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How to Write a Business Proposal: Step-by-Step Guide

You just finished an amazing meeting with a potential client, they seem ready to pull the trigger and excited to work with you. Then they utter the following sentence: “Please send me a proposal.” And now you have to remember how to write one. This guide will give you a system and guidelines on how to write a business proposal and make that process easy and repeatable.

Writing business proposals is arguably not that fun. In fact, most business owners would rather avoid the task. However, if you have an amazing business proposal template to start with you can speed the process up significantly. The key is to build everything right the first time round and give yourself a reusable template you can tweak and adjust until it’s perfect.

What we'll cover in this article

  1. Proposal templates
  2. Visual presentation and design
  3. The 8 elements of a winning proposal
  4. Optimizing your proposals for conversion

What Is A Business Proposal?

An effective business proposal is a formal document created with the purpose of persuading your potential customers to work with you. It’s a document used in a variety of industries - from selling carpets to offering enterprise software solutions and social media marketing, all of it starts with a business proposal.

Two types of business proposals

Besides the difference in the industry, the main division is between solicited and unsolicited business proposals. A solicited business proposal is sent when you already have a connection with the potential customer and they’re interested in what you’re selling. 

Usually, the buyer themselves will ask for a proposal outlining your problem statement. Whether they’re a small business or government agencies, your proposal should follow the project details they’ve outlined.

On the other hand, unsolicited proposals are sent without the explicit request of someone who may be interested in what you’re selling. Whether you’re writing formally solicited proposals or unsolicited ones, you’ll need to know how to structure them. 

Although it’s easier to create a solicited proposal, don’t stress out about writing unsolicited ones. Our guide can help you in both situations.

How To Write A Business Proposal - Take Your Proposal Writing From Good To Great

How To Write A Business Proposal The Easy Way

Have you ever freehanded a business proposal into the body of an email? Or started compiling it in a Word document from scratch? Or maybe you’re more into InDesign so you noticed a typo on your freshly exported PDF?

The fact of the matter is, creating a proposal for every client from scratch is both exhausting and a waste of time. Having a structured proposal writing system in place will save you countless hours. At the most basic level, your proposal writing system is two things:

  • Having a great business proposal template written with everything in it
  • Knowing what needs editing each time

The first thing, getting your business proposal template in order, is vital. The second is a matter of personalization to the specific job and client.

What Is A Business Proposal Template?

Put simply, a proposal template is a proposal that is about 90% finished. Think of it as a collection of all the best pieces of content you’ve ever put into previous proposals.


Your best introduction describing the problem statement, your best pricing strategy, best type of proof, best title page, etc. A winning template combines all the best elements of the proposals you’ve sent which resulted in sales for your product or service.

How To Write a Business Proposal Using A Proposal Template

If you’re using proposal software like Better Proposals, compiling this shouldn’t be difficult, because you will know which proposals work for your target audience thanks to our analytics and reports.

But what if you’ve never sent proposals before so you don’t have a basis for templates? What if you don’t have the time or just don’t know a thing about proposals? No reason to worry – our proposal library has more than 130 different proposal templates that help sell a wide range of products or services.

Once you have your template in place, you’ll only need to fill out the major details, such as:

  • The client's information
  • Specifics about the offer
  • Pricing, timelines, detailed specification
  • A proof section with an example similar to the offer you’re sending, etc.
Download This Complete Guide On How To Write A Business Proposal

Once you add these, your business proposal is ready to go. The main idea is that templates help you write proposals in 15 minutes instead of 5 hours. To see what the template creation process looks like, check out how easy it is to design yours in Better Proposals.

The importance of a good business proposal template

The best thing about a good proposal template is that you only need to create it once. After that, it’s just a matter of tweaking the details. If you do it properly the first time around, sending out a proposal turns into a few minutes’ work. 

The best tip we have is to choose your best proposal and turn it into a template. Allocate a good day to getting it as good as it can be - turn all specific information into placeholders, get your formatting sorted, and make sure your pricing section is clean and clear.

This also means editing the copy like it’s a headline on your website. Consider the wording, your client, and the emotions you want to evoke - really make each section shine.

Despite their growing popularity, this is the time to resist the urge to use AI content writers. The content they produce is easy to spot and putting effort into creating a great business proposal template makes all the difference. 

Later in this article, we’ll look at what is included in a business proposal, and that goes for your template too. We’ll provide business proposal examples as well. Next time you have that meeting with your potential client and they ask you to send them a business proposal for your proposed solution, you’ll confidently walk away knowing exactly what to do.

