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How to write an effective sales proposal for your freelance business

You're looking for tried-and-tested advice on writing a freelance sales proposal? We've got you! Here's everything you need to know.

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Whether you’re new to freelancing or you’ve got several years of experience already, writing an effective sales proposal for your freelance business can make a huge difference.

Working as a freelancer is liberating in numerous ways, but with such freedom comes a responsibility to find new work and close deals yourself. When asked, any freelancer will say that one of the biggest challenges is client acquisition.

And the industry is so competitive that you can’t always know if you’ll close enough deals for your freelance business to prosper.

A good practice is to investigate and find out which exact things impact our potential outcome. Once we do that, we can easily see where our focus needs to be. We can’t change the competitive landscape, but we can most certainly change our sales proposals.

Many deals die in this phase. You either focus too much on yourself or simply go all out and write 10-page proposals that just get ignored.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our mission at Propoze is to help freelancers and small businesses overcome that final obstacle to securing more work. And with our series of carefully-written guides and tutorials, we’ll do our best to help you do that.

So, before you start writing your next sales proposal for your freelance business, be sure to read our guide once more.

Now, let’s jump into the article.

What is a sales proposal?

If you’re a seasoned freelance veteran, feel free to skip this part. But if you’re new to freelancing, you’ll want to read this.

In short, a sales proposal is a document businesses use to pitch their products and services to prospective clients. You’ll find sales proposals have many names (like a business proposal, product proposal, work proposal,...), but they are all the same. Sales proposals are often used at the end of the sales process, meaning that they’re here to help you close the deal.

A high-quality sales proposal has the role of convincing your prospective client to work with you. To achieve that, you’ll need to research your clients, their needs, and their greatest pain points.

Keep in mind that you should not go into greater detail about products and services when writing your sales proposal. Before even sending out your sales proposal, there’s a great chance your prospective clients will already know about your expertise and experience, so there won’t be any need for going into detail about that too.

Once your sales proposal gets accepted, you’ll work your way with clients on providing them with more details on your activities and approach.

The proposal process is only a part of your sales process. Here's our guide on how to supercharge your sales efficiency and get more out of your sales activities.

Why is a sales proposal important to freelancers?

Sales proposals can be a freelancer’s best friend. They help your project go more smoothly, keep you goal-oriented, and help you close the deal.

There are several reasons why sales proposals are crucial to freelancers. Here’s a short list:

  • No scope creep - your work is carefully defined
  • It helps you keep track of your responsibilities
  • You can streamline the proposal process with templates (in Propoze)
  • Proposals help you stand out as a professional

Let’s be realistic - 1.57 billion people are freelancers and almost certainly there are some freelancers that have more knowledge, experience, and better skills than you for a certain project. But that shouldn’t stop you from regularly finding new work for your freelance business.

When you’re competing against such established freelancers, you’ll want all the competitive advantages you can get.

And writing an effective freelance sales proposal is where you can differentiate yourself from others.

Just a quick note - proposal software can often help you close more deals. We've written a guide on how to choose the best proposal software for your freelance business. Give it a read!

Now, let’s help you write the best sales proposal you have ever written for your freelance business.

How to write an effective sales proposal?

In this chapter, we’ll go into the nitty gritty details of writing a flawless sales proposal. Freelancers, take note!

Tip #1: Research the client and their business

This goes without saying - you should always take your time to research the client, their target market, and their business.

Consider this the first step you must never go around. Without proper research, how can you even know that you want to work on that project? Or with that client?

So, in this step, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible on your client’s business, on their industry, and on industry-specific challenges. Also, take a look at their competitors, and read their reviews (on any review site you can find).

Here are a few tips on how to do this the right way:

  • Use your client’s website and social media to gather information on their values, their target audience, and their brand voice. Also, you’ll find out what kind of content they publish.
  • Find and analyze industry reports and studies to gain insight into the latest trends and big changes (these industry reports can cost you thousands of dollars, so scout for any free valuable information you can find)
  • Use market research websites (like MarketsAndMarkets, Exploding Topics, or BuzzSumo) to study the industry, get some statistics, and see where the industry is headed
  • Don’t be afraid to interview the client - who can tell you better about their needs and pain points if not the client? This just goes to show them that you’re genuinely interested in helping them solve their problems. It’s a win-win tactic
  • Use research tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to gain a sense of their online competitive landscape. Find out more about their keyword strategy, their rankings, and traffic in just a few clicks. (Even though these are paid tools, their free versions can help you get the research done)

This step requires time. By going deep into your research, you’ll know exactly how to create a sales proposal that speaks directly to your client. Every client is in a unique position and they appreciate when you can level with them honestly.

If you do your research right, there’s no denying that you’ll stand out from the crowd and likely close the sale.

Tip #2: Be honest when writing a cover letter

You’ve found a potential freelance client and it’s time to send them a proposal! Now, what do you do?

