Writing a design proposal: 5 killer tips to win you that project
Writing a proposal can strike fear in many a designer. Let’s demystify the design proposal process with these 5 killer tips
Getting started on a new design project is an exciting time. From discovery and ideation to strategy and innovation, a lot goes into making great user experiences for clients. But, before you can even start to get your hands dirty, you need to know how to write a proposal.
Knowing how to write a winning proposal can not only get you the kind of jobs you want but can get you repeat custom.
A good, well-written proposal outlines what you’ll be doing for your client and is an opportunity to show the value that you’re bringing to a business.
Let’s take a look at 5 killer tips to help you win that project.
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Why write a design proposal?
Sure, you might have exchanged emails or even had a face to face meeting with a client where you discussed a prospective project. Great! But you need to put it in writing.
Writing a proposal is necessary in two ways: it’s good business practice and you’ll have a record of what you’re delivering to a client.
The design proposal, once written, will form part of the business contract that you sign with your client. It’s your end of the bargain.
By setting out what you’ll deliver, when you’ll deliver it and how much the project will cost, both you and the client understand the expectations set out from the beginning. There’s no mystery and everyone’s on the same page. Literally.
You wouldn’t buy a house without first looking at it. A client is unlikely to pick you to give their website an overhaul if you don’t present them with your detailed plans. So, what’s inside a proposal?
What do you include in a design proposal?
How you create your proposal will be down to your individual preference but typically most proposals will include:
- Project summary
- Terms and conditions
- Contact info
Those are the basics. Some proposals will include extra information like customer references, testimonials or case studies but what you decide to write in the proposal is entirely up to you.
5 proposal tips to win you that design project
Keep it short
How many of you read the terms and conditions of the purchases or downloads you make? Many of us never read them. Studies have even confirmed it. That’s because, really, nobody wants to spend their time going through pages and pages of legal information.
And a proposal is the same. Do you think someone wants to sit and read through 50 pages? We owe it to our clients to keep it short, simple and readable. When it comes to the terms and conditions, don’t be afraid to use bullet points.
Hollywood writer and producer Robert Kosberg, also known as the Pitch King, says that if you can’t explain your proposal in one sentence, it’s bad or you don’t know it well enough. We’re not advocating a one sentence proposal (one page, yes!) but you get the point about brevity.
Check out this how-to guide for writing UX proposals.
Don’t guess. Ask your client.
Collaborating with a client isn’t guess work. If you don’t know something – ask. Many designers suffer from the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. This can let fear into our lives and working from a place of fear is never good, especially if you want to deliver spectacular work.
Imposter Syndrome means that when it comes to business meetings, we start to play guessing games, according to Chris Do.
Chris thinks that we tend to intuit and guess when it comes knowing what the client wants without asking them. We do this because we want to give the impression that we’re competent, experienced and know what we’re doing.
You might be meeting with a client who doesn’t even know what they want yet. Or maybe they think they need a new website because all their competitors have new websites but in reality what they need is a mobile app.
That’s why it’s important to have a balanced, leveled conversations where you have the freedom to ask questions to not only decide what’s best for the client but so that you’re not designing in the dark. Only when you fully understand the scope can you begin to build the project.
Create a design proposal framework
Designers will write a lot of proposals throughout their lives. But writing a proposal takes time, effort and hard work. The first one is never easy but after that writing proposals will go a lot smoother.
Save yourself the work by writing your proposals with the future in mind. Is there copy you can re-use? What about imagery? What parts can be recycled to create a template?
A good idea is to create a basic proposal framework which you can then add to or remove from depending on the client you’re working with.
This will speed up the proposal time (because, really, who wants to spend hours and hours writing proposals?) and you’ll be more confident about crafting a proposal when you have a solid and familiar framework to build upon.
Check out this free design proposal template by Prospero.
Adopt the clients’ language
The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias whereby we assume, because of our extensive knowledge of a subject, that other people also share that knowledge. Don’t be fooled. Some of your clients won’t have a clue about user experience design. But that’s why they want to hire you.
First, talk to your clients like they’re a human being and listen to them – both in offline and online communication. It’s important that you invest your energy in writing simply and writing in their language so you can create a better rapport. Writing in language you deem more intelligent doesn’t add any business value.
You can foster a greater connection with your client if you use the words they’re familiar with. And this will be more persuasive. The technique is called called match and mirror and is used throughout the corporate world.
Use price bracketing
Talking about budgets can make people awkward. Designers want work but don’t want to seem too expensive. Clients don’t want to reveal their budget for fear that it’s not enough.
According to Ted Leonhardt, there are 3 reasons why we don’t push for more money:
- We don’t feel worthy.
- We don’t want to seem pushy or aggressive.
- We forget that negotiation is expected.
A good tactic is to use price bracketing. Price bracketing is where you have two goal posts and somewhere between those posts is where the budget will fall.
If a company wants a new website redesign but you don’t know the entire cost for that, give them a price bracket like $10,000 – $15,000.
Be sure to bracket above the amount you want. That means the least amount you’ll get paid is covering what you want to be paid for the project.
Price bracketing allows for unexpected costs to be covered and gives you a little wiggle room. Don’t be afraid to have open conversations with your client about price bracketing as it can be a benefit for both of you.
You may end up discovering the project isn’t right because budgets are off. In that instances, you can always refer the project to a friend because you can’t do it.
With these five tips, you’ll be eager to start writing your own proposals! Save time, energy and money by working on the things that matter in your proposal. Develop rapport with your client and put yourself in their shoes and remember to write clearly and concisely.