Five Key Components In Every Solid Freelance Proposal

Creating a freelance proposal is one of those stressful things because it’s time-consuming and unpaid work. And if you don’t know what key components every freelance proposal should have, you are relying on luck every time.

Having a winning proposal in your toolkit can give you a huge advantage – and you can use it again and again. This will save you time and massively increase your chances of landing projects and new clients.

So let’s see what are five key components that are a must for every freelance proposal you create and send out.

Table of contents:

  1. What is a freelance proposal?
  2. When do clients ask for proposals?
  3. Five key components every freelance proposal should have:
    1. The estimated cost
    2. The deliverables
    3. The estimated timeline
    4. Social proof
    5. Overcome objections
  4. Freelance Success Winning Proposals templates
  5. Related articles

What is a freelance proposal?

Before we dive much deeper into creating a freelance proposal, and what key components it needs to have, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about exactly what they are.

A proposal is simply a document that freelancers send to interested clients to give a summary of what a project will involve and how much it will cost. It’s basically a way to summarise a project’s scope and it will usually include a quote of how much it will cost.

Proposals can be as simple or as complicated as you like.

It’s essential to remember that your proposal is one of the best chances you have to make a good impression on potential clients, however.

Also, please note that we are not talking here about proposals that you would submit through freelance job websites and platforms – for those kinds of proposals, you can check out this article.

When do clients ask for proposals?

Because they are considering working with you

The obvious – and ideal – the situation is when a potential client or lead is interested in working with you and wants to see what it would involve and how much it would cost.

In an ideal world, all the proposals you send would be for this situation. This is where it really helps to have a slick, professional-looking proposal. It can really help you to stand out and create a good first impression.

They have a “quote-gathering” hiring process

The truth is clients often ask for proposals for less exciting reasons too though.

As an example, some companies have a rule where the purchaser needs to collect three quotes from freelancers.

The idea is that they can then choose the best fit for their needs, and budget. In reality, they often already know who they want to hire in advance, but they go through the quote-gathering process anyway just to tick the box.

This means they may reach out to two extra freelancers to ask for quotes – even if they have no intention of giving the work to them.

This is frustrating, but it’s just how it goes. It also means you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much, or overthink it when you send out a quote only to not hear back or receive a rejection.

To reject you

Another reason clients ask for quotes is, ironically, to actually reject you.

Saying no to someone’s face can be hard. So clients will often ask you to send over a proposal to bring the conversation to a close, so they can politely reject you later, over email.

The lesson here is that creating proposals can be time-consuming and, unfortunately often a waste of time.

That’s why it’s always good to jump on a call to try to get a sense of why they are asking for a proposal in the first place.

It’s also why it’s so important to have a template that you can use to give a good impression, without having to waste hours and hours creating each proposal from scratch.

Five key components every freelance proposal should have

So what should a good proposal include?

Remember this is your chance to make a first impression and show off your professionalism. A good, thorough proposal genuinely can tip the balance in your favour if a client is receiving multiple proposals for a project.

Make sure you’ve ticked off this list in every proposal you send out.

The estimated cost

In a majority of cases this is why the client wants the proposal in the first place, so don’t try to hide it.

Let them know how much it costs to work with you.

If you’re unsure, it can help to give a range or three different pricing options. Or you can provide an hourly cost.

If it’s an estimate be clear about that, or the client may assume the price is fixed.

The deliverables

To avoid any future headaches, it’s really helpful to be clear at this stage about what will be included.

Set out the scope of the project, and be specific about it.

Of course, you can finalise this later in the contract, but to avoid any misunderstandings, being clear and setting the right expectations at this early stage will be really helpful.

Put down everything you plan to provide and be precise.

For example, if you are writing a proposal for a design project, specify how many rounds of revisions are included in that price. If you are a photographer, list how many photos they get in the session.

The estimated timeline

Sometimes projects are time-sensitive, so if you can include it, it’s always good to put in an indication of how long it will take.

This can also be a good way to let them know about urgency fees for any shorter deadlines.

Of course, like with the previous point, you might not always be in a position to give an exact timeline just yet.

Giving a range can still be helpful for both of you.

Again, be clear that it is an estimate – you don’t the client to feel misled if the project does take longer.

Remember, projects always take longer than you expect them to as well!

Include some social proof

While reading your proposal, your client is close to making a purchasing decision.

A little bit of social proof – evidence from others that you are good at what you do – can make all the difference here. That’s why we like to include a small testimonial in proposals. It just adds a little bit of reassurance for the buyer.

We talk a lot about social proof and the value of testimonials in our course Freelance Bootcamp. Basically, when someone hires you, they are taking a risk. They don’t yet know if you are reliable or not.

So try to lower the risk they face. Providing social proof is one effective way to lower the risk for them, as they see that you have provided your services to other, similar companies and people like them. This signals that you have the skills and expertise to do the job.

Don’t get carried away here though, it’s a fine balance. One short testimonial is more than enough – and you can always include a link to other testimonials or case studies on your website.

Overcoming objections

This can be the element that separates winning proposals from the others. 

Try to identify the possible reasons why the person receiving your proposal might decide not to hire you.

Maybe it’s a lack of experience in their industry, cost or your location. List down any possible objections and then look for opportunities to overcome them in your proposal.

For example, you might decide to include a link to a relevant case study in their industry, or add a short explanation to each deliverable you have listed to justify your pricing.

Have in mind that this doesn’t mean adding a new section to your proposal, but rather polishing the elements so when someone reads it, potential objections are answered.

This is also why it’s well worth jumping on the phone with the client first too – it gives you a chance to listen to them and judge what may be an objection before putting the proposal together.

Freelance Success Winning Proposal Templates

The best solution for mastering freelance proposals is to create your own or buy a good set. This will be an investment that will save you hours of time and wasted energy.

You can take a shortcut and save time by using our proposal templates. These are easy to use, tweak and adapt quickly.

These proposals will give you a professional touch and help you to stand out and win more clients. The proposal templates are launching soon, so keep an eye out!

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