Introduction: How to Write an Effective Proposal

Writing a good proposal is a crucial skill in many occupations and can even help while doing assignments for school. The goal of a proposal is to receive approval for your proposal by advising the appropriate audience. Your proposal is more likely to be approved if you can communicate in a strong, brief yet appealing way. There are several types of proposals, but each follow the same basic plan.


Step 1: What You'll Need

To write a proposal, you’re going to need some form of presentation tool, such as MS Word, MS Publisher, or Adobe InDesign CC. Just be sure to use something that has variable fonts. Also, be sure to keep any photographs/documents handy that highlight your ideas and think about how they can be used to help sell your ideas.

If writing a construction proposal, be sure to have the Request for Proposal (RFP) in front of you to be sure you include all required information into your proposal.

Step 2: Planning Your Proposal

Define your audience and think about what they might already know about your proposal. You don’t want to summarize the description of the project or assignment you are proposing on. Instead, you want to remember that people are busy and may not have time to read everything. It’s better to be brief but concise when writing your proposal. What does your audience want to hear? Who will be reading the proposal? Make a list of all these questions and be sure to know the answer to each before you begin writing.

Next, you’ll want to define the problem. Do you understand the problem? Better yet, does your audience understand the problem? Show that you fully understand the problem at hand by doing in-depth research about the topic.

After conducting research, you can define your solution. It is crucial in this section to define and comply with all requirements found in the RFP. If your project requires a budget, be sure to highlight that you are fully capable of going above and beyond the minimum wherever the budget allows.

Finally, after conducting any necessary research, complete an outline of the requirements for the project. The outline shown is for a construction bid proposal for construction of a state liquor store.

Step 3: Proposal Requirements

Depending on the topic you’re proposing, you’ll want, at a minimum, these sections highlighted in your proposal:

· Cover Page

· Table of Contents

· Firm Introduction

· Declaration of the Problem

· Proposed Solution(s)

· Schedule and Budget (if applicable)

· Conclusion

Luckily, in many professional writing scenarios, you will be given an RFP which will list each topic of discussion that must highlight in their proposal. Once you know what is required for your proposal, you can continue.

Step 4: Cover Page

It’s good to have a simple yet informative cover sheet. One of the easiest ways to make a cover sheet is to use a photograph (be sure to give credit where credit is due if not using your own picture!) to take up white space.

Be sure to include the project due date, the project title, a project number if applicable, your name, address, phone number and email address. A logo is necessary if you are writing for a business, but not required for individuals looking to sell themselves.

Keep the cover page as simple as possible but include enough information for your audience to get the sense of what you are looking to “sell.”

Step 5: Table of Contents

The table of contents is a pretty straightforward document highlighting what will be discussed throughout the proposal. Be sure to highlight any key points you will be discussing.

It is also advantageous to put the label for the picture on your cover page on your table of contents, as you can see below.

Step 6: Strong, Concise Introduction

It is important to remember that people are busy, and many do not have time to read a lengthy, wordy proposal, let alone skim the pages. Start the introduction with a hook to captivate the reader. You want your readers to be interested in the proposal from the first point. Make your proposal as useful as possible and use background information about the project. Be sure to state the purpose of your proposal. A good proposal is a statement of fact, not opinion.

In many construction bid proposals, past performance and references are the introduction to proposals as they showcase the work that can be and will be completed by the firm.

Step 7: Declare the Problem

Just like within an essay, the next step is the body of the proposal. This is the place you will put the meat of your work. State your problem in this section and, if your readers don’t know about the circumstances of the problem, describe that here. Key questions to address in this section include: “What is the problem?” “What is causing the problem?” “What effects does this problem have?”

It is important to emphasize why your problem needs to be solved and why it is imperative it is solved now. If left unsolved, how will it affect the audience of your proposal? Answer all key questions and be sure to answer them with facts.

Step 8: Proposed Solution(s)

This is the most important part of your proposal. This section is where you get into how you will plan and execute the proposed problem and why you will be doing it in this manner. It should also include what the outcomes of finding a solution to this problem will be. Much like writing a persuasive essay, you want to discuss the larger impact of your ideas and addressing why you will do something is important.

Step 9: Schedule & Budget (If Applicable)

A proposal signifies an investment and to have your proposal to be taken seriously you must convince your readers why you are a good investment. Provide as much detail and concrete information as possible, including your timeline of completion.

The schedule should include a project start date, pace at which it will progress and a completion date of when work on the project will be completed. Not all projects require a budget, but if yours does, make sure it makes sense financially. You won’t sell yourself if your budget is out of reasonable price range.

Step 10: Conclusion

Mirror your introduction in this section and briefly wrap up your general message. If you believe there are consequences to be had if the selection committee doesn’t accept your proposal address them. Summarize the benefits of your proposal and outweigh any cost or scheduling conflicts. In many RFPs, there is a small section available to list any extra content you think is beneficial for the selection committee to know, or you may add appendices at the end. Keep in mind, however, bulkiness of a proposal is not always best.

Step 11: Edit and Proofread

An effective proposal writer is meticulous in writing, editing, and designing proposals. Be sure to revise any section as needed. It is imperative that the proposal be clear and concise. If possible, ask a coworker or friend critique and edit your proposal just in case you missed any mistakes. As stated previously, be concise: eliminate all jargon from your proposal. It is unwanted and unnecessary to add “filling” to a proposal. It is advantageous to use strong, direct language and avoid using “I,” “me,” “you” as much as possible.

The proposal must meet the minimum requirements of the RFP, including the outline and guidelines listed. Ask questions if you feel the RFP is lacking in some areas to ensure you are able to complete all of the required guidelines.