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.
Your web design proposal can make or break a freelance web design project — so you need to get comfortable packaging and selling your design services.
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.
Learning how to write a professional proposal for a website project doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s how you can put together an irresistible web design proposal that wins clients, including additional tips to maximize your chances of success.
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What should your web design proposal include?
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 web design 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 design proposals format includes 8 parts, all of which are applicable to writing website redesign proposals as well (click each link to jump straight to that section):
- Problem statement
- Proposed solution
- Project outline
- Timeline and schedule
- Terms and conditions
- Next steps
Let’s take a look at each section in more detail, starting with the introduction.
Introductions should be short and sweet. You don’t want to overwhelm your potential client with details, especially in the first section of your proposal. It should include the following basics about the project:
- The client’s name
- Your or your company’s name
- Your business logo (if you have one)
- The project name
- The date
The right introduction will be eye-catching, too. Consider using a background to add visual interest and make the text pop.
2. Problem statement
The purpose of the problem statement within a website design proposal is to answer the questions “why are you here?” and “where do you want to be?”
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?
Simple — pain is a strong motivator.
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 problem statement 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.
Problem statement example
Let’s assume you’re proposing a new website for the fictitious hardware company Tim’s Toolshed. Here’s a short example of a web design proposal problem statement:
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.
3. Proposed solution
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.
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, but 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. This 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: how will this affect their revenue?
Proposed solution example
Continuing with the website proposal example for Tim’s Toolshed, the proposed solution section may look something like this:
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.
4. Project outline
Your project outline should have these or similar sections: Discovery & Strategy, Design & Build, QA & Testing, and Site Launch.
Each section should have two or three paragraphs explaining what you plan to do during that phase. Sections can be removed or modified to fit a project’s needs.
The goal of the project outline is to set your client’s expectations for what will happen in each phase of the project and help them understand what you’ll do. Include information on when and how they’ll be involved, alongside the information given below.
Discovery and strategy
Discovery is the process of learning about your client’s needs, user or consumer needs and competitor tactics. This section should outline what steps you’ll take to gain an understanding of these aspects, such as data analysis, consumer interviews and interviews with the client and those in their business.
Strategy is all about developing a plan for the website and how it will address your client’s pain points, based on the information gathered during discovery. You should explain what details the client can expect to see at this step, which may include the number of pages on their website, how users will navigate it, how it will generate leads and what content it will include.
Design and build
The design stage helps your client understand how their website will appear to users. You should set their expectations for the various stages of design, such as starting with a barebones wireframe to give them an idea of layout and content, then progressing to a mock-up of the actual design and appearance of the website.
Next, outline your process for building the site once your client has signed off on the design. Give information on the hosting platform, website type/format and how your client will be involved in this step, if at all.
QA and testing
QA and testing refers to testing out a built website before launching it live, looking for bugs or errors. This is often done internally by the design company, and testing may sometimes include user acceptance testing (UAT) tactics, like having a beta version available to get user feedback. In the proposal, you should explain which of these steps you’ll complete and the timeline for any beta or similar testing.=
When everything is running smoothly, you’ll push the client’s site live. In the proposal, include steps you’ll take in this process, such as walking the client through the site before launch, archiving their previous site and training their team on how to edit it as-needed.
5. Timeline and schedule
The timeline and schedule should include estimates for the project start date, completion date and the time needed for each phase. Be sure to set reasonable timelines for yourself, with a little room to account for unexpected delays or troubles. This way, there’s a chance you may even get the project completed early, delighting your client, as opposed to falling behind and frustrating them. In addition, add in actions that your client needs to take along with anticipated timelines they should expect to follow.
Below is a rough example of what a timeline may look like in a proposal:
Please note that dates are estimated and dependent upon us receiving all needed materials for each component.
|Deliverable||Number of days|
|Discovery and strategy||10 Days|
|Review and approval of discovery and strategy by client||5 days|
|Wireframe design||10 days|
|Review and approval of wireframe by client||3 days|
|Content development for landing page and 6 main level pages||10 days|
|Review and approval of landing page and 6 main level pages content by client |
(page designs begin)
|Content development for 15 child-level level pages||10 days|
|Review and approval of 15 child-level level pages content by client |
(page designs begin)
|All page designs complete||5 days|
|Review and approval of page designs by client||5 days|
|Revisions to all page designs||5 days|
|Review and approval of final page designs by client||3 days|
|Website build out and testing||15 days|
|Review and approval of beta site by client||3 days|
|Revisions after client review||5 days|
|Review and approval of final beta version by client||3 days|
|Client site training||1 day|
|Site launch||1 day|
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.
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 website design proposal will be different, but most 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.
Pricing packages example
Here’s an example of two packages you might offer in your website design proposal for 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.
7. Terms and conditions
In this section, we you should have the following items:
- Payment terms
- Fees and delays
- Licensing of wireframe, workflow documents, visual assets created, etc.
- Fees due to change requests (scope creep)
It’s recommended to organize the payment terms so you get paid in advance for the work you do at each stage of the project. This prevents situations where you’re waiting weeks or months for the client to provide needed materials, while not getting paid for work you’ve already completed.
You’ll also need to set a price for the project. Since every project is different, all pricing will be different. It’s wise to include a restarting fee, too. If a client delays a project, it is going to cost you time to restart and get back up to speed. Make sure you cover that time.
8. Next steps
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 discuss the project’s scope and budget and answer client questions. 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.
Additional tips to help you build an efficient website design proposal plan
While the following tips aren’t absolutely required, it’s recommended to follow them in your website proposal plan. They’ll help simplify and streamline your proposal writing, presenting and signing process, for both current and future clients. They’ll also protect you in the event that something goes amiss in the future.
Keep things simple, and be prepared to explain
You want to present your proposal to prospects within 24 hours of completing your initial discovery call.
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.
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
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).
Create 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.
Add an expiration date
If you currently don’t have an expiration date on your proposal, make sure to add that. You don’t want to offer a price in this proposal and have the client come back two years later and expect the same price. If you are moving up in the food chain, this could hurt you later.
Even though a lot of things are obvious, list them anyway. Here are some common assumptions:
- The site will be hosted at ____ (GoDaddy, of course).
- We will be using our normal toolset or plugins that we are familiar with. If the client requires a specific tool, it could change the scope of the project.
- The client will be paying for any third-party fees such as S3 storage, or Google Maps API calls.
- The client will be providing, or allowing us to purchase, stock photography and it isn’t included in the proposal
Have a lawyer review your web design proposal
Having a lawyer look over your proposal will ensure that you are covered, and it can save you a lot of money in the future if there is any type of legal disagreement.
Consider ending your proposal with an “About” section
While an “About” section isn’t necessary, it cab be useful for highlighting again why a prospective client should choose you. Its goal is to showcase your strengths, accomplishments and expertise in the field. Include brief information about your company and your team (if applicable), as well as a link to your portfolio, previous client testimonials or references and any specializations or accreditations you have that would impress prospective clients.
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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