Writing a proposal

After reading A Book Apart’s brilliant ‘Design is a Job’ by Mike Monteiro I made some notes that I sent to our MD about how we could write better proposals to our clients for our digital projects.

A proposal needs to form a relationship with the client in the same way you form a relationship when you present a proposal. Its Happy Giraffe’s energy and personality that we need to get across in this proposal so that the clients make a decision based on both emotion and reason, supported by a high degree of trust.

Website design and development are services and not, on the professional level, commodities. Providing a commodity is an exhausting, unsatisfying, deadening experience. Doing what you love, on the other hand, working as an equal partner with smart, respectful clients is invigorating.

Establish that collegial relationship at the outset of the project with a personal, brief, sincere proposal. Let’s have a conversation with the client through the proposal.


Research our clients. What are they like? How they conduct themselves. We can then tailor the proposal to the client in their language.

Research into the project. We cannot give an accurate proposal in terms of cost and timeframe before we have gone through the discovery and strategy phases of the project as these will determine the overall length of the rest of the process. We should make this clear to the client that we will re-evaluate time and cost once these stages have been complete. Show evidence of our research in the proposal.

Who — Why we’re different to other companies

The people we have that can work on this project. We need to set the precedence of our relationship with the client here. It is here that we can describe ourselves as a company, our processes, our motivations. We also need to establish the role of equal partner instead of a servant. If we want respect, authority and control we need to demand it. We should stand up for what we believe in, be upfront about our processes and who we are. This proposal will act to screen us from undesirable clients and attract the good ones.

Why — Why we want to bid for this project

We like working with education because we can help to directly effect young peoples lives. We want to work with a charity. We want to help clients engage with their customers. We need a reason to work with the client, make them feel as though we are really excited about this project and have a strong desire to win it.

What — What we’ll do for the client

Show that we understand the projects requirements. Not just a superficial layer of repeating the original brief. We need to digest it and show at least a little inclination to the client how the brief might be answered. Relate this project to the state of the industry and briefly touch upon the techniques we will use. Demonstrating insight into and even excitement about client needs will create a great impression.

When — What are likely timeframes may be

A proposed schedule of possible time frames, familiarise the client with the time frame and process of a normal project.

How — Explaining our process and costs

Breaking down costs is foolish at such an early stage. The client is more likely to come back to us and want to take things out to save money that might be integral to our process. If we discuss our process fully in a succinct and articulate manner then the client will see how their budget will be spent without the need for a step by step cost breakdown.

  • Show an understanding of the project
  • A proposed solution - this shouldn’t be a definite list of deliverables as these will change as the project progresses.
  • Professional experience and how it applies to their problem
  • Show them our design process and a schedule of how their project might be fulfilled.

When the client finishes reading the proposal they need to be moved. They need to have a desire to get started working with us on their project.

Next up:

Higher Resolutions →