How To Write A Business Proposal That Sells

Most people think that writing a business proposal is boring and time-consuming. And for the most part, they’re right. There really is no creative flair in writing them and it’s all about pitching your product or service so that the new client says yes and gives you money. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way to make proposal writing easier and more efficient and get your prospective client on board more quickly.

In the following sections, we’ll show you that writing a business proposal is more about preparation and using the right tools to make writing easier. In other words, we’ll teach you how to write a business proposal with minimal effort and maximum sales performance.

Once you pick the right proposal software tools, you’ll see how easy it is to create a winning proposal.

How To Track A Business Proposal Once Sent Out To a Client - Learn More

What questions are your customers asking?

When writing a business proposal, there’s a situation going on that only the best salespeople understand. Your potential client has a list of questions. They’ll rarely tell you what those questions are, mostly because they’re pretty awkward. 

For example, we had a situation when I quoted someone £40,000 for some software once. The proposal was about 17 pages long, and the client replied with one sentence:

“Sounds good. What happens if you die? How do I get my data back?”

I didn’t think it was an appropriate time to go back to him and explain I probably wouldn’t care about his data if I was dead. However, I did explain to him a contingency plan that we had in place for nearly a decade now for this exact situation. I told him, and he signed up.

This got me thinking. While this guy was the first bold enough to ask that question, he can’t have been the first guy to think it. From that moment on, we included the contingency plan in every business proposal we sent under a section called 'How we protect your data'.

Awkward questions your potential customers have but won’t ask you:

  • What happens if you die?
  • What will I do if they screw up my search engine rankings?
  • What happens if they take over my website and vanish?

A rare client will actually ask these questions to your face, but it doesn’t mean they won’t pop into their mind. Think about it. How many questions do people actually ask on the back of proposals? Answer these questions in your proposal before the client gets a chance to ask them.

How do you want your potential clients to feel?

Don’t think of business proposals as just sales documents - think of them as taking someone on an experience. Think movies. The emotions override the content. It’s less important how you get them to feel sadness at the end, so long as you do.

Writing a business proposal isn't that different. It's all about the emotion you want your potential client to feel at the end of reading it. For example:

  • Excitement – Describing possibilities using uplifting pictures and success stories is good here. Don’t bore them with a document resembling a long business plan.
  • Confidence – Include lots of proof and trust-building elements into this. Don’t make suggestions; be certain in your wording.
  • Action taking – Lots of commanding words and talking about the next step. Don’t bog them down with a list of 42 things to decide on. Just get them to do the “next” thing.

You could find the best custom writing service out there and you’d still be the only one who can do this properly. That’s because, depending on your client and what you’re selling, only you know what’s most appropriate.

What you definitely don’t want to be doing is talking in “maybes”, “ifs”, and using suggestive wording when you want someone to trust you. It sounds like you’re not sure. As a good friend, Mitch Miller, says:

“The doctor doesn’t ask the patient if it’s the right prescription. He just prescribes the right thing and tells them to get out of the office.”

How To Write A Business Proposal - The 8 Core Elements

There are 8 elements most business proposals should include. Some are absolutely essential; some are not – that depends on your specific situation. Here they are:

  1. Introduction (Executive summary)
  2. Detailed specification
  3. Timescales
  4. Proof
  5. Price
  6. Guarantee
  7. Next steps
  8. Terms and conditions

Does your proposal need to have all of these sections? Maybe yes, maybe not – it depends. However, all of our proposal templates have these sections out of the box. But wait - there’s one thing we haven’t mentioned on purpose.

0. The cover page

All proposals should have a well-designed cover page with an image and text to address the specific client. We’re leaving it out because all of our business proposal templates come with beautiful, professionally designed cover pages already built in.

A beautifully designed cover page can help your business stand out because it gives your entire document a level of professionalism. What’s more, it brings the wow factor that pulls clients in right off the bat.

How To Write A Business Proposal Step Zero - Start With A Cover Page

1. The introduction

Also known as the Executive summary. Good business proposals always start with a great introduction. This is the most read part of your proposal, so it needs to get across that you understand their situation and you’re clear on their goal. Your meetings and discovery sessions should be heavily predicated on getting the information for this section of the proposal.

Step One  - How To Write A Business Proposal - The Introduction

The biggest reason you’re not winning new business is not getting a chance to do a meeting or initial call about the job. As a result, you never discovered what the client wants to achieve, what’s important to them, and what makes them tick. And because you don’t know that information, you lead with the things that don’t matter as much (e.g., the price or the technicalities of what you’re going to do). 

