What do You Put In a Proposal?

I am looking for some feedback on what others may include their proposals. I’ve been using some of the templates from the Web Design Business kit, but was just looking for some ideas from other people out there on what they include.

Define proposal - are you talking about a quotation, a lengthy sales document, or a project specification documenting an agreement to do business with each other?

All the above IMO require a completely different approach.

  1. Project Overview : what they’ve asked for as I understand it.
  2. Determination of Responsibility: What they can expect from me and what I expect from them for timely completion of the project.
  3. Copyright license: What transfers of copyright I’ll make for this project and my warrants for original work.
  4. Price breakdown and total
  5. Costs & Caps explanation: Rate information, Deposit information, payment due information.
  6. Timeline: Estimated turn around time, Scope creep info, My warrant for timely completion

The Project Overview is the tricky part. How much to go into regarding tech requirements, content (or page) limits, what applications or special features are to be built, and stuff like that.

I try to keep it thorough enough to protect myself from unexpecteds (and the client as well) but not to detailed to give it all away.

My main problem is that it take too long for me to preparae proposals. I have tried to work on a ‘template’ but each project is just enough different that it doesn’t quite fit the mold.

I try to make sure to include certain requirements for the customer too, such as being responsive to questions, and providing necessary content and artwork, and in this way I have some protections. Some people equate proposal and sales letter in their mind a little too much in my opinion.

After I speak with the client and find out exactly what they want, I break the proposal down into two price options, both completing the same objective but one being more advanced than the other.

First, I put a cover letter thanking them for considering me, and a description of what is in the proposal, and my contact information.

I outline the site pages, what will be on each. Then a programming section with a brief explanation of how it will work, if applicable.

I put options for the client to update the site vs. my maintenance fees, and the hourly rate.

I put extra costs to the client (hosting, domain, if applicable).

I put the amount due as a deposit and the amount due at completion, as well as the client’s deadline date.

That’s about it, i keep mine pretty simple.


Check out these recently completed sites:

There isn’t any reason to go into any more detail than what they asked for unless you are comfortable doing so. I’m primarily a writer so I don’t have the difficult specs that some of you may get. However, I generally do the content overview on a page breakdown (this goes on this page - that goes on that page). I tell them how long I expect the page to be and estimate the time I believe it will take me to complete it.

Thanks guys, this is all great information.

I was thinking in terms of trying to display for clients possible ROI, but i suppose the only way to determine ROI for a client is to have either a storefront or possible subscription service…

Also, with regards to SEO (if applicable), is there anyway to make traffic estimations? there is nothing ever really concrete with this sort of thing anyway, but just trying to do some homework to see what other practices may be out there.

what kind of proposal? in order to make a good proposal you should know what kind of proposal you should do

I deal mostly with web based technologies from Blogs, CMS, StoreFront, to name a few…

I believe he’s talking about the purpose of the proposal, similar to my original question. Is this just a quotation, a more involved sales document, or a documentation of an agreement to do business together (project specification with contract).

Well i’m not really looking for specific answers to a situation i currently have. I’m looking to spark some discussion regarding others processes so if it’s an involved sales document discuss that, quotation… discuss that

I’m looking to grow my own knowledge as i’m sure many others are, about what should be included in various proposals from different people’s perspectives.

Well, a quotation IMO is just a very brief overview of what has initially been discussed with a quick costing which can be definite or an estimate. One page. Not a sales document as such, as I would have already done my selling and would just be confirming the predicted costs in writing.

A sales proposal - I don’t do these. Again, I prefer selling through meetings or over phone, even via email. I don’t get involved in RFPs. The most I tend to do is offer an executive summary of what has been discussed, similar to a quotation, but with a bit more emphasis on showing the prospect I understand their needs and objectives. And this is only when I feel its just a formality and the job is virtually in the bag already. People who create lengthy written ‘solutions’ before they are actually hired are IMO completely bonkers - if a project requires a bespoke solution first thought up and then documenting should get paid to do that, just like you would in any other industry.

Freely offering up the solution to a prospects needs as part of your preliminary sales banter is baffling to say the least - why give all your ideas away for free on the off-chance you will get the job? If a lengthy proposal is deemed a requirement, I would focus on looking at previous case studies, showing how my work processes helped those other clients and describe the processes I would use to first work out an appropriate solution for this new client, with an indication of the estimated costs involved.

