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How to Deliver Winning Website Development Proposals [Guided Template]

Written by Coner Murphy in Briefcase icon. Business of Web Development on October 13, 2022
Freelancing

When competing for work or even just communicating with a potential client about an upcoming project, it’s common to go through a proposal stage. The web development proposal is where you’ll provide the client with a written document that covers all areas of the potential project from the work to be completed to the timeline and quote, along with some other areas that we will cover in this post.

At this stage of a project, no contracts have been exchanged, so nothing is legally binding. The client can still choose to work with other developers. They may even be evaluating your proposal against others, so it’s key that you write a winning proposal that gets you the project. That is exactly what we’ll be covering how to do in this post.

Executive summary

An executive summary is often the first section of a proposal, and it’s where you get the opportunity to show the client you understand their problem and pitch your solution. But it doesn’t need to be as bland as it sounds; you can use this section to inspire the client and show how beneficial it is to them to choose your solution and proposal over others.

Problem overview

The first stage of an executive summary is talking about the problem the client is having. Before a proposal, you will likely have had communication with the client about the problem they’re having, but don’t think you need to just replay their description back to them verbatim.

Instead, show you understand their problem and the possible implications it could have on their business. Detail the possible knock-on effects of their problem if left unsolved. Ultimately, show you have a deep understanding of it and the importance of solving it. All of this helps you establish a layer of trust that can be built on later in the proposal and future conversations.

If before writing the proposal you want to ask more questions to get a deeper understanding of the problem, consider asking some of the questions we cover in this post.

Proposed solution

After outlining the problem the client is facing and showing how you understand their problem and its importance, it’s time to move on to how you will solve the problem. When detailing your solution, you should cover the high-level details and focus on how your solution will solve the problem for the client. This could also include some rough mockups and designs. But it shouldn’t be an exact roadmap of A to B to C; you don’t need to detail every technical step you will take to resolve the problem. Instead, you should share sufficient details to leave the client with a feeling of confidence and trust in you and that your solution can solve their problem.

Make the solution unique to them and their problem, and spend time catering the solution to their exact needs instead of offering an off-the-shelf solution that doesn’t entirely work for them but is easy to produce.

Also, if you want to go the extra mile, consider mentioning the other ways your proposed solution will help the client. Will your solution help them build brand perception, SEO, or something else? Mention it here and sell them on your solution.

Scope of work

The scope of work section is a more detailed breakdown of the services and/or products the client will be receiving from you during the duration of the project, upon completion, and if required, ongoing after completion.

This section may seem unnecessary at first because we have already told them our solution. Why do you need to break it down further and give an itemized version of your services and products to them?

The answer to this is scope creep.

By laying out every service you will be providing them, you’re also implying what services you won’t be providing. If a service isn’t on the list, then it’s not agreed upon.

Another approach is including a second explicit list of services you won’t be providing; this list ensures that the client is left with no questions about what services are and aren’t included.

So, if the client later asks for a service that wasn’t agreed upon, you can tell them that it wasn’t agreed upon, so it won’t be happening. Then if the client insists on doing something extra that wasn’t included in the original scope of work, you can renegotiate the scope and increase the price to match the extra work.

Because the items in the scope of work will go on to form the basis of the legally binding contract, make sure you’re specific enough to protect yourself from possible scope creep and undermining of your value—but that the scope is also large enough to fulfill the customer's needs and deliver a great customer experience.

Timeline for the project

No one likes being left in the dark, and that’s especially true when you’re paying someone to complete work for you and your business. By including a timeline in your proposal, you’re giving your clients peace of mind so they know exactly when and what to expect at each milestone of the project.

When outlining the timeline, there are two approaches you can take depending on if you know the start date of the project. If you do know the start date, you can build your timeline and milestones using exact dates of completion. But if the start date is still unknown or to be confirmed, you can use generic day/week counts to give the client a sense of scale and time. Once the start date is known, you can populate the exact dates using the generic scale set out originally.

This has two great benefits for you as the developer: the client thinks you’re organized and efficient for outlining this information ahead of time. It also protects us from unnecessary calls and questions in the future when the client wants to know when something is coming; they can view the timeline instead of disturbing you and preventing you from completing the work.

Quote

Ideally, before getting to the proposal stage of a project, budgets have already been discussed so that you know if the client’s budget is worth your time. If the budget is sufficient for you to take on the project, then in this section of the proposal, you should break down the client’s budget into individual areas to show where and how the money is being spent and what they are receiving for it. For example, some of these areas could be

  • Research
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing and review

This helps avoid leaving the client with negative emotions and thinking, “What did I pay for?” It also helps ensure you’re not over- or under-charging for your services because you can adjust each aspect of the project to be a fair price.

If pricing isn’t quite your expertise and you would like a bit of a helping hand with it, you should check out our post on pricing.

Contact details

Carrying on from the last section, include your contact details in a section towards the end of the proposal so the client can easily get in contact with you for whatever reason, whether it be to ask a question or to say they’re happy with everything.

This section also provides you with a great opportunity to establish some communication expectations for the project, like you won’t be responding outside of office hours so they know during what times to expect a response from you.

If the proposal is coming from an agency instead of a freelance developer, it’s worth including the various contact details of all the involved people in the project, such as

  • Project manager
  • Designer(s)
  • Developer(s)
  • Sales representative(s)
  • Generic office contact details

This way the client can easily contact whoever may be best suited to answer their query and have backup contact options should one person be out of the office for a few days.

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About us

Finally, we have the about section. This can be a brief section at the end of the proposal that allows you to explain who you are, your history, and your expertise in the field. The idea of this section is to help build upon the trust established throughout the proposal so far and show that you’re an expert in your field who is capable of solving the problem the client is having. In this section, you could also include supporting information like

  • Portfolio links
  • Previous work examples
  • Testimonials
  • Other links like blogs and social accounts

If the proposal is coming from an agency, you’re still able to include this section; just make it about the agency overall, its story and history, and the expertise your staff have rather than an individual within it.

Final thoughts and a guided web development proposal template

To recap, a web development proposal is a written document that is given to potential clients before any legally binding contracts. The proposal’s primary function is to show the client you understand their problem and have a solution to it, but it can also do much more than that.

A winning proposal helps you stand out from the competition and is well-crafted, utilizing all of the sections we’ve covered in this post to build trust, familiarity, confidence, and transparency between yourself and the client while also protecting both of you from unwanted surprises and changes like scope creep. But most importantly, a winning proposal is one that leaves the client with the impression that you or your agency is the best for the job.

Ready to dive in and create your own? Check out this guided template to get started.

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Coner Murphy

Web Developer, technical writer, and tech entrepreneur sharing my journey to financial freedom. Building PhyType and SaaS products in public.

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