This is why a discovery call is one of the most important things to include when you learn how to write a business proposal. Without it, you’re essentially guessing what the client needs.

Every Business Proposal Needs A Good Introduction

Your introduction should show the client that you’ve listened to their problem and that you have the cure, which you will show them in the next section. If you want to create an ongoing relationship, you need to show that you’ve researched your client’s company.

If you want to present your clients with a custom service, this is the place to stress that. Show them how you customize your usual offer to match their exact pain point.

According to our own research, this is the most-read section of all business proposals besides the pricing. Most clients read just these two sections, so make sure that you invest extra time and care in this one.

How to write a proposal introduction

This section is also known as a summary or an executive summary, depending on your resources. Even though the title is different, everything else is the same – it’s a section where you discuss how you’re going to solve the client’s problem and present your value proposition.


The most important tip we have here is to make it all about the client and the solution to their problem. In other words, refrain from going on and on about yourself. At the end of the day, a client reading a proposal wants to know what solution you offer. And if they’re interested in your company history or the process of forming an LLC, they’ll Google it.

better proposals e-commerce website design proposal template screenshot

Make sure to keep it short and to the point. You want to keep your entire proposal easy to read and as enjoyable of an experience for your potential client as possible. 

Since the executive summary is such an important part of any standard business proposal, don’t be afraid of asking your team members to read it and give you feedback. And if you need more practical writing tips, check out our in-depth proposal introduction writing guide. 

2. The detailed specification

This part varies depending on what you’re selling. If it’s a website, this could be a list of pages and features. If you’re writing a social media marketing proposal, then this could be the strategy or the talent and credentials of your team. It’ll vary.

The basic idea is to be as detailed as possible in your offer. That way, the prospective client understands exactly how your proposed solutions work.

better proposals simple web design proposal template screenshot

The reason it’s important is that if the deal goes bad, you both have this section to refer back to. Your business proposal outlines accountability and what the client should hope for. Moreover, it also serves as a good exercise for you when writing a good business proposal, as this is all the information you’re going to gather in any discovery phase of the deal.

It’s important here to keep this in plain English. Stay far away from jargon, as it will only confuse the potential client. The less the reader understands, the less they trust you.

Also, if you absolutely must write about your company, this might be the place to do it. Who you are, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, and what makes you stand out. However, don’t spend too much time or space on this because the focus is on the client, not you.

3. The timescales

It doesn’t matter if it’s a wide bracket, like 2-4 weeks – you have to give the client some clue about your project timeline. Otherwise, it’s a massive unknown.

better proposals freelance writing proposal template screenshot

It can be really useful to find out if the client has a special event or another reason for a project timeline to be important to them. If there is, tie that in. You can even tie that into scarcity to give them the incentive to sign the proposal off by a certain date. And if you’re writing unsolicited proposals, you need to be especially convincing and present your project timeline in a way that will make it hard to say no to. 

Be as specific as possible, but also use this section to your advantage. More time to deliver means two things:

  1. You can finish earlier than promised and impress your client
  2. You have more time to spare if something goes unexpectedly wrong

More time is always better, but make sure that you consider the need for urgency as well.

4. The proof

You must prove to your client that you can actually deliver your proposed solution. Now, you might say, “we have examples on our website”. That’s nice – but the client is not looking at your website, they’re reading your proposal – your one big “ask” for the business. They want solid proof and a few good case studies will do.


You need to have sufficient proof in a good business proposal. This could be examples, testimonials, video case studies, screenshots from a client proving you helped them with something, a recording of a voicemail – anything.

better proposals wedding photography proposal template screenshot

As you can see in our business proposal example, it doesn’t have to be complex and have the production value of a Spielberg classic. It just needs to get the point across.

To help them feel like they’ll be in good hands, you can also indicate relevant credentials and certifications your team managers and members have. After all, product managers and team leaders will play a massive role in ensuring that your product or service is of top quality.

The good news is, there is more than one type of proof that you can choose. Case studies, testimonials, portfolio pieces, explainer videos – there are lots of ways to convince your clients that you’re the real deal.

5. The price

Based on our data, this is the second most read section of any business proposal – people usually jump straight from the introduction to the pricing table. Needless to say, spend some extra time here to make it look right.

When using our business proposal templates, you can choose how to format your price based on project details. That said, there are a few things you want to make sure of. 

