Writing proposals as a Freelancer – Tips and Tricks


Freelancers often have to write proposals in order to get projects. Making a pitch to a potential client can be intimidating; whether it’s your first time out on your own, or you’re a seasoned freelancer. Writing proposals can sometimes be very tricky, but having a couple of things in mind can make a great difference in the way you approach this task and, more importantly, in the way employers evaluate your proposal.

Here are a few steps that will hone your proposal writing skills and increase your chances to get contracts.

If you want to ensure that a project is completed successfully both for the client and yourself, smooth communication is essential. Especially with large projects and huge budgets, you as a freelancer should make sure that every detail has been discussed and you have a precise agreement of what will be done and when it will be done.

An initial document will give a potential client an idea of what services you are willing to offer them and how much they can expect to pay for such services. Of course, the first proposal is simply an estimate, and a more precise number will need to be agreed upon once the project is discussed in detail.

This initial document is known as a proposal, offer or quote.

This is the best way to ensure that no misunderstandings might arise once you start working and to protect yourself with documentation if a client claims you did not properly complete your assignment.

What should a proposal tell the client?

A good proposal defines the services that will be provided in a professional and comprehensive way and should give the client a feeling that you will provide a high-quality product. This feeling will allow you to charge higher rates for the work to be done.

Therefore, it’s important that you offer shows that:

  • You understand the needs, goal and ideas of the customer
  • You offer the customer the best possible alternative with the best quality
  • You consider all wishes and ideas from the company or client

The proposed price results from great service and its quality.

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Proposal Format and Structure: How should my proposal look like?

With a well-designed proposal, you will increase your chances of success in getting hired.

It is not only important to consider the content of your proposal, but also how you structure it. It may therefore be very useful to present certain sections in a strategic order to break up all the information you are giving the client while maintaining their attention. Only this way, the potential customer will be able to absorb every detail of your proposal.

This initial quote should give the client the opportunity to understand the process and the information as quickly and easily as possible. Here is a freelance proposal example:

Mandatory information in a proposal:

  1. Your name, freelance/business name, address and logo
  2. Your potential client’s name and address
  3. Client number, proposal number and date
  4. Detailed subject line
  5. Scope of services / Description
  6. Estimate with net price
  7. Taxes / Discounts (if applicable)
  8. Total amount of the estimate

Optional additional information:

  1. Timeframe
  2. Personal recommendations
  3. Pitch on why to pick you
  4. Conditions (payment methods, rush/late fees, confidentiality, copyright, etc.)

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Tips on how to write a great freelance proposal

There can be an incredibly fine line between what makes a good, effective pitch and what makes a bad pitch. Regardless of whether or not you are new to the freelance business, it can be very difficult to decide what to include in your pitch, and what to weed out.

One the one hand, you want to wow the potential client with all of your skills, your accomplishments, your education, etc… But really, what does this accomplish? Showing off the feathers in your hat doesn’t tell a client what you can really do for them specifically, or really even what you’re good at. It comes across as either off-putting-ly self-impressed, or insecure.

Neither is desirable. Although, you really don’t want to go too far in the other direction either and leave the client completely in the dark about what it is that you do. Or feeling that you lack the necessary skills and/or communication skills for the job.

Thankfully there are some tried and true methods that really can help you create an effective freelance pitch and gain more clients. Below is a list of the best tips for creating effective pitches that will land you a ton of clients. Remember, when approaching a pitch, to consider what the client is actually looking for.

1. Analyze the project description and get to know your client

The first and most important step to writing is to pay attention to the needs of your client and if you found the project online, the freelance job description. To do that you have to pay a lot of attention to how a project is described. Here, every word matters and a thorough reading is in order. You cannot write a proposal unless you truly understand what your client wants.

Furthermore, the job description will help you decide on the style of your proposal. If the client is addressing you informally, you should cater to that. If a project is described using an accurate, professional vocabulary, you should answer accordingly.

Finally, the project description tells you something about the company you could be working with. Go a step further and do a background check of your own and get to know the client and his work. Maybe you relate to something you find, get impressed, or have ideas how something can be expanded – these details will get the client’s attention and significantly improve your chances.

