Writing a world-class web design proposal can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. After all, you got into freelance web design to spend time designing great websites, not to spend all your time on sales.
Proposals give you the opportunity to convince clients you understand their business and their needs and to make your case for why you’re the right person for the job.
Creating a professional proposal doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s how you can put together an irresistible web design proposal that wins clients, and present your proposal to maximize your chances of success.
The 3 essential components of effective web design proposals
When clients ask for a proposal, a lot of web designers put together a short list of features, along with a guess at how much time it will take and how much it will cost. This approach might work for quick-and-dirty projects, but landing high-value web design clients takes a bit more work.
Your proposal needs to persuade clients on the business benefits of working with you.
While each website design will be different, every proposal you create should follow the same simple structure. The most effective web design proposals are broken into three parts (click each link to jump straight to that section):
- The problem statement. Why are you here, and where do you want to be?
- The proposed solution. How will we solve the problem?
- The project details. How long will this take, and how much will it cost?
Let’s take a look at each section in more detail, starting with the problem statement.
1. Problem statement: Why are you here, and where do you want to be?
Every web design proposal needs an introduction—but many freelancers make the mistake of focusing their introduction on the details of the project itself.
Instead of preaching the benefits of the work you’re proposing, start by emphasizing the pain you intend to resolve for your prospect.
Why focus on the pain your prospect is experiencing instead of the project?
Your prospect doesn’t really want to spend money on web design — but they are willing to spend money to avoid pain. Loss aversion is a classic copywriting technique, and it can do wonders for your close rates.
Your introduction should focus on the pain points your potential client is experiencing:
- What are they struggling with?
- Why did they come to you for help?
- What would it feel like to have that pain go away?
- What could tomorrow look like for their business?
By this point in the sales process, you’ve most likely discussed much of this on a call or meeting with your prospect, so this may feel a little repetitive — but a little repetition goes a long way toward building trust and convincing your prospective client you understand their problems.
Let’s assume you’re proposing a new website for the fictitious hardware company Tim’s Toolshed. Here’s a short example of an introduction section:
Tim’s Toolshed is primed for growth — you’re attracting some local traffic from Google, and you’re keeping your audience engaged with a monthly newsletter. But while growth is good, sales could be much better. You’re currently making most of your sales through retail, but you’d like to attract more home improvement businesses and contractors for partnerships since margins are higher.
While you’re getting the occasional partnership inquiry, your current website is holding you back. The current design isn’t mobile-friendly, and the content has been neglected. A lift in sign-ups of just 10% could bring Tim’s Toolshed an additional $10,000 per month in revenue, attracting new partners and positioning your company as a thought leader in the tool industry.
Note how this example focuses on the pain (low sales and slim margins) and only briefly mentions the solution (a refreshed website).
By focusing more on the pain you’ll resolve than the work you’ll deliver, you’ll instantly set yourself apart from the pack and prove to clients that you have their best interests in mind from the beginning.
2. Proposed solution: How will we solve the problem?
Next, your proposal should cover how you’re actually planning to solve the problem you outlined in the first section. This is where you get to flex your creative muscles and dive into the details of how you’re going to help your prospect achieve their goals.
How will you get your client from where they are now to where they want to be?
Your job in this section is to provide a clear and obvious solution — without confusing your prospect. For example, you might be tempted to include a section like this in your proposal for Tim’s Toolshed:
The new website will include:
- A full-featured blog with categories, tags, authors, and taxonomies
- Responsive, jQuery lightboxes for videos and images, and
- Email pop-up forms so visitors can download project how-to guides
Focus on your prospect’s pain – not the features and tools you’ll use – to prove you care about their customers.
Explaining the features and tools you’ll use for the project might sound professional to your ears — if you and I were chatting about this project at WordCamp, this would make perfect sense and would be a meaningful conversation.
Unfortunately, technical jargon and a lack of clear benefits will only confuse your prospect and make them wonder how the design work you’re proposing will actually help their business.
Instead, try to reframe your solution in terms of the needs of your clients’ customers. Here’s the same example, listed in a way that will make sense to your prospect:
The new website will be designed to let DIY customers and partners:
- Research project-specific information and learn new skills,
- Watch video tutorials to help choose the right tool, and
- Join the email list and download project how-to guides
See the difference? The latter proves to your prospect that you care about their customers — the people who will judge the ultimate success (or failure) of the project.
It’s also important to be specific about the benefits and results your solution will provide. What are the specific business outcomes you’re working to achieve? Most clients tend to value three things:
- More sales/clients/traffic
- Reduced costs
- Insurance against potential revenue loss
Most web designers will concentrate on the first benefit: using your design skills to bring in more sales, leads or sign-ups for their clients.
Get specific here: how will your clients’ business look when you’re done? Say you can bring in 50% more partner registrations for Tim’s Toolshed: how will this affect their revenue?
