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Time to Get Some Clients Through Proposals! Four ways to write a proposal.

I have finally gained enough confidence in my schedule and workload to write proposals to more prospective clients. Since proposal writing is pretty new to me, I went searching for the best way to go about it. There are a few styles that caught my eye. I’ll list and generally explain what I found below in case any other newbie freelancer wants to take a look.

Cover Letter:
Cover letter pic

I was surprised to learn that a proposal can sing the same tones as a cover letter.

  1. Statement of Purpose – Start out with your reason for contacting the person or business. Add a well-written statement of why you’re the person for the job.
  2. Experience – Describe your experience and what you can do for the business with your skills and knowledge.
  3. Fill a Void – Be a solution to a problem, something that’s missing from their current business plan.
  4. Estimate – An estimate is the only part of a proposal that could differ from a cover letter. Unless otherwise stated, common etiquette is to avoid mentioning money until a good moment after the first interview, but that’s for a normal job application. Since you’re offering services instead of the business requesting a person to fill an open position, they will want to know your pricing. However, I have found some experts advice leaving money out of proposals, too.
  5. Request for Action – Tell them what you want them to do, which is probably to contact you to discuss your services and ideas.

This, in my opinion, is the minimum. It’s also very similar to what I currently send my prospects. The following styles of proposals have this and some additional flare. I hope to at least take a step up to a “Media Kit” style, maybe even start thinking “Outside the Box” in the not-too-distant future.

Media Kit:
Media kit pic

Okay, I’m not sure everyone would label this style as “media kit,” but I studied marketing and that’s what it looks like to me. And why not? You are selling your work to another business, and a media kit is a proficient tool to describe your work and style. You could also say that it resembles a very organized portfolio.

Your media kit proposal has several elements (and pages).

  1. An introduction letter – You’ll want to tell the recipient why they’ve been given this great opportunity of working with you, thereby convincing them to read all the way to the end.
  2. Pitch – What services are you offering them? Again, be a solution to their problem or staffing void. Discuss your ideas for their business and how you will implement those ideas to fit their company mission and goals.
  3. Experience – List your accomplishments here. This may end up looking like a resumé, but I would add more pizazz than your typical list of former jobs. Remember, we’re problem-solvers. Instead of just listing your duties at each job or for each client, describe what void you filled for each employer and what made you a valuable addition. If your work is easily shown, such as design work or writing, include examples!

This type of proposal requires a bit more work than the first, but it is also more in-depth. It shows the prospective client that you are a professional willing to put in the effort for a successful business venture.

Story Idea & Outline:

Story line pic
Normally I only write articles when assigned. I have never had to pitch a story to a publisher or editor whom I didn’t already know. However, sometimes I would like to write for one of my favorite magazines or online publishers.

Story ideas are much different than a cover letter or portfolio. You need to put a lot of thought into the story weeks or even months before it can even be published because editorial calendars are planned in advance with very little flexibility. Of course, this isn’t true for all types of material. You may be pitching to a news source, which has to have stories ready and publishable almost instantaneously in today’s fast-paced newsroom.

Whether your story will have to fly through the editor’s hands or sit on an editorial calendar for a few months, you need to be ready to write it when you pitch your story.

  1. Introduction – Introduce yourself and your story idea.
  2. Angle & Outline – Describe your story’s angle, what makes your story interesting or unique, and give them a rough outline.
  3. Newsworthiness – Tell them why your story is newsworthy – Does it have conflict, timeliness, introduce something new to their audience, or deal with a prominent figure (celebrities, politicians, etc.)?
  4. Sources – You will also want to include your sources. Contact your sources if you’ll need an interview or an expert’s opinion before sending out your proposal. This saves embarrassment from overpromising on a story and not being able to deliver as planned.
  5. Timeline – When do you propose they run the story? When can you have it done for the editor?

Although I read up on how to pitch a story, I am not at all familiar with the process. For instance, some of the material I read clearly relies on sending your proposals through snail mail. I can’t help but wonder if that’s still relevant, or if most people pitch via email now.

Thinking Outside the Box:

Out of box
These proposals come from creative and clever over-achievers, and I really wish I could say this was me. Although I can be pretty creative and clever, and very thorough, I have never sat down to think of such a ploy to nab my prospect’s attention. But I want to!

There are people out there wrapping their resumés around candy bars, coffee, and beer. Only a true creative person will make their pitch into a tiny travel book or some sort of game.

Although this doesn’t always work for normal job seekers because applications are being scanned by robots first, it can’t hurt to offer something fun to the people you want to hire you. Since they aren’t expecting your proposal, it’s best to catch their attention with something bigger than a normal email or envelope.

Summary

Proposals can be particularly intimidating because you are often approaching a person or business for work without the prompt of a job posting. The business might not have a job opening for such a position or they didn’t think they needed someone like you. Your inner salesman must come out to convince a non-hiring company to hire you. I don’t love “selling” to people, but as a friend and former supervisor of mine recently told me, “Don’t sell yourself short, and just go for it.”

Are you an accomplished freelancer or a hiring manager? What are your secrets to a client-catching proposal? What approach do you use or see often? Would you suggest a different method? Tell me your advice! I am new and want to learn from the best!

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