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Writing proposals that sell + free template

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

You had a great meeting, now it is time for the proposal. How do you effectively show your value, price your services and get the client excited instead of skipping ahead to the price tag?

Creating proposals means you need to strike a balance between impressing the client and not spending too much time in case the project does not move forward. After starting from scratch every time, I noticed that the same sections often came back and there were a few tricks that increased my success rate significantly.

We will take a look at what to include and how to create a template you can edit to save you time and increase your chances. If you would like to skip ahead to the free template, just go to the end of the page. If you prefer to listen to the tips we have today, head on over to the podcast episode.

design proposal


  • Customising the free template

  • Show that you understand the brief

  • About your team

  • Include your best case studies

  • Describe your process, what makes you great to work with?

  • Budget breakdown

  • Make the last page memorable

Customising the free template

Most things about your business don't change between clients. Your team, process and your own branding probably don't change for every client. By creating a bare bones structure, you save a lot of time writing proposals and can focus on improving your business. You can then alter the parts that are unique for each client, like the case studies that apply to them and the brief.

creative proposal template
Templates make it easier and faster to create proposals

If you want to start off with our pre-made template, you can download the pdf version here or you can join the community to grab the fully editable InDesign file.

free proposal template

Show that you understand the brief

The first part of every proposal I create is a breakdown of how I understood the client's needs and how I would like to approach the project. This is a simple one pager but it always gets a positive reaction when clients hear their exakt needs repeated back to them. This is the perfect way to build trust by showing that you have listened and it also helps make sure you avoid scope creep moving forward.

For the approach, don't provide any sketches or visuals but it is great to include some helpful pieces of advice that establishes you as an expert. For example, if your client is selling shoes in a retail store and approach you for branding, you can suggest ways the brand can work with their online sales strategy in the future.

By having a meeting with your client before you create the proposal, you can use their own words to describe the brief back to them. This is always appreciated and helps establish a common vision for the project.

About your team

As a creative, your most important asset is the people behind your company. This is true regardless if you are a single business owner or manage a big team.

Make sure you highlight your unique skills and how they apply to the client's project.

If you collaborate with someone who will participate in the project but is not part of your company, you can still include them. This is a great way to show the range of knowledge in your team and for the client to understand the scope of the project better.

Having photos of your team is one of the most effective ways to build a relationship with your client and build trust. If you don't have any, try using an icon or photo that represents the person or their role.

Include your best case studies

It can be tempting to add samples from your whole portfolio but I found the most effective strategy is to add 1-3 case studies that directly apply to the project you are creating the proposal for. This can mean that they are from the same industry or maybe they have the same deliverables.

Make your case studies even more effective by describing how they relate to the client's project. You can do this either indirectly by mentioning the industry or deliverable in the description, or directly by saying something like "Happy feet also work in the shoe retail space and working with them has given us a lot of unique insight in to how customers make purchase decisions".

Last but not least, if you have a testimonial, these are great to include.

Describe your process, what makes you great to work with?

Many clients have never worked with a creative before and it can feel difficult to understand how it works. By showing a clear overview of the steps involved and what they can expect, you show that you are organised and make it easier for them to say yes.

I suggest including a timeline for the project with an explanation of each step including:

  • When each stage will happen

  • The goal of the stage

  • What the client needs to do

  • What you will do/deliverables they will receive

Budget breakdown

The best way to get your client to say yes to a budget is to give them options, compete against yourself and not someone else. You can do this by offering different options. This never means you should lower your prices or undervalue your service. The way to compete with yourself is to suggest different scope options. For example, if your client has asked for a website, you can show them the price for a one page landing site, the three page site they asked for and a more advanced site with more features.

This gives your client options. If they have a tight budget they can say yes to the more basic project instead of saying no to the whole thing. If they have a bigger budget than expected and get excited by your add on suggestions, they might increase the scope.

If you do not feel comfortable altering the scope in your proposal, I have sometimes added the revised scope option after an initial no because of budget restraints and this works great. Not only can you work together but you show your client that you are service minded without compromising on your value.

Make the last page memorable

We are all short on time and it is not uncommon for clients to scroll down to the last page to look at the budget before they look at any other parts of your proposal. To give them a glimpse of your great work before they make a quick decision, try to add a last page to your proposal with examples of your work or pictures from your office. Anything that shows off how positive the experience of working with you will be is perfect.

Good luck with your proposal writing!

If you want to start off with our pre-made template, you can download the pdf version here or you can join the community to grab the fully editable InDesign file.

download free template

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