2. Be aware of your own strengths

Before you start writing a proposal, you should think about what makes you a good candidate for that particular project. What are your strengths?

For example, if the client is seeking a PHP Developer, show him that you have done similar PHP projects in the past or you have shown keen interest in the subject in your free time.

List those strengths that fit the project. You don’t want to include irrelevant skills, even though it might be tempting. Furthermore, don’t just list the things you’re good at, prove it. Include little examples, like situations, that highlight a skill you have and how it can be useful. 

3. Start strong

Most big companies get a lot of proposals when listing a project. Therefore, a good start is crucial. If your first couple of sentences are unappealing or flat-out boring, you are likely to get sorted out very quickly. Forget about standardized beginnings.

Try to grab the attention of the reader and show him you are perfect for the job from the very first lines. Maybe you can come up with a slogan for yourself or express your interest and enthusiasm in a specific way – remember not to deviate too much from the style of the project description.

4. Be specific

It is important to add specific details about your work and your vision of the project. Name the steps you plan to do in order to accomplish the job. Better yet, combine that with a timeline. It can be quite difficult to determine how long you need for each particular step but try it anyway. This will convince a client that you have thought carefully about the project and how exactly it can be done.

Depending on your personal preferences and the project, you can choose to include a price tag as well. Some employers will specifically ask for these, others won’t. Just try not to over- or undersell yourself.

These steps will turn your proposal into an attention-grabber and reduce the chances of your proposal landing in the recycle bin after a quick glance.

5. Differentiate Yourself from Your Competition

‘How?’ You may be asking; when there are literally hundreds and hundreds of rivaling freelancers who specialize in the exact same thing that you do and that are also seeking regular work. First of all, don’t worry about other people. You can’t change it that hundreds of other people may be seeking the same position. You can however, change how you present yourself.

While you shouldn’t brag outright, you should definitely take a good long look in the mirror and figure out what your greatest strengths really are as a freelancer. Mention your strengths, but not long-winded-ly. Imagine that you’re a writer. You probably want to brag that you can provide them with the best content.

But that probably isn’t necessarily true. It’s just fluff. Rather than promising that you possess the qualities you think a good writer should possess, focus on something that you really do excel at. If you’re particularly great with quickly write my essay or turn-around time on tasks, (clear communication, always on time or early delivery, etc.) then focus on that as your defining characteristic.

6. Establishing Your Brand

Branding can actually save you time on pitching to clients if done well. Establishing a good personal brand brings clients to you, rather than you having to seek them out. Make sure that clients will see you as you wish to be seen; professional, reliable, and a specialist in your field. There are quick, easy ways to do this.

Establish an impressive portfolio site that has a companion blog about whatever it is that you do. Let people see your passion for what you do, in addition to your portfolio. Guest blog and stay active within the online communities that best match with your specializations.

Make sure that people know who you are, and what you can offer to them that is unique or noteworthy. Your brand is the impression that you leave upon others; client or otherwise. You want to make sure that it is the best that it possibly can be.

7. Don’t Over-Do-It

Do not over-do-it on your pitch. In any manner. Don’t emphasize your age or the number of years of experience that you have under your belt. Don’t include a bunch of unnecessary information. As mentioned above, don’t brag.

If it isn’t directly related to the job that you are applying for, don’t mention it. Basically, just try not to over-sell yourself. Over-selling yourself comes off as one of two things- either self-important, or insecure. Both make you look like an amateur.

Keep it short, relevant, and simple. If the client asks you detailed questions about your experience, skills, etc. make sure to answer their questions in your pitch/proposal. Otherwise, however, leave the client the link to your portfolio page and let them choose whether or not to bother drudging through the details of your career history.

8. Network with Everyone

A lot of people recommend focusing on networking with people that work in other areas or niches than you, and this actually is really good advice. People who are outside of your niche are more likely to need your special skill set than someone with a job that is very similar to yours. On the other hand, however, networking with colleagues can turn up job leads that weren’t the colleague’s specialty, or that they couldn’t fit into their schedule.

