4 Simple Steps to a Winning Freelance Proposal

Do you ever feel like you’re wasting your time writing proposals?

You’re not alone. I’ve definitely wasted hours of my life writing proposals that never got me a client. Some of them didn’t even get a reply. I wonder if some of them were ever read at all??

It can be frustrating at the best of times.

So many freelancers I’ve met over the years have complained of the same thing. It sounds something like this:

“How can I produce the best work when I’m spending so much time writing proposals for new clients.?!”

Take my client Matt, for example.

For years he was struggling to break his feast and famine cycle, and a large part of the problem was because of his proposal technique.

He’d spend hours putting  proposals together for a client, only to find they’d given the work to someone else. That’s time he could’ve been working on another client’s project…

…or working on his fitness…

…or spending with his kids.

We all have things have things we’d rather be doing than hurling proposals into the ether.

Over the years I’ve honed my technique to win clients much, much more often than not. Here are the steps I take to create a winning proposal (almost) every time.

Step 1: Make a Connection

The first thing to do is forget about getting them as a client.

“Whaat?!?!” I hear you cry…

Seriously, this is probably the most useful tip I’ve even been given.

It can be a lot easier said than done at times, especially when the wolf is knocking at the door. But it’s well worth the effort to do it.

Instead of getting them as a client, try to get them as a date.

Sounds weird, eh?

A lot of time, the success of a business is a personal thing to the person you’re speaking to. Even in larger corporations, the success of a project could be fundamental to a person’s career.

So be positive, be yourself, and be open to learning about them and their business.

Keep your phone or laptop off the table and let them to tell you why they want their problem solved, not just what their problem is.

Try to approach your meetings with the question, “How can I help this person and their busienss? in the forefront of your mind, and you will quickly find your client meetings taking a warmer turn.

When you show you understand what they want as a person, as well as a business, you’ll be well on your way to success.

You may even make a new friend!

For more info on making a winning client proposal, check out my First Meeting Success Formula, which you can grab a free copy of here.

Step 2: Explore the Gap

Once you’ve got to know them and their business a little bit, you can start to move on to the problem at hand.

The reason they’re speaking to you is because there’s a gap between where they are, and where they want to be.

And you need to be the bridge.

So it’s important to get a proper grasp of their issue (the gap), and exactly what materials you can use to solve it.

Note that ‘lead’ doesn’t mean you do all the talking.

Let them talk as much as you can, and probe deeper wherever it’s relevant to.

Take notes if you need to, but try to keep your focus on them as much as possible.

And don’t assume that just because they say they want a new website, that’s really what their problem is.

Often when probing deeper into a prospect’s answers, you will discover other issues which are either connected to, or will be affected your project.

Stay focused, and if you can get to the root cause of why they need help, you are on the way to success.

Step 3: Transition to Solutions

With any luck (and possibly some clarification) your potential client will now have told you the most pressing problems they’re currently facing client.

Now you know where they’re feeling pain, you can show them you’re the person to fix it.

This doesn’t mean you have to give away all your ideas, just a ‘taste’ of them.

The idea is to get the client excited about working with you, so go for the jugular.

“Based on what you’ve told me Dave, I believe I can help you out.
What would you say if I told you I could [build/design/create] you a [insert your solution here] that would [solve their issue]?”

Ideally, they’re going to respond with something like, “Yes that sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.”

With practice, you’ll be able to come up with on-the-spot solutions that literally have your prospects itching to do business with you.

Remember that if you’re following these steps correctly, you should have a lot of information about the client.

And you’ll have had a fair amount of time to think about solutions, and draw the dots between the problems.

Use your time wisely and keep them focused on problems they are having that are relevant to the project at hand.

That way you are much more likely to have the answers on the tip of your tongue.

Want to win more work and spend less time on proposals? Download my First Meeting Success Formula for free here

Step 4: Set up the Scope and Budget

It wasn’t really so long ago that I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out the pricing for a proposal.

Money can be a funny thing to talk about, especially pre-negotiation, when neither side really wants to show their cards.

When you follow this approach to your first discussion with a client, you’ll find you have an opportunity at this stage to scope out the project right there with them.

So you’ll no longer be writing your proposal in the dark.

Whatever your solution is will need to have collateral behind it.

For example, if it’s a website it’s going to need copy, images, logos, a domain, hosting and branding guidelines, just to get started.

So ask the client if they have those ready, or if they would like you to source them.

This is also a good place to establish some timelines with them, and set their expectations for what you can deliver.

Now you have your client working with you on a totally different level to many other freelancers – scoping out your proposal with you!

If the meeting is too short to do this properly, you can always sketch it out on your own and then circle back to ask them to confirm the details.

Step 4.5: The Proposal

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t covered writing a proposal at all in this blog.

This is no accident.

I firmly believe that if you’re putting together a proposal without following these steps (or something very similar), then you’re wasting your time.

But why would you?

When you follow these steps, the client pretty much writes the proposal for you.

These steps can be very powerful you combine it with some of the other techniques I show you in the First Meeting Success Formula.

9 Replies to “4 Simple Steps to a Winning Freelance Proposal”

    1. No problem Sophia! Thank you for the feedback it’s always great to hear, especially when it’s so positive.

  1. Thank you, Rhonda, you have shared some great information here. I will definitely try to put these steps into action.

    1. Thanks Leah! Glad to hear you’re finding it useful. Make sure you stay tuned for more on the same sorts of topics. 😀

  2. Sounds nice in theory. I’ve been spending a lot of time meeting, talking on the phone and emailing people who might have projects. But I feel like I just end up talking to them, trying to be helpful, asking questions, answering questions, giving them guidelines and then they ……….disappear. Nothing ever comes of it. In a perfect world, you would get back what you put in and people would return your emails and phone calls, but that’s not reality.

    1. Marcia, I recently started my freelance career and I’ve already had a handful of the same experiences. Lots of questions and back and forth…. then they truly just disappear… Maybe they’ll reappear one day, but I’m not holding my breath…

      Rhonda, thank you, truly! I will definitely use some of your tips for my next meeting!

      1. Thank you for your comment Beth, I’m glad you found the post useful! Unfortunately these are an invevitable part of freelancing – feel free to join the email list if you’d like a notification when the next post goes live 🙂

    2. Hi Marcia – thank you for your feedback. Many, if not all, freelancers will have experienced what you have gone through – and it is certainly not a nice feeling! Where many of my clients have found a breakthrough is adjusting their targeting, i.e. putting together some very detailed client personas and then finessing their project-finding process based around those. This is something I’ll be talking about in a future blog post so stay tuned. You may also find my upcoming webinars useful too. 🙂

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