Landing Project with Winning Proposals

Yesterday, we talked about making a good first impression and how to position yourself for success the first time you meet with a prospective client. If you missed it, check out the article "The Art of the Client Interview."

Let's continue with the next step in landing a client, the proposal.

My objectives today are to show you what to include in your proposals, how to make it easy for the client to say yes, and how to write better proposals faster.

1. What do you include in a proposal?

The proposal formalizes what the client can expect from you and outlines your terms of agreement on things like revisions, time frame, and fees. It also includes what you expect from them.

You can add more, but make sure you include something on each of these seven parts:

  • Tell them exactly what you're going to do, and separate each item. For example: one 10-page sales letter, a one-page order form, and five 50-word space ads.
  • Your fees. For a great overview on what to charge, check out Rebecca Matter's article "How Much to Charge for Web Copy Projects" and Bob Bly's piece "Set Your Fees With Confidence – and Get Paid What You're Worth."
  • What they need to give you to secure your time and talent. I use this verbiage: "I require a 50% deposit up front, and I'll invoice the balance upon completion of the project, net 15 days upon receipt … I'll plan to get the first draft to you within xx business days of receiving your deposit."
  • Caveats. The only thing my proposals state is: "If you need to cancel or put the project on hold once I have begun work, a cancellation fee will apply, equal to the initial one-half deposit. You can apply this to a different project or a continuation of the same project at a later date."
  • Time frame. It's very important to spell this out in detail. Let the client know exactly when they can expect first and final drafts, along with checkpoints you'll have in between.
  • Revisions. Will you offer one set of revisions after the final copy is delivered? Two? Unlimited up to 30 days? Will there be a fee after that for more if needed?
  • Next steps. Just like a good order device, tell the client exactly what they need to do to get the ball rolling. Something like, "Please okay this agreement at the bottom, keep a copy for your records, and send one to me along with your deposit. I'll get started as soon as I receive it and will deliver copy to you as specified above."

More than the words themselves, how you say it is even more important …

2. Make it easy for them to say, "Yes."

  • Keep the language clear and simple. While some of it will be slight legalese and will show that you take your work seriously, you also want the client to understand the proposal with a quick look-through.
  • Assume that the project is going to happen, and assume an ongoing working relationship after that. One line I use is, "My goal is to help your business grow over the long term. After this project, we can discuss a fee arrangement that works for both of us going forward."

3. Write more proposals faster

  • Use a proposal template. Connect with me on Facebook or online, and I'll send you a copy of what I use.
  • Tailor the template to each client. Make it unique.
  • Don't get caught up on each proposal or worry about whether the client will accept it. I've made it my goal recently to just increase the number of proposals I send out. I know if I do that, my business will increase.

Is there anything else you like to include in your proposals? Have you had success with any certain technique? Do you have an effective way to get clients to take action right away?

I'd love to hear about it, and I'm sure our readers would, too. You can leave a comment here.

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Published: July 4, 2012

20 Responses to “Landing Project with Winning Proposals”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Please email your proposal template for obtaining copy writing clients

    Guest (billyp)July 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

  2. Hi Steve,

    Would love that proposal template that you mention, but can;t find you on FB.

    Thanks, Tom

    Guest (Tom)July 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  3. A great post, Steve! Can I add something about ownership and copyrights? I think it's good to clearly state that copyrights will be transferred to client upon completion of the project. What's your opinion?

    Guest (Vikas Shukla)July 5, 2012 at 12:46 am

  4. Dear Steve, thanks that was a helpful insight into how to write proposals!
    I´d love to connect on facebook,but there are too many Steve Rollers. Would you add me?

    I am interested in receiving a copy of the proposal templates you mentioned.

    Greetings from Salzburg, the town of Mozart


    HENZLERWORKS photos with a message

    Claudia Henzler HENZLERWORKSJuly 5, 2012 at 2:33 am

  5. Thanks Steve. Great article. I often wondered how to get around the re-write thing. I work through digital agencies and I often find myself in the position where the client has not briefed the agency properly and the work outsourced to me is not briefed properly and then re-writes can be plentiful. I'd love a copy of your template if possible. Thanks. Biba

    Guest (Biba)July 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

  6. Steve,

    Very insightful article about landing clients -- will use your ideas in my business.

    I would like to have a copy of your proposal template mentioned in your article.



    PS: My e-mail address is ""

    RarcharTortorelloJuly 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

  7. Steve I am just taking the AWAI course, and you are offering to send me a proposal template which would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Malcolm

    Guest (Malcolm Ball)July 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

  8. Great stuff, Steve. Some of the best I've seen. Good posts all week. Thanks!

    Bob EdelsteinJuly 8, 2012 at 11:38 am

  9. Excellent information Steve. So very helpful and the timing could not have been more providential. Please send me a copy of your proposal template, as I just received my first request for a proposal and I certainly want to be professional with my first one. Much appreciated. Dennis.

    DennisRJuly 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

  10. Steve,

    Thank you for the helpful and informative article.

    Yes, I would like to have a copy of your proposal template.

    Thank you for your generous offer.

    To your ongoing successes, Melanie Garrett

    MAG from Arlington TexasJuly 10, 2012 at 7:17 pm

  11. Thank you, Steve.
    Kindly send me a copy of the proposal template you use.

    Guest (Todd)July 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

  12. Hi Steve:
    I really liked your article. Will you please send me a copy of your Proposal Template?

    AlmascgbizJuly 27, 2012 at 7:44 pm

  13. I will for SURE try this program.

    I REALLY love the feedback from others...

    Sincerely, Elia-8

    Elia-8June 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm

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