The first time a content marketing client asked me for a proposal, I was really glad that we were not on a video chat. I know I had a “deer in the headlights” look on my face, because I had absolutely no idea how to write a proposal or what to put in it. Thanks to some help from my marketing guru husband and Google, I put together a good enough proposal to get the content marketing writing project.
Since that day, I have been asked several times to write a proposal for a potential project and I always wonder if I am following the right steps to create an effective proposal. So I decided to ask Kelly James-Enger, freelance writer and author of a number of excellent books including her most recent Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More. I actually had no idea where to start when I began freelancing six years ago and am positive that I would not be anywhere near I am today with my business if I hadn’t stumbled up Kelly’s amazing book, The Six Figure Freelancing: The Writers Guide to Making More Money.
Jennifer: Why do potential clients ask for a proposal for content marketing projects?
Kelly: It depends on the client, but I think there are several reasons. First, I think most clients like to have a sense of how you’re going to approach the project, and your proposal sets that out for them. Second, you’re almost always competing against other writers for a content marketing project, and asking for proposals gives clients a way to rule out some writers while others rise to the top. Third, you’re often asked to provide a bid with your proposal, and once again, this lets clients rule out some writers.
Jennifer: What information should writers include in the proposal? How long should it be?
Kelly: Once again, it’s going to vary, but mine are typically a page or so. I include a brief description of the project; how I plan to approach the project itself; and my bid, unless the client has already given me a specific budget number.
Jennifer: What tips do you have for writing a great proposal?
Kelly: First, demonstrate that you are clear on the scope of the project itself. Second, show the client that you understand what the client’s goals are with regards to the project. Third, show how you plan to approach the project, and demonstrate how your background and experience will help you do a great job for the client. Finally, quote your bid. And of course, proofread the proposal before you send it out!
Jennifer: What are common mistakes writers make when writing a proposal?
Kelly: I think they sometimes forget to demonstrate how their background and experience set them apart from other writers. Chances are that your potential client is looking at other writers, too, so your proposal needs to make it easy for the client to choose you over them. Another mistake is giving your bid before you explain your approach. You want the client to read how you’re going to approach the project (and hopefully say, “wow, this sounds great!”) before you bring up money. In other words, sell the client on you first, and then state your price.
Jennifer: Anything else that you would like to add?
Kelly: Make sure that when a client asks for a proposal, you know when he or she needs it by. Deliver it before that deadline, even if it means putting other work aside. Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 recent of the shots you don’t take.” So make sure you at least take a shot at the project with your proposal!
Kelly James-Enger has been a full-time freelancer for 17+ years, writing nearly 1,000 articles for more than 60 national magazines and more than a dozen books. Well-known as a freelancing expert, she’s also the owner of Improvise Press, a niche publishing company. Her books include Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. She blogs about making more money in less time as a writer at Dollars and Deadlines.
Do you have any questions about proposals? What information do you include in proposals?