6-Step Guide to Writing a Killer Project Proposal

6-Step Guide to Writing a Killer Project Proposal

Project proposals are an essential tool for any freelancer.

Being able to put together a document explaining just what you can offer your client and how much it will cost can help you secure business.

Keep in mind there isn’t one ideal proposal format for every project. Every proposal will be unique based on your client’s needs and your offerings, but they will all contain the same basic elements: A proposal of what you can do for your client, a description of how you’ll do it and an estimate of how much this will cost.

Read on to learn how to put together a project proposal.

The basics

Be sure to include basic information in your project proposal like your name, contact information, website, the date, the company you’re preparing the proposal for and your contact’s name.

You’ll likely want to submit it to your client as a PDF to ensure you don’t have any issues with formatting. You may wish to include graphics or visuals or keep it simple with just plain text.

However you submit it, make sure you’ve spell-checked and edited it thoroughly. Making a good impression is very important.

Project components

When putting the proposal together, you’ll want to outline the various components of the project.

If you’re creating a proposal for website copy, don’t just write “website copy.” That could mean vastly different things to different people. You might envision that as 2,000 words, while your client might see that as an open-ended proposal to write 100,000 words or more.

Instead, detail the components you are able to provide. Specify that you can provide 300 words of copy for the company’s “about page,” 200-word bios for five staffers, and three 500-word pages of text detailing the company’s services.

Of course, you’ll want to have some flexibility and to be able to change things to meet your client’s needs.

The proposal is just a starting point. You’ll want to have all the details completely hammered out by the time you sign a contract.

project proposal Scope of work

Be sure to outline the scope of work you can provide to avoid any misunderstandings later. Some clients may not understand the services you offer, so be clear.

If they need a website designed and you only provide writing services, be sure to specify what you can offer. Will you subcontract a designer? Will you source images for them? Will you edit HTML? Will you upload the copy into their CMS? Or will you just provide copy?

Be sure to be as specific as possible so they know what is and is not included in your estimate.

Also be sure to clarify the number of edits you will provide. It often works best to say you will work with one point of contact on a specified number of rounds of edits. If you don’t specify one point of contact, you may be dealing with a dozen different staff members with different ideas about what they would like. By having the company designate one person to compile the company’s thoughts, that should help streamline the process.

You will also want to specify whether you are talking about “light copy edits” or “developmental edits” so you are on the same page. You may need to explain what these terms mean to your clients.

Finally, be sure to define how you will submit the final materials. You don’t want to run into a situation where you think you’re emailing a Word document and the client expects you to input material directly into its CMS complete with links and formatting. Be sure to clarify exactly how you will submit materials and be sure to consider that in your pricing.


In your proposal, provide an estimate for a timeline. You may prefer to say something like “two weeks from contract signing” or list specific dates. Be sure to keep in mind that it may take a while to get from the proposal stage to the point where it’s time to begin the project.

Look at your calendar when providing this estimate and realistically see when you have other big projects due, any upcoming vacations, or other plans that may require a reduced workload for a time.

Be sure to also provide deadlines for the company to provide information, interviews, edits, and other necessary information and feedback.

Remember these dates will likely change as you move forward toward a contract, but it’s good to have an estimate of how long each step will take as a starting point.

Pricing your proposal

Typically, when pricing your project  many writers prefer to develop a project fee rather than provide an hourly rate.

To set your project fee, estimate how long a project will take you and multiply that by your hourly rate. You may wish to add a bit of a cushion if you think it may take a bit longer. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a good list of rates for different types of projects.

A flat fee for a clearly defined scope of work minimizes the chances of financial surprises for you and your client. If you complete the project a bit more efficiently than you expected, you earn more per hour. If it takes you longer, your client won’t have to pay extra. Of course, if you do quote a flat fee, it’s important to have a really good idea how long the project will take you so you don’t end up scrambling or feeling short-changed.

Following up

After you submit your proposal, be sure to follow up promptly. Depending on the urgency of the project and your relationship with the potential clients, you might want to follow up as soon as the next day (or even the day of submission if it’s urgent) to see if they have any questions or you can provide additional information.

Give them a little time to mull it over and reach out again to see if they’re interested in moving forward or if they have any additional questions.

Many freelancers prefer to have a signed contract before moving forward, and many require at least a partial payment up front. Find out what works best for you and go from there.

However you put your proposal together, just remember that it’s only a starting point. Collaborate with your potential client to make sure the details work well for both of you. Don’t be intimidated by putting together your first project proposal. The more you write, the easier they will become.

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • Roland says:

    This will help out so many new writers, or writers who never had to write p[roposals before. Great job!

  • Matt says:

    can’t emphasize the scope of work section more. i’ve always found that clients usually want more than they originally ask for up front. with a broad scope, it’s hard to stick to my guns and say, i’ll do what you’e asking but i need to be compensated for it. even though scope definition can be tedious and a bit intimidating, i’ve found it to be THE MOST important factor when it comes to satisfying clients while not feeling overworked myself.

  • Thank you so much! As I’m only now starting freelancing, this advice helps *so* much. I had next to no idea how project proposals worked. I will definitely be sharing this!

  • hey Kristen, I believe it’s crucial you know how much you’re charging per hour, so you can calculate how much you should charge overall, per project.

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