How to Write a Proposal

It is very important to know how to write a proposal. A proposal or a presentation for your business can be the key to success. Making yourself and your business look good attracts customers and can help you to boost sales or win a big client.

What Is a Proposal?

proposal is a written offer of products or services from a seller to a consumer. A good proposal can not only make a consumer buy a product, but it can also attract new consumers. Therefore, it is essential to know how to write a proposal if you want to grow your business.

Types of Proposals

There are three main categories of business proposals: formally solicited, informally solicited and unsolicited. If you want to know how to write a proposal, you must understand the differences.

Solicited Proposals

Solicited proposals are written response to a request. They are a response to a request for proposal (RFP), request for a quotation(RFQ), or invitation to bid (IFB). The seller who wins the bid is the one who fulfills all the requirements and has the lowest price. If you wind up on the short list of several vendors, you will be granted an interview.

  • RFPs generally provide directions for the proposal and the customer specifies exactly what he wants to buy. Customers can issue RFPs if their needs are not met by the products you have available or if they are making a large purchase and want to secure several bids for that buy. These proposals can be short or can be thousands of pages long.
  • A customer issues a RFQ when they want to buy a large amount of a product. Pricing, availability and delivery are all considerations in an RFQ. RFQs are often very long, so a proposal in response to one should be as well. Your RFQ response should include information on cost, handling of customer issues, and quality control.
  • An IFB is issued when a customer is purchasing a service, such as construction services. Bids must be very detailed and price is often paramount, as the lowest bid that will provide the best quality service usually wins. A proposal for an IFB is lengthy and usually consists of information on the overall cost and precise schedules for completion.

Informally Solicited Proposal

An informally solicited proposal is often sent as the result of a vendor or manager and a customer having a conversation. The customer may be just interested enough in a product to ask for a proposal. Usually, these proposals are more informal than solicited proposals and may just contain basic information summarizing what was discussed in the phone call and what type of products can be offered and at what cost.

Unsolicited Proposals

Another form of proposal is an unsolicited proposal. These are essentially marketing brochures. You can use these to introduce the public to a new product or service that you are offering. The proposals are usually designed to generate new customers or to get existing customers to become repeat customers.

How a Proposal Can Benefit You

Proposals provide a means of promoting yourself and your business. Contractors would get nowhere without the proper proposals. Advertising and marketing are the only ways to grow and develop your business. Offering a wide variety of products and services is great, but you need to promote those services to the public. Writing every proposal with care and confidence will promote your company as the company that gets the  job done.

Writing a Proposal

The best way to write a solicited or informally solicited proposal is to ask your customer how they would like the information presented. A good proposal should be about your company, but mainly it should be about your customer. Following a template and going through basic forms won’t necessarily give you the connection you need to your customer.

A proposal needs to contain basic information such as:

  • Why are you doing this project
  • What will you be doing
  • How will you be doing it
  • What does your customer want
  • How long will it take
  • How much will it cost

In addition to this basic information, a carefully worded summary that specifies exactly what the customer wants is a great way to start the proposal. It will be the customer’s first impression, so write it last.


There is no set format or style in writing a business proposal unless there is a format provided in the RFP. If you are looking for some format ideas, here are some useful tips to help your proposal stand out from the rest.


The purpose of a proposal is to persuade the reader to consider buying from you. Your explanations need to be clear, concise, and to the point. Do not have really long sentences, vague explanations and descriptions, and do not use buzzwords or slang.

Your proposal may be reviewed by a committee, so keep technical writing and jargon to a minimum. The same goes for expressions and idioms.

There is a global economy now, and your proposal may be read by a person for whom English is a second language. Keep it free of sayings and colloquialisms. Remember that you are not trying to impress the reader with your writing skills, but you are trying to communicate effectively.

Title Page

Start with a title page that has graphics, the proposal recipient, project name, your company name and address, your copyright symbol, and the date.

Visual Aids

Use tables and charts to make it more visually appealing. These can also help make facts easier to understand, especially since many people learn visually better than through text alone.


Formatting needs to be visually interesting and make the presentation easy to read. This can be done a number of ways.

  • Leave a blank line between paragraphs.
  • You do not want the page full of text. White space is good and can make reading and navigating easier.
  • Use bullet points and highlight the main points with bold lettering or italics.
  • Vary the font style and size to add emphasis to the work.

Some people print the body of the text in the right two thirds of the page with the titles on the left. That leaves space for the reader to make notes.


Remember to answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how in order to cover all the bases when writing a business proposal.

  • Who is doing and managing the work?
  • Who is responsible for what, and who does the customer contact if a problem arises?
  • What needs to be done, what are the costs, what is needed, and what can the customer expect?
  • When will the project start and end and when is payment due?
  • Where will the work be done and where is the delivery made?
  • Why should the customer pick you and why did you select certain approaches in the proposal?
  • How will everything be done, how will you assure the customer is satisfied, how long will it take, and how will it benefit the customer?


Make sure your proposal is free of errors. Do not rely on spell or grammar check. They may not show all the words which are misspelled. Pay special attention to words that can be used or spelled incorrectly such as to, too, and two, or their, there, and they’re.

Print and Bind

Print out your proposal on good quality paper and take it to an office service store for backing and binding. It does not cost a lot, it will look professional, and you know what they say about first impressions.

These are the rules of the appropriate proposal. Listening to the customer will help you finish the proposal quickly and efficiently. You also want to proof read and make sure the proposal appears professional.

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