Project Spec/Contract - the full monty in terms of spec and terms of service, created only once the project has been given to me. No sales stuff inside this, obviously. If the project is complex, I will expect a preliminary agreement to be signed first and a deposit to cover the creation of this document (i.e. if they pull out before signing, I still get paid for writing the thing).

Nicely done. I would add a SITEMAP and set some timeline milestones by adding PHASES toward completion.




  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH VIDEO? PHASE 4)
  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH VIDEO? PHASE 4)
  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH VIDEO? PHASE 4)


  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH INTERACTIVE PHASE 4)
  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH INTERACTIVE PHASE 4)
  • Copy, photos and captions (FLASH INTERACTIVE PHASE 4)[/INDENT]

[customized Blog software, updated by CLIENT]

  • Current events such as stories and photos of CLIENT accomplishments,
    Trade Show dates, new product lines, industry news, industry glossary,
    community and charity works, employment opportunities, favorite links.


  • personnel, history, facility, photos,
  • Warranty statement, Legal disclaimers,


  • Address / Phone / Fax
  • Map link
  • Email link
  • Contact Form

PHASE 1 (JPG ) the design of three JPEG site designs. (before work begins, get paid installment)
PHASE 2 content collecting or building (get paid installment) and approval (no content, no site = end of job)
PHASE 3 (HTML / CSS / light FLASH) page buliding and content placement (before work begins, get paid installment)
PHASE 4 (FLASH / VIDEO) embellishing with animated interactives, video (before work begins, get paid installment)

  • if required -
    PHASE 5 PHP/MYSQL build CMS. (before work begins, get paid installment)

Somewhere during Phase 3 and 4 you go online and submit to the search engines.

Scope creep is one of the biggest issues! I define what services are included in each phase and which are not; typically I declare photography, copy writing, and editing are not included so I can do “value added” work at my descretion. If it turns out that I am doing all of this work, then I have an agreement that says it is not included, and therefore billable. Also email your communications - it creates a paper trail.

As far as SEO, unless you have a couple of years experience I would say there are no garrantees. With a few years experiece you might be able to gauge a SEARCH ENGINE RANKING for a specific industry/market.

Even if you build a site with the best SEO web mechanics and submit it to the SEARCH ENGINES, the biggest factor is the industry competition and the geo-marketing area (local vs national vs international).

“Graphic Artist in Orlando” is a near impossible “first page get”, but, “Polar Bear Groomer in Orlando” is easy.

We’ve been discussing this in another thread

Really cannot see why you can’t offer a reasonable and realistic guarantee - it doesn’t need to be ‘page 1’ or ‘no.1’ - just sit down and work out a ranking you feel comfortable with based on the situation at hand - client can then decide if it’s worth paying you for that. If you are not comfortable to commit to being able to increase your client’s search ranking by at least x, how can you justify offering SEO as a service to them in the first place? Why would they buy it from you if you cannot guarantee you are going to at least improve what they have now?

If you are going to offer any service, you should only do so if you are any good at it - working out competition, geo-marketing and latest SEO algorithms is exactly what these guys would be paying you for, so it would seem reasonable to expect to give a guarantee of results.

I’ve had reasonable success with any SEO campaign i’ve taken on for clients. I haven’t allowed myself to be too risky yet with tackling extremely competitive areas. How do you do deal with so many factors in a proposal, as with SEO, there can be various cost over-runs, PPC estimates, possibly directory fee’s, or even buying links which has been an interesting topic as of late. Also, how do you define out in your contract which keywords/phrases you are targeting? What if you were doing it for a regional business? Sometimes you will gather different results for [service][city] vs. [city][service] using your graphic artist example.

Shyflower, how do you draft your terms for this? Did you seek legal advice first or research articles/books/websites?

I just did it. Experience taught me what clients wanted to know and I knew what I wanted to tell them. I also read “Quoting to Win” by Rachel Goldstein to give me a rough outline of what goes into a proposal. Somethings I used, somethings I didn’t and so me things I have added or modified over time.

Depends on the client’s expectation. But most would expect a decent walkthrough from the common user’s perspective as a good proposal.