Shaping the Title, Content, Deliverables, Format, and Fees

How to Write a Proposal Guide

This how-to guide provides specific tips and strategies to consider when writing an entire proposal, so you can close more business.

Download the complete guide to writing an effective business proposal–from types of business proposals to creating a detailed proposal plan for prospective clients.

Proposal Writing Course
A business proposal is a written offer of services tailored to potential clients or current clients.

This expert guide explains:

  • Why you should never entitle your proposal "Proposal to..."
  • How to match proposal to client needs
  • How to format your proposal
  • Crafting the content persuasively
  • How to efficiently edit your proposal

Fill out the form to the right to receive this guide to begin improving your team's or your proposals.


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What is proposal writing?

Proposal writing involves creating a document for a specific request or opportunity. A proposal is not a business plan. Business plans present a company’s operational and financial objectives.

A proposal is not prepared as a cold call to a client. There is always an indication provided by the client as to their needs. A proposal can be as formal and large as a public governmental Request for Proposals (RFP) or as informal and small as an email following up on an encouraging conversation at a networking meeting.

Types of proposals

There’s no one type of proposal – in purpose, content, or format. But there are three main types you can consider:

  • Solicited proposal. A company or organization has requested proposals for a problem or situation. They may issue a request for proposal (RFP).
  • Unsolicited proposal. You send a proposal to a company or organization without being asked (maybe you see a problem or situation that needs your help).
  • Internal proposal. An internal proposal addresses a workplace problem or situation. It can be as simple as an email to a colleague proposing a solution. It can be solicited or unsolicited.

Check out ten best business proposal examples. From digital marketing proposals to engineering proposals, these examples give you guidelines and critiques to follow for your own proposal.

Learn how to write a proposal

Starting to write a proposal is usually the hardest part of writing. That’s why we recommend following a specific writing process (as detailed in our guide).

1. Determine your reader

The proposal reader is the most crucial factor to get right when preparing the proposal. The writer must understand the potential customer on the other side of the document.

  • What is their role?
  • What are their main concerns?
  • Are they familiar with your solution and company?

Begin with an in-depth call or meeting to gather the answers to these questions. Understanding your audience will help you avoid creating a generic proposal (a major mistake with proposal writing).

2. Don't start with a draft

Planning out your content first before drafting is crucial to the writing process for proposals.

Outlining is an example of a content generation strategy. Map out all relevant details for your proposal.

3. Get the order right

Make sure the order of your information makes the most logical sense for your reader.

For a business proposal, we recommend the following sequence (hint: categorize and sequence your content in your outline or concept map):

  • Summary: Summarize the key points of the proposal.
  • Overview statement: Dive into the client's problem and your solution.
  • Solution: Offer the client specific details of how the solution will unfold.
  • Budget: Provide the total bid value and break it down into smaller items.
  • About us: provide contact information, background on your company, and the key personnel on the project. 
  • Terms and conditions: Include the fine print if applicable. 

Perhaps you already have some of this info already set up in a business proposal template. Templates can be helpful time-savers for proposals. However, templates can be dangerous because they may tempt the writer to create a generic proposal. Make sure you use a template as a foundation but tailor it to the specific client.

4. Be persuasive

Your proposal document is intended to sell your company, so it must be persuasive. The text should be crafted to elevate your solution. Use strong, convincing language.

For example, instead of the title “Digital Marketing Software Proposal,” you could call your proposal, “Delivering on Your Digital Objectives.”

We’ll use another example of engineering services to a construction company:

Uninspired: Geotechnical Assessment Proposal

Persuasive: Ensuring a Solid Foundation: Proposal for Complete Pre-Construction Geotechnical Assessment

Including positive words or phrasing will add to the appeal of the proposal. Clients want to see positive results and successful projects. Just make sure the information is accurate.

5. Format 

Business proposals should be visually easy for your reader to digest. Here are a few ways to make your proposal visually pleasing.

  • Graphics & designs: Use graphics to make it easier for the reader to understand your proposal. Follow the guidance of Edward Tufte to create.

  • Lists: Bullets and numbered lists help readers identify the items discussed, absorb content, and pay attention to what is important.

6. Edit as the last step

No matter how much you want to edit your proposal while you draft, wait. It’s actually unproductive (and increases your writing time) when you try to fix grammar errors and sentence structure while drafting.

Edit thoroughly and update as needed. Once complete, submit it to the client. Follow up with the client appropriately after the submission of the proposal.


A winning business proposal is your opportunity to showcase your business and your unique strategy to meet a client’s needs. Developing a strong proposal is not a quick or easy task. But, when done well, it is the key to business success.

Download our guide to write a compelling proposal document and get an in-depth overview of the proposal writing process.