Between sharpening your skills, identifying a niche, reading job postings, and marketing your services, getting started as an Independent can seem overwhelming. But don't stress! Learning how to write a job proposal will help you communicate your value to prospective clients.
Job proposals can be as simple or as detailed as you'd like. They can even double as a client contract to eliminate the need for a secondary document once you've won over a new client. Proposals also help outline the scope of work, allowing you and the client to clearly understand the services being provided and avoid confusion later on.
What is a job proposal? 📝
A job proposal (also known as a client or project proposal) is a document that communicates an Independent's specific value-add to any project. The proposal letter includes contact information, the project's price, and the reasons the Independent is the best candidate for the role. It’s the perfect place to outline the freelancer's unique solution to the potential client's problem.
The format used to present the proposal can vary depending on the kind of work you do. If you're a designer, you may want to create your own proposal template to show off your design skills. But for most Independents, a proposal template you find online will do the trick.
You’ll typically send a job proposal after discussing objectives and a job description in your initial meeting with the client in which project objectives are discussed. It's important not to send the client proposal too early to avoid turning off your leads.
Job proposals and business proposals: What’s the difference? 🤔
Job proposals and business proposals may include similar information, but they serve different purposes. A job proposal outlines a piece of work for an existing company, while a business proposal (aka business plan) is the document prepared for a bank or other financial lending institution when seeking start-up funds.
You may need to learn how to write a business proposal if you’re launching a startup. But for Independents looking to match with clients, mastering the job proposal letter should be a top priority.
What to include in a job proposal letter 🖇️
Now that you've learned the importance of a job proposal and what it actually is, let's explore what goes into proposal writing and how to produce a good one!
1. Strong introduction
Use the first few sentences of the proposal to present yourself as an expert in your field to convince potential clients that you're the best person for the job. Start by confidently explaining your relevant skill sets, certifications, years of experience, and reasons for taking on the project.
Make sure to highlight the core problems and goals discussed in your initial meeting with the client. Tie in how your expertise will help solve those problems and achieve their goals. This section should be one or two paragraphs.
2. Scope of work
Next, outline any milestones, reports, deliverables, and/or end products the client can expect to receive at the conclusion of the project.
If you're a web developer, for example, your scope of work should clearly define the features you'll be incorporating into the client's website. For lengthy projects that span a few months or more, you'll also want to include when the client can expect these features to be visible on the site.
Including a timeline in the proposal helps both parties understand how long each milestone will take to complete. This builds trust and allows you to organize your workflow.
The scope of work is considered the "meat" of the job proposal. For small projects, this portion can typically fit into half a page, while as many as two full pages may be needed for bigger projects.
3. Past results
After elaborating on what you have planned for the client, reiterate that you're capable of doing the job. Including at least one or two paragraphs about your previous successes encourages the client to trust you.
How you present your past results depends on your trade. Writers will benefit from a written structure with bullet points highlighting key project takeaways, whereas designers and engineers might better present their wins via visuals and charts.
4. "Why me?"
Forbes recently reported that an astounding 59 million Americans performed freelance work in 2021. According to Statista, that number is expected to reach 90.1 million by the end of 2028.
It’s great news, for sure, but it also means more competition. As a new Independent, it’s important to enter the market strongly, using the first few lines of your bio, portfolio, and job proposals to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Title this section with something creative that speaks to your personality or unique workflow, such as "empowering brands to pop up and pop out" or "curating intuitive user experiences with ease." A single paragraph should be enough for this part of the proposal.
5. Pricing and fee details
Usually running no longer than half a page, the pricing section is the most condensed (and often most nerve-wracking) aspect of a client proposal. How do you decide what to charge? Pricing services is a topic of its own, but a good general rule of thumb is to establish a median price range based on what other freelancers in your field are charging. One of the best ways to do this is by talking to a handful of Independents with comparable experience within your field.
The project is a go if the potential client is aligned with your proposed solutions and has the budget for your work. If you haven't fully sold them on your services or your fees seem a bit pricey, you may need to move on to a new prospect.
6. Terms and conditions
If you want your proposal to double as a contract, close it out with a list of terms and conditions. This is where you’ll cover things like late payments, intellectual property rights, and the length of time the proposal is valid.
As a newbie freelancer, this section won't be all that complicated. Just outline the basics, such as payment terms and methods and what should happen if either party decides to back out of the contract.
But as your freelance business grows and more money comes into play, you might want to seek out someone with legal experience to help draft the ideal terms and conditions for your future projects.
Keep this section as clear and concise as possible, including all the must-know information and excluding anything non-essential.
How long should your proposal be? ⏰
Some job proposal examples are as short as one to two pages. A one-page proposal (similar to a cover letter) is appropriate if you're being contracted for a quick logo design. An 18-month consulting project, on the other hand, will likely require more than a page to adequately outline the project scope.
A proposal document’s length doesn't matter nearly as much as its contents. Aim for concise writing and clear visuals when necessary.
When to send a client proposal 📅
Get to know the client's needs before shooting over a written proposal. Don’t waste time curating a customized document if the client hasn’t indicated an interest in working together.
One of the best ways to know if a prospective client is serious about hiring you is if they agree to meet one-on-one to discuss project details or the services you offer. The meeting doesn't have to be long — 15 minutes on the phone or a video call should be enough to assess the viability of a collaboration.
Within 72 hours of the initial meeting is the best time to send a client proposal. Sending a proposal more than a week after your kickoff meeting with a client puts your project at risk of being forgotten.
The importance of following up ☎️
It’s easy for a job proposal to get lost in a sea of emails, so set a reminder to follow up on the proposal a week after sending it. A week gives the client enough time to assess the project details and discuss it with relevant team members. Send a second follow-up message if they don't respond within three to five days. Following up can be intimidating, but don't let that stop you. At this stage, the client has expressed interest in working together and will be looking forward to your messages.
You’re ready to get started 🦸
Now that you know how to write a job proposal, it's time to take a stab at your first draft! Focus on the ways your skills will benefit the client's project needs, and don't be afraid to show a bit of personality.
Contra’s commission-free platform makes it easy for Independents to match with new clients. If you're looking for extra help crafting a winning proposal, we offer a wide range of tools designed for enthusiastic Independents just like you.