The thing about networking is that you really can’t know whether or not a new contact or acquaintance will turn out to be a great job lead. But as far as increasing your odds of finding a paying gig go, it’s a solid investment to talk to as many other professionals as possible.

9. Personalize Your Pitch (es)

Chances are, you aren’t just applying for one gig. Different jobs are going to have different specifications and requirements. Attention to detail is key when you are making a pitch to a client. You want to convey to them that you fully understand what they need, how they want it done, and when they want it.

Treat clients like they’re people, not an ATM. Give genuine attention and interest to the client’s needs and concerns. Express your own needs and concerns openly and honestly as well. Let them know that you care about the success of their endeavors, and not just the payout on one project. 

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General tips for writing your proposal

  • Spelling and proofreading. There is nothing worse than spelling and grammatical errors in an offer. Keep in mind that most non-human spell checkers are not foolproof. Do it yourself; don’t rely on autocorrect.
  • Printed or digital? Generally, clients will be ok with a digital proposal, but it is always good to ask if they would prefer a printed version.
  • Paper. If the client prefers a printed version, use high-quality paper, and pay attention to the level of your printer cartridges to make sure it looks great.
  • Create your template. Use a template for all your offers to make future creation easier. It also helps you stay more organized and to keep your branding consistent (Download your proposal template below).
  • Follow up with the potential client If you don’t hear from them in a while; write a follow-up email or pick up the phone to ask if they have read over your proposal and let them know you are happy to discuss anything they need.
  • Be nice and professional, but remember: less is more! With the proposal, your goal is to give important information to the client, not just about selling yourself. Perhaps the client can’t physically see you, but this proposal is key to making a good first impression.
  • Do not overuse templates when applying. Sending out several applications every day can get extremely tedious. It can seem pretty appealing to use templates to save yourself some time. After all, you’re just optimizing the process, right? Not really. Sure, you can have “blocks” of text about certain projects you did or experiences you gathered. But your application has to be tailored to the client and the project you’re aiming for. Tailor your template according to each client and scenario.
  • Doing your research is the key to writing a good application. The first research step can be extremely simple, provided you’re applying for a project offer. Just read it carefully. Most of the time, clients tell you exactly what they’re looking for and which skills they value most. Structure your application accordingly. If you’re cold-calling, it can get a bit more complicated, but you can still look at what a company is doing – what are their values, what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Don’t embellish your skills. Pretending you can do something you can’t is terrible. You look at a freelance job description and under requirements, it lists six different unrelated hard skills, a bunch of soft skills, three languages and ten years of experience. If you have 70-80% of the skills required, go for it. But don’t pretend you have the other 20-30%.
  • Be brief and to the point. Trying to tell your potential client every single thing you’ve done to get to this point in your life is a very common beginner mistake. You think you don’t have enough experience so you try to explain every little thing in great detail. Don’t do that. Recruiters look at most applications for less than 60 seconds. The only way to convince them in that short period of time is to only show them the most important things.
  • Apply, apply, apply. Just a last bit of advice – apply, apply, apply. Statistically, you are much more likely to find gainful employment if you apply for more jobs. If you only apply for 5 jobs, you only have 5 chances of being hired. If you apply for 20 jobs, you have 20 chances of being hired. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and to integrate these tips into your approach. You’ll see fantastic results.

Free proposal template for freelancers

Time is money and having a proposal sample at hand is key for any freelancer. Generally, you will use the same documents over and over again, so having a template to work on is a great idea to save you the trouble of retyping what is essentially the same message every time you get a new project.

You typically send it once after your pitch, then a second, updated version after you discuss the project in detail with your client.

Here you can download our freelance proposal template for free (without subscriptions):

Freelance Proposal Template in Word, PDF and PTT

More freelancer templates:Order ConfirmationInvoices  Payment reminders

Read your proposals as many times as it takes until you are certain they will be remembered and convince the reader you are the right person to get his freelance project done! 

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Viktor Marinov

Viktor is the voice behind the freelancermap blog. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, don't miss his freelancer tips!

By Viktor Marinov

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