How to Turn a Project Proposal Into a Powerful Self-Promotional Tool – an Interview With Peleg Top

You might expect Design Master Peleg Top to be one of those highly successful professionals who's unapproachable and not very eager to share his success secrets.

But you'd be wrong. Even though Peleg earns top dollar when he designs for corporate clients like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Universal Music, he gladly shares ideas and strategies with other designers. He particularly enjoys sharing with newcomers.

One reason Peleg is passionate about helping other designers is that he started out much like many of our Graphic Design Success members. He never went to art school. He started his design business in his garage. And he built his client base from the ground up.

We interviewed Peleg recently to learn about one of his core strategies for landing new clients and turning them into return clients: project proposals.

IFD: Can you tell us how you use your project-proposal strategy?

PELEG: Happily! Here's a breakdown of the steps.

Step #1: Meet with the client.

I meet with the client face-to-face, if possible. If the client isn't local, you can do this over the phone. It's extremely important to get a feel for a potential client and his company to see if you're a good fit.

This first meeting establishes rapport. You get to know clients as real people. And they get to know you in the same light.

I ask a lot of questions during this first meeting. I ask about the company, its philosophy and goals, the project, the project's intended audience, project specs, deadlines, and the budget.

I always ask about the budget in that first meeting. I have to know what I've got to work with. Be very clear about money. If you're not, it can really mess up the proposal and the project later on.

Sometimes, a client doesn't know what the budget will be. In that case, I discuss budget ranges with them. And I don't mean just for my price but for the total budget.

Step #2: Write a formal proposal.

After the meeting, I write a project proposal. This outlines the project, establishes my expertise, and lets the client know why my studio is the best choice for the job.

Because it's so involved, I write proposals for new clients only. Once I've done the first project with them, I keep the proposal information on file. Then I use quick, one-page job sheets for subsequent projects.

Here are the key components of a proposal that wins new clients:

  • Cover letter – This friendly letter helps the client recall your initial meeting and re-establishes rapport.

  • Current situation – This section repeats information the client shared about where they are in business, their goals, and current challenges.

  • The need – This section discusses the general solution you offer the client. Be careful to take a “Here's what you said you need” approach rather than a “Here's what I think you need” approach.

  • Why you – This is where you establish your expertise and tells the client why you're the best person for the job. It's not a boilerplate bio though. Instead, share your experience and history as it relates to the client's industry or particular needs.

  • Your approach – This section is not about what you'll do on a project, but how you'll work thru the project with the client: meetings, deadlines, information sharing, that kind of thing.

  • Project phases and deliverables – Once you have a project deadline, work backward and figure out each phase of the project, what needs to happen during that time, and the deliverables the client will receive at the end of each phase. This general outline does not include dates for deliverables.

  • Costs – If you have a specific budget, give the costs you've figured for the project. If the client doesn't have a set budget, offer price ranges and let the client know these are estimates only and may change.

  • Samples – The first meeting with a client doesn't always include the decision-maker. So when you create a proposal, always include a few of your best samples from similar industries or projects. This helps establish your expertise with the decision-maker, even if you haven't met. After that, make sure you meet this person and work with him or her from then on.

  • Timeline and schedule – This specific timeline for deliverables describes how long each phase of a project will take. This allows you to give the client an idea of what to expect and when as the project progresses.

  • Payment terms – Spell out your price and how you accept payment, including deposits, final payment, guarantees, and the like.

IFD: Any warnings for our readers about this process?

PELEG: I have one big warning. When creating proposals, be very careful not to promise more than you can deliver.

Make sure you know the client's budget. Calculate all costs associated with the project before putting it in writing.

It's also a good idea to include a disclaimer in your proposals stating the fees are based on information you've received from the client. Stipulate that if the scope of a project changes, the fees will change as well.

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Published: July 13, 2006

1 Response to “How to Turn a Project Proposal Into a Powerful Self-Promotional Tool – an Interview With Peleg Top”

  1. I am delighted with the scope and variety of the materials available to AWAI students. I try to take a little time each week to review those which are not included in my very comprehensive courses. Thank you!


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