One of the best practices is to carefully craft a cover letter and be 100% honest when doing so. No going into details or bragging about your past accomplishments. There’s a time and place for everything, and a cover letter intended for your potential client just isn’t that.

Here’s what you should know:

  • The cover letter doesn’t need to be a separate document - it can be an email that you’re sending to your client with your sales proposal attached
  • Your cover letter should be short and to the point
  • The cover letter should be written in conversational language
  • Briefly introduce both yourself and the proposal
  • Don’t get too personal! After all, you’re doing business here

Let’s go through a good and a bad example. This will clarify everything for you.

Good cover letter example

Hi [client name],

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to offer you my services!

I have all the skills needed to get this project finished at a high-quality level. Considering my extensive experience with UX/UI design for the travel industry, I’m fully confident that I can deliver top-notch designs within the required timeframe.

You will find my proposal for the project attached below. In the proposal, you can find:

  • My background, expertise, and previous experience
  • A detailed activity plan for the next 90 days
  • Pricing details

The proposal in its entirety is based on my in-depth research and analysis of the market, your business, and the latest industry trends. If you have any questions or suggestions I can help you with, please reach out to me. My contact information can be found below.

Looking forward to a prosperous collaboration!

[name]

Why is this a good example?

It’s short, to the point, not too personal, and you’ve briefly presented yourself as a professional. Feel free to use this example as a template for future cover letters!

Bad cover letter example

Dear [Client Name],

Thank you for the opportunity to apply for this job. I’m a diligent and tireless worker looking for a new job urgently. I’ve gone through a tough period in my life and I’m willing to do anything to get on board.

I will offer you a cheaper price for my services and it would mean a lot to me if you could hire me for this project.

I have more than 5 years of experience in the industry, but I had a brief pause last year because of personal reasons.

[…]

You can see the difference between a good and bad example, right?

Having a tough time in both life and career is 100% normal and nothing you need to be ashamed of. But never use it as your selling point. You don’t want to come off as desperate to your clients - who are looking for a reliable and dependable professional.

Just keep in mind that there is absolutely no need to go all personal when sending a proposal. It may backfire and you won’t like the results.

Tip #3: Focus your sales proposal on deliverable results

Remember, your sales proposal isn’t the right place to write in detail about your extensive experience and qualifications. Also, when writing sales proposals, don’t include your internal process or a to-do list.

Your prospective clients are looking for something else in a proposal. They want to know what’s in it for them!

They may wonder: “I know how much this costs and, generally, I know what will be done - but what kind of results will I be getting in return for the money I’m paying?

When writing a sales proposal for your freelance business, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by placing your focus on what you can deliver. Include a list of deliverables and expected results. Communicate on how your work can contribute to your client’s business goals and why they should even care.

And, if possible, provide your clients with an ROI projection that shows them exactly what they’ll be getting in return. This won’t always be possible, but when it is, it will separate you from your competitors.

Tip #4: Keep your sales proposal short and simple

When you deeply understand a topic, it should be no problem describing it to a 5-year old. In this case, you tend to be brief and you don’t even mention the details.

Now, this is what your client wants. They want to know:

  • What needs to be done
  • Why choose you instead of competitors
  • What kind of results can they expect
  • How much time is needed
  • How much will it cost

If you can provide short and simple answers to all these questions, you’ll be on a great track to closing the sale.

What we want to say is - if your proposal is long, it doesn’t mean that you can do better than your competitors. There is no universal rule for how long a sales proposal should be, as it really depends on a number of factors.

A good maxim here is - if it’s not important to the client, it’s not in the proposal.

For example, if you’re an SEO freelancer, your prospective client won’t care very much about the tools you’re using. So, it may not be very useful to include a list of tools in your proposal.

Instead, write about expected results, tell the client which metrics you’ll keep your eye on, and how it will all affect the client’s business goals.

Tip #5: Have a clear proposal outline

A proposal outline is one of the most important parts of your freelance sales proposal. Here, you’ll tell your client exactly what your proposal is, what you’ll deliver, when you’ll deliver, and what your activities will be.

To get a good picture of this, take a look at a few job descriptions on LinkedIn or other recruitment platforms. This is exactly what you want to prepare for your client.

When a client reads your proposal outline, they should know exactly what they are paying and what they are getting in return.

And please remember - your formatting here needs to be spotless. It can either make or break your sales proposal.

Here are some tips that can help you take your proposal outline to the next level:

  • Use bullet points or tables to make your outline more readable
  • Break down your activities into sections with headings
  • Avoid writing fluff - be accurate when describing your activities
  • Make the proposal outline easy to skim
  • Use text formatting to highlight the most important parts

Sometimes, just a few bold lines and a heading will play an incredibly huge role.

Tip #6: Ensure your proposal has a clear structure (+ table of contents)

Let’s talk about some basic stuff. Whatever kind of document you’re reading/editing/creating needs to be clearly outlined. This comes off as common sense most of the time, doesn’t it?

When editing your sales proposal, make sure that it’s divided into sections and that it contains a table of contents. As we found out earlier, simple formatting can take us far.

