The more information you have before you create a client proposal, the better. When you know about your prospect and their expectations, needs and means, you can create a more accurate and detailed proposal.
You can also create an outline and plan that helps the client see if you are right for them, which will lead to more accepted proposals and better project outcomes. And, you can learn enough about the client to decide if they are a right fit for you, which will help you find more projects that align with your skills, interests and work practices.
15 questions to ask before creating a client proposal
Use the following questions to get to know clients before you create your project proposals:
- What does your business do or sell?
- Who is your target customer?
- Who are your competitors?
- How are you different from your competitors?
- What are your goals for this project?
- Do you have any existing documentation or related work?
- Is there anything that could impact the scope of the project?
- What is your proposed timeline?
- What is your available budget?
- Who will be the primary contact?
- Will anyone else be involved?
- How closely will you be involved in the project?
- How do you prefer to communicate?
- If you accept the proposal, what’s the next step?
- How did you hear about me?
Let’s dive in!
1. What does your business do or sell?
First things first, you need to find out what the prospective client does. Ask them about the unique products and services they offer. Don’t just ask about the type of offerings. Go deeper and learn about the features and benefits of their core products and services, and ask them to explain how their offerings solve problems for their customers.
2. Who is your target customer?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask a potential client. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy for the client to answer.
Many clients respond to this question with a vague answer — such as an eye doctor responding that their target audience is any person with eyes.
Don’t settle for this type of broad answer.
Educate the client on the importance of this step, and guide them to go deeper into identifying their audience by asking follow-up questions such as:
- What is their age?
- What is their gender?
- What is their average income?
- What is their family situation?
- Where do they live?
- What are their habits and interests?
If the customer is unable to fully answer questions about their target audience, you might need to include market research or buyer persona creation as part of your project.
3. Who are your competitors?
Knowing the prospect’s competitors will help you with your research, so it’s important to get this information before the client proposal process. You can see what the prospect’s competitors are doing and you can gauge what your client will need to do to compete with or keep up with others in their industry.
4. How are you different from your competitors?
In a final attempt to learn more about the client and their place in their industry, ask about their unique selling propositions. Get to know why they are better than or different from their competitors. This information will guide your plans and allow your messaging and work to stay on-brand during the project.
5. What are your goals for this project?
If a client is hiring a freelancer or consultant to work for them, they need something. They have a goal they want to achieve. Discuss these plans with them. If they can’t define a clear project goal, guide them. Give them examples of how your work can help them.
Here are a few examples of goals you might be able to help them reach:
- Improving brand perception
- Increasing brand awareness
- Generating leads
- Building engagement and fanbase
- Improving search engine optimization (SEO)
- Increasing sales and revenue
- Generating PR
- Building brand loyalty
- Improving employee engagement
Another way to get this information out of a client is by asking them, “What is the problem I can help you solve?” Then, you can attach goals to their need.
6. Do you have any existing documentation or related work?
Once you send a client proposal, you never want a prospect to come back and tell you they don’t need what you offered because they already have it. So early in the conversation, ask about any ongoing, previous or related work connected to your project.
7. Is there anything that could impact the scope?
Another situation no freelancer wants to experience is scope creep.
You want your client proposal to accurately represent the work that will be required so the client can’t ask for more than what you can (and are willing to) offer.
To prevent that situation, ask the client beforehand if there is anything they could see changing the scope of the project. They might have budget restraints, new initiatives, approvals or something else that could impact the way the project pans out. So plan ahead, and get this information before the proposal so you can create restrictions, stipulations and limits as needed.
8. What is your proposed timeline?
A core purpose of the client proposal process is setting expectations, and one of the most important expectations are deadlines. Find out the date the prospect would like to see results or final products. Then, in your proposal work backward to set start dates and project phase deadlines.
9. What is your available budget?
Another big expectation to set while writing proposals is pricing. During the interview process, find out at least a rough range of the budget your client has for the project. You want to make sure it’s within the rate you are willing and able to accept for the project. And, you don’t want to waste your time on a proposal if the client cannot match your rate expectations.
If the prospect isn’t even close to what you expect to be paid or the project, don’t move forward with the client proposal.
10. Who will be the primary contact?
Just because you are engaging with a contact at the client company now, doesn’t mean they will be the primary contact for the project. Before you send over the proposal, find out who you will be regularly working with throughout the project (and if possible, talk to them to make sure they are a fit for your working style).
11. Will anyone else be involved?
Additionally, there might be other people on the prospect’s team who will work with you during the project. Find out who these people are, how you are expected to work with them and what roles they have in the approval and feedback process.
12. How closely will you be involved in the project?
Some clients like to be involved with every step of the process. Other clients just want to see the final product and quickly approve. It’s good to know what type of client you are working with early on.
Talk to prospects about their expectations for involvement with the project so you can gauge how many rounds of feedback you may need or how many phases of delivery you should include.
13. How do you prefer to communicate?
Because there are dozens of options for communication methods, you should start a client engagement with guidelines on how you will communicate. You can start to gather that information by asking the client how they like to communicate — whether it be through email, phone, Skype, in-person meetings or text messages.
Depending on how much you like to stick to your communication preferences, you might want to avoid this question. Instead, tell the client how you communicate. Let them know how you share updates, and tell them what they can expect regarding response time to their messages.
14. If you receive the proposal and it’s a fit, what is your next step?
Try to prevent sending a client proposal and then never hearing back from the prospect by setting steps for moving forward. Talk to the prospect about how you can get started right away in the event that they want to work with you.
Outline the next steps and then in your proposal, set a deadline for when they need to take those steps to secure the arrangements and details of the plan.
15. How did you hear about me?
This question is more about benefiting you and your business than learning about the prospect. Learning how your clients find you is incredibly using for identifying which of your marketing plans are working and where you should promote your services. Use the interview time as a chance to get insight into your own marketing strategies.
Create better client proposals. Get better clients.
When you have the answers to these questions before you start a new client proposal, you’ll be better equipped to create an accurate and detailed plan of action. You’ll be able to develop a proposal that helps the client understand the scope, plan, value and pricing of the project.
This initial understanding and planning will help you form partnerships with the right clients and help you execute the ideas you prepared. For more tips on finding and working with ideal clients, check out How to find your perfect clients: A comprehensive guide.