Maybe you’re new to the world of freelance. Perhaps you’ve been freelancing for quite some time now. Either way, writing pitches and proposals might not be what you deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Sometimes you win work through word-of-mouth, or you might have recurring clients. It means that having to bid for projects isn’t always at the forefront of the freelancer skillset.
But, it’s a useful skill to have, particularly if you’re going after contracts where the client is actively looking to compare the best freelancer for that job. They’re a different beast altogether from the profile you create on freelancing sites, so it’s worth knowing how they work.
Whether you’re in the process of tackling your very first proposal, or simply looking to brush up on your bid writing skills, we’re here to steer you in the right direction (and away from the wrong one).
How to write a standout proposal for a job bid
Creating a compelling proposal that wins work and turns prospective clients’ heads is no mean feat. The gig economy is growing, which is great, but it also means more competition. Fortunately, we have ten tips to stand you in great stead.
Personalise your response and tailor it to the recipient
Every article ever which refers to CVs, job applications, pitches and proposals starts with this. Personalise your pitch.
Templates can provide a solid foundation for you to start from, and save time in the process. But for a good proposal, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of personalising your response.
- Address the client, and the problem that you will solve, throughout
- Customise the design of the proposal by including their brand colours and logo
- Avoid generalised language and blanket messages
- Highlight how you align with their business, and why you’d make a great professional partnership
- Explain how you will add value as an extension of their team
Copy-paste proposals that don’t have that vital personal touch will almost certainly be tossed to one side.
Share your portfolio – but only the most relevant parts
It’s important to be descriptive about how you fit the bill and how you align with the client and their project. Likewise, it’s also a good idea to supplement this with some examples of your work.
Bear in mind that the recipient won’t want to see your entire portfolio, so just cherry-pick the work which best supports your bid for this particular job.
When sharing examples of your work, make sure they’re easy to access. This means easy for the potential client, not for you – sorry! Find out how they want to receive it, such as email, via an external link they can download from, or embedded in the proposal itself.
Refer back to the specific project details
When constructing your proposal, it’s important not to focus too much on yourself. Naturally, you and your skills will form a substantial part of the response but it’s also crucial to address the recipient and the information they share with you, directly.
They’re looking for someone who can handle each point they’re looking for, so work through the brief and make sure your pitch ticks off each item. It shows you’re paying attention, as well as demonstrating you can do the job. Refer back to specific project details to showcase your understanding of the task in hand, and if possible, include examples of relevant work in your portfolio.
Set clear expectations about how you can fulfil the brief
You want to impress and stand out, we get it. What you don’t want to do is exaggerate or falsify what you can realistically achieve or offer in order to do that.
Be honest, transparent and reasonable when communicating things like timeline expectations, deliverables and payment terms. It’s better to have an open discussion now with some room for negotiation, than to overpromise and end up disappointing the client further down the line. This will likely form the basis of your agreement or contract.
Speak the client’s language back to them
Effectively express how you align with the client, how you plan to address their pain points, and how you’re an ideal fit, by using the client’s language back to them.
Pick out phrases and descriptions from the brief or job description you’re working from. This will also show the recipient that you’ve clearly digested and understood what they’re asking for.
Meet the response deadlines promptly
This one goes without saying, but it’s essential that you adhere to the submission deadline that will be outlined on the brief. If you submit your bid late, there’s a high chance the recipient won’t even look at your proposal!
Mitigate any risks that the client might be concerned about
Although you want to approach the work with a positive outlook, it’s more useful to show that you’re living in the real world. Pre-empt or acknowledge any risks that the client might want to flag.
Address timelines, deadlines, processes, logistics, and how you plan to complete the project, and deal with any snags or amends.
Consider including some client references
In the same way you’d include employer references on a job application, you might want to think about gathering some client testimonials to include in your proposal. This will help back up everything you’re saying, and demonstrate that you’re an asset.
Ensure formatting, spelling and grammar are tip-top
Here, first impressions carry a lot of weight. It’s crucial that your proposal looks the part from the outset. Before your prospective client has even read your introduction, you want the appearance of your proposal to reflect professionalism. This comes down to formatting and presentation, so make sure it’s sharp.
Use short paragraphs, succinct sentences, bullet points, subheads and clear sections to make your proposal easy to digest and retain. For longer tenders, include a table of contents where applicable. It supports the readability of your bid, and lets the reader skip to the bits most pertinent to their interests.
It goes without saying that your spelling and grammar need to be on-point, even if this isn’t necessarily directly relevant to the nature of the job.
Have your proposal proofread by multiple people
Once you have the content in order, it’s time to pass your proposal to the infamous critical friend (ideally more than one). They’re not there to make heavy changes (unless it’s good advice), but you do want them to sense check everything.
Beyond typos and formatting slip-ups, they can make sure that you complete every thought before moving on to the next one.
Now we’ve shared our tips and tricks of the trade, all that’s left for you to do is go and craft that winning proposal. Good luck!
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