Here’s a sample sales proposal outline that’ll work wonders for freelancers:

  1. Market research
  2. Competitive research
  3. Timeline + activities
  4. Deliverables
  5. Expected results and ROI
  6. Pricing
  7. Contract draft

Make it easy for clients to jump from any section to another, as they may often be interested in pricing before they even look at the “Deliverables” section.

Now, let’s see exactly how to present your pricing in your next freelance sales proposal.

Tip #7: Be transparent with your pricing

Freelancers often make a mistake of being unclear when it comes to pricing. This confuses clients and instantly raises suspicions about freelancers’ honesty. When writing freelance sales proposals - be 100% transparent. There’s nothing to hide, you’re just doing business.

Here are some pricing tips that may help you improve your pricing section:

  • Be precise when structuring prices in the proposal, include any additional fees that may apply
  • Immediately let the client know of potential additional costs (revisions, scope changes)
  • Do a complete breakdown of your pricing and state the cost of each project component
  • If your pricing is package-based, offer your clients with a few packages (i.e. basic + premium)
  • If your pricing is hour-based, state the minimum amount of hours you’re willing to sell. Also, your hourly rate here needs to be logical, based on your experience and expertise

Transparency in pricing is a great way to build trust with your clients and to show that you’re a serious professional who respects their investment.

What if your services seem too expensive?

Keep in mind that companies look for freelancers who can give them the best ROI.

If you can earn your clients 3X on their investment, there’s no need to worry if you’re too expensive.

Tip #8: Include testimonials and social proof (if you can) to connect with your client

Including testimonials in your sales proposals is often overlooked, but it helps you do one thing better - establish trust in your business.

If you’re sending a sales proposal to your new freelance client, chances are they don’t know how well you can perform. They want this decision to be a bit easier for them. And when they see a testimonial or a quote from one of your past clients, a small seed of trust starts to grow.

How to include testimonials in your freelance sales proposal?

You’re aware that including testimonials in your sales proposals can help you increase your win rate, but where exactly should you place them?

Here are the 2 best ways of using testimonials in sales proposals:

1. If you include a case study in your proposal, you can place customer testimonials inside the case study section. Even if it’s just 2-3 sentences, remember, it’s your client speaking highly of your accomplishments.

2. If you include a “references” section in your sales proposal, you can include customer testimonials inside that section. Rather than focusing on projects and achievements (like in the case study section), you can include some specific contact information here and write a bit more about your previous clients.

Tip #9: Finish your proposal with an agreement and CTA

This may be a bit self-explanatory, but you want your prospective client to take action upon reading your sales proposal.

In essence, the CTA section is the technical end of your sales proposal. And you’ll likely want to include an agreement where you’ll explain your terms or write a legal summary.

Remember, if your clients sign the document per your request, you’re entering a contract. Here’s how this part may look:

By signing the fields below, you accept the proposed terms and conditions presented in this document. Your signature automatically starts a contract beginning on the date specified below.

Tip #10: Create your own sales proposal templates

If there is just one tip we needed to emphasize, it would be this one. Creating and using sales proposal templates is game-changing, especially if you’re a freelancer.

Instead of writing a sales proposal word-by-word and spending countless hours trying to win over new freelance clients - try using templates!

Once you’ve written a few freelance sales proposals yourself, take some time to create a few proposal templates. This will shorten your sales cycle and make it incredibly easy to create new sales proposals.

Luckily, Propoze can help you with this!

Every sales proposal you write, you can save it as a template. The best part is - you can create unlimited proposals and templates for 100% free! Here’s a link you can use to create your free Propoze account and start selling!

If you've already sent a few proposals, but still haven't had any success – check out our list of the most common sales proposal mistakes you should avoid.

Bonus tip: Be prepared to follow up

More often than not, you'll need to follow up with your prospects after sending a sales proposal.

Even though your proposal may seem as perfectly crafted, it's a long way from sending your proposal to signing a contract.

Read our guide on how to follow up with prospects after sending a proposal and create a perfect follow-up sequence that will get your prospects on board.

Use Propoze templates to speed up the process of writing your sales proposals

This was a long read, but you can agree that it was definitely worth it. To recap the entire post, we talked about:

  • What is a sales proposal and how do freelancers use it
  • Why sales proposals are crucial for freelancers
  • Top 10 tips for writing an effective freelance sales proposal

Whenever you’re writing a new freelance proposal, remember to visit this blog post and check all the tips we’ve named. Freelancers’ biggest challenge is the client acquisition part and you’ll want all the help you can get.

Also, you can do all this for free! Propoze is a sales proposal software with a forever-free plan! Take advantage of unlimited proposals and unlimited templates, and close more deals with Propoze.

Sign up now for a free account and let us know your thoughts - we love feedback!

And if you’d like us to cover a specific topic regarding sales proposals or sales in general, let us know at support@propoze.app and we’ll be happy to help.

Follow us on our LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts! We post regularly on proposal and sales-related topics.