business and improve your bottom line. As such, you need to spend more time on it (than you would on a proposal usually) and think of what each proposal needs to include. Here are the main elements to include in a great design proposal.

Use a Proposal Cover

Use a proposal cover

As a designer, you’re well aware of an effect that good visual presentation can make on the viewer. The proposal cover is one of the first things you prospective clients will see when they open it, so make sure you include one every time.

At Better Proposals, covers are now included by default, as our research has shown that they vastly improve the conversion rate. In other words, you could have a world-class proposal, but without a cover, it will fail to impress.

Being a designer yourself, you can whip up a quick cover yourself for the proposal template, or use a new one for every proposal you send out. Think of it as another way to impress prospective clients with your own original work.

Write a Spectacular Introduction

The clients already know who you are, but it’s time to give them a reminder. This is by far the most important part of your proposal (next to pricing), since clients will spend the most time reading the introduction.

Some of the main things you should include are: who you are, what you do, why you’re the best person (agency) for the job and how you solve their pain points. Think of it like an elaborate sales pitch that gets the client hooked into the reading the rest of the proposal.

Here’s the thing – you can make the introduction a lot easier if you’ve already talked to the client. Many proposals remain unsigned because designers don’t know what the clients don’t actually need, so they miss the mark in the introduction and offer something the client does not really need.

Our advice is to have a quick call or meeting with the client before writing your proposals to get familiar with what they precisely need and how they think and address these issues in the introduction.

Elaborate on the Details

Elaborate on the details

The second part of your design proposal is the detailed specification. This is where you get into the nitty gritty and throw out the specifics of what you will do for them. Explain how many people will work on the designs, how many revisions the clients gets, whether they will get a mockup before the final version, who does the copy, what kind of files and materials you need and more.

This section is important for two reasons. First, the client will see you as a reliable partner who knows their stuff. Promising a website revamp in 36 hours? Yep, the client will see through it and call your bluff. The second reason is that the client and you know exactly what needs to be done, in case there’s disagreements later on. Which brings us to the next very important point…

The Timeline

The timeline

A beautifully designed eBook cover is great, but having it in one day instead of 20 is even better. Many designers and agencies fall into the trap of not having timelines in their proposals, which hurts conversions badly.

Be completely honest and transparent with how much time it takes to complete a certain design and outline it in writing in this section. Once again, if things go awry, it’s great to have written proof of your promises.

As a practical tip for not ruining your reputation with missed deadlines, there’s just one thing: be generous with time. If it takes 10 days to complete a design, state that you can do in 12. Not only will you look better in front of the client when you deliver early, but you also give yourself some leeway in case things go unplanned and you need some extra time to finish.

The Proof

If you’ve talked to the client before sending out the proposal, there’s a good chance they’ve already seen your work and they know what you can do. Nonetheless, why waste a good opportunity to show yourself in good light once again?

In this section, show the clients specific examples of what you’ve done before for others. If they need a case study template for the marketing niche, give them examples of case study templates you’ve done for similar clients before. It’s a great way to convince your clients that you can get the job done, and all it takes is some digging through your portfolio. If you don’t have an exact match, provide the next closest thing.

The Pricing

The pricing

Without a doubt, this is the second most popular section in each of our proposals. This is where you explain how much your services cost, as well as the way the client can pay you. Just like the rest of the proposal, make sure you’re transparent and clear about your pricing.

Speaking of which, the word price isn’t the best solution for the name of this section. As multiple studies and reports have shown, you’re far better off naming it investment or return on investment/ROI. In this way, clients will see your services as an investment and not a cost.

Finally, the most recent Better Proposals report has shown that you should stay away from upsells and multiple tiers with your pricing if you want better conversions. According to data from more than 180,000 signed proposals in 2018, offering multiple options hurts your conversions by 22% for one time payments, and as much as 33% for monthly subscriptions. In other words, keep your offers stupid simple – the less the client has to choose, the more likely they are to close.

The Guarantee

You’ve already stated your specification and timelines and at this point, the client should have a pretty good idea on what you can do, how you will do it and by which date. But what if you want to add something extra to make them feel even more certain?

One of the underused but excellent ways to reassure your clients about your work and meeting your deadlines is to offer them a guarantee. For example, if you don’t deliver the promised case study design templated by the assigned deadline, you will deliver an extra 5 graphics for the client’s website.

Guarantees are an excellent way to get clients hooked, but they only work if you really know the way you work and you’re confident about what you can deliver. Once again, it’s crucial to underpromise and overdeliver with your deadlines for this strategy to really work.

What the Client Should Do Next

What the client should do next

At this stage of reading the proposal (if the client is still there), they’re pretty much ready to sign the proposal and leave you alone so you can finish their case study templates – or whatever else you’re working on.

However, this is where many business owners mess up because they leave the clients wondering – what now? What happens next? Give the client a clear outline of what happens next. Here’s a simplified breakdown on what you could write in this section:

  1. Sign the proposal
  2. Receive an invoice for the deposit
  3. Have a kick-off meeting or call
  4. Client delivers the materials necessary to complete the project (files, copy, etc.)
  5. Etc.

It’s not necessary to include every little step of the process in this section, but you should provide general guidelines on what happens next. Once they’ve finished reading the proposal, many clients can feel lost as to what they have to do next.

One Final Thing before Dropping Off

Terms and Conditions

Things may not always go as planned. Even though you have everything laid out in the specification, timeline and guarantee sections, there are still some things left unsaid, so mention them in the final section, called Terms and Conditions.

Consider this as a formal agreement between you and the client where you mention anything that might go awry and how you and the client will handle it. If your intuition tells you that this section will scare clients off – think again. It will reassure the client that you’re confident about what you can do and will put you one step closer to having a proposal signed.

Conclusion

No matter if you’re a solo freelancer doing design as a side job or a full-on design agency with dozens of employees, writing and sending out proposals is a necessary part of winning new business. Instead of loathing proposals, you can make the process much quicker and efficient by using proposal templates and applying some of the tips mentioned above.

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