By clearly outlining the potential outcomes of the project, you’ll be able to anchor the costs of the project against the dollar value of the benefits your prospect will receive from the project, improving the chances of your client accepting your proposal.
Of course, this also requires framing the details of the project correctly — let’s take a look at the project details.
3. Project details: How long will this take, and how much will it cost?
At this point, your prospect should be very excited about the prospect of working with you. Now it’s time to set expectations about how much the project will cost your client and how long you expect the work will take.
Take one look at the variety of tools on offer in Tim’s Toolshed and you’ll immediately see how much people prefer being given options.
Your web design proposal should do the same; always give your prospect at least two potential packages to choose from, at different price points.
By offering multiple packages, you’re competing against yourself instead of competing against other web designers.
Every proposal will be different, but most web design projects can benefit from one of two packaging options:
- Offer a quicker package with a limited set of benefits alongside a pricier “premium” package with all the bells and whistles.
- Offer a fixed-price package with optional extras for clients who want to invest more.
Both of these packaging strategies let potential clients choose an option that meets their budget and still gives them the business results they’re hoping for. You’ll also end up maximizing your profit with clients who are willing to pay for the more premium option.
Here’s an example of two packages you might offer Tim’s Toolshed:
Option 1: Website Refresh
We’ll go through your current website, patching the holes that are holding back conversions and optimizing the site for partner sign-ups. If we were to boost partner sign-ups by 10%, that would mean a monthly lift of $5,000-10,000 in revenue. This package will take roughly three weeks to complete and will cost $8,000.
Option 2: Website Redesign
We’ll redesign your website with a custom WordPress theme, rewrite all the copy on your site, and implement a new partner portal to make it easier for partners to register with your business. This should boost partner sign-ups by an estimated 30-50%, bringing an estimated revenue lift of $20,000-50,000 per month. This package will take roughly eight weeks to complete and will cost $18,000.
Notice how each package mentions the potential benefits before the cost? By anchoring the project fee against the potential business benefits that you explained earlier in the proposal, you’ll position your work as an investment and dramatically improve your chances of closing the sale.
By this point, your client should be convinced and ready to sign on the dotted line — and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Let’s take a look at how you can present your proposal in a way that your prospect can’t help but accept.
Building a repeatable and efficient web design proposal process
Many clients haven’t worked with freelancers before, so they might not be aware of the process around presenting and accepting a proposal.
You’ll need to walk them through every step, clearly outlining what needs to happen once you’ve delivered the proposal and how your prospect can accept your offer or negotiate terms.
A few suggestions on how to make this process easier on your prospect:
Create a sense of urgency
You want to present your proposal to prospects within 24 hours of completing your initial discovery call.
You don’t need to recreate the entire proposal every time; instead, save some time by developing a proposal template you can quickly duplicate for each prospect. Your template should include subheadings for the three main sections listed above, along with any standard packages or options you offer most prospects.
Deliver your proposal via email to let clients review it on their own time, but build a sense of urgency as well — hint that because you’re working with other clients, your time may get spoken for if they don’t accept your proposal right away.
Deliver your proposal via email. Letting clients read your proposal on their own time can be less intimidating than going through it for the first time on a call with you. In your email, include a quick recap of the project and a link to the digital version of the proposal (we’ll cover tools you can use below).
Finally, build a sense of urgency. Hint in your emails how clients are losing money by not moving forward with your proposal — that you’re also working with other clients, and your time might get spoken for if they don’t accept your proposal right away.
Use an electronic contract system
Using an electronic document management system like Bonsai or DocuSign (included in the Business Premium tier of Office 365 from GoDaddy) lets you send proposals via email, and prospects can provide comments online or accept your proposal with a single click.
Keeping everything online also means your proposal (and subsequent contract) will always be available for both you and your clients to refer to later. Most electronic proposal tools also include professionally designed templates you can use to make your proposals look great.
Lay out the next steps (always!)
Make sure you give clear instructions on how clients can move forward with the proposal.
Schedule a follow-up call for a few days after you deliver the proposal to talk through the scope and budget of the project and answer any questions your clients might have. A live call also gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and further convince clients that you’re the best person for the project.
Land more clients with irresistible website proposals
You might not have become a freelancer because you love sales, but creating effective web design proposals shouldn’t be difficult.
Landing high-value web design projects boils down to having an understanding of your potential clients’ needs and communicating that understanding —along with how you plan to solve their problems — through your proposal.
If you implement these essential elements in your web design proposal and make it easy for clients to make a decision quickly, you’ll find yourself closing more contracts — and building a sustainable freelance web design business.
After your client has accepted the proposal, you can deliver your contract and invoice for your deposit. Then, you’ll be ready to begin the project!
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