The first is that the pricing is super clear. If you have somewhat of a confusing pricing structure, then this might be time to think about simplifying it.

better proposals high-end web design proposal template screenshot

Speaking of which, we’ve done some research on pricing in business proposals and you can see our results in the latest Proposal Report. As it turns out, it’s a better idea to have a single offer and price instead of trying to get more money with upsells. Proposals with a single offer sold significantly more – 20.6% for offers with upfront costs and 33% higher for offers with monthly retainer costs.

The reason is that a business proposal is a matter of getting a simple answer – yes or no. The more options you add, the more difficult it gets for them to decide whether to sign or not. Keep your responsive pricing tables super simple.

The way you format your price can help avoid further negotiations. Our analysis of real-life pricing mistakes should give you a good idea of what to avoid.

How to name your pricing section

Finally, there is one more thing that you should know about the pricing section – don’t call it that. We’ve discovered that these names work better:

  • Investment
  • Return on investment
  • ROI
  • And others following this pattern
naming your pricing section proposal report data

Basically, you want your clients to see your services as an investment in their business, rather than a simple cost and money down the drain. Small businesses or enterprise clients, no one wants to spend money - they want to invest it.

6. The guarantee

Some people love the idea of a guarantee. Others don’t like giving guarantees for fear of abuse. However, a guarantee is a great way to push new clients further towards conversion.

better proposals brand design proposal template screenshot

Instead of a typical money-back guarantee, consider guaranteeing a part of your service or a timescale. Cheryl Laidlaw’s “Website in a Day” service is a good example. 

She, at the time of writing, charges £1,995 for the day and delivers the website THAT NIGHT. The client doesn’t go home (and neither does Cheryl) until it’s done – which is an amazing offer.

7. The next steps

A lot of times, people seem to forget the very basics – to show the client what to do next. Sure, some people might read your business proposal and say, “Great, okay, let’s go ahead”. But why would you leave it up to them to figure it out?

It’s not their job to figure out how to buy from you, especially if you’re sending informally solicited proposals. Just make sure to tell them what the next steps are. Usually, this will be something like:


Step 1: Sign the proposal by typing your name in the box below and hitting ‘Accept’. This makes the proposal a legally binding contract.

Sign the proposal

Step 2: We’ll invoice you for 50%. Please pay for this immediately.

Step 3: We’ll arrange our initial consultation call with you.

Anyone can do these tasks on their own – they’re not all that complex. The problem is that if you leave all of this unsaid, you’re leaving your clients wondering. Explain all the details of what’s going to happen next.

8. The terms and conditions

You absolutely should be including your contract or terms and conditions. Just put it on a separate page called Terms & Conditions or Terms of Business.

better proposals Facebook ads proposal template terms and conditions screenshot

There’s a great contract written for freelancers which covers 98% of the basics. If you’re not using a contract in your business right now, use this until your legal team demands something better.

You should always include your terms in your business proposals because when someone signs the proposal, they automatically sign the contract. It covers you and it covers the client, so it’s only natural to include it.

Just reading the words “terms and conditions” may make you feel dizzy because of the work ahead, but it’s actually something that you can do once and never fret about again later.

A Business Proposal That's Optimized for Conversion

So let's say you've followed all the steps in the "How To Write A Business Proposal Guide," and you now have the best structured proposal on the planet, and it still loses business. Why could this be? - perhaps it's a conversion problem. We’ve analyzed hundreds of thousands of proposals sent through our platform to see what makes them convert. Here are some data-backed tips to help you.

1. Send your proposals quickly

For over four years now, sending proposals out within 24 hours of meeting the client has been the best way to increase conversion rates. According to our data, proposals that are sent out within that time frame had a 23% higher conversion rate than those sent only a day later.

2. Include a cover page

While jumping straight into the introduction won’t hurt your conversions significantly, our data shows having a cover page makes a difference. Proposals with a cover page convert 4.6% better than the ones without it.

3. Don’t go overboard

The length of a business proposal will largely depend on what you do. That said, proposals that convert the best are short, concise, and to the point. Our data backs this up, showing that the optimal proposal length has been 6-7 sections for five years now.  

4. Make sure your proposals are mobile-friendly

The number of clients opening business proposals on desktop computers has been steadily decreasing over the years. As a matter of fact, as much as 46% of proposals are now opened on mobile devices. 

You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and you can’t control what device your client chooses to use. So what do you do? Choose a responsive design that looks great on all screen sizes.

documents opened on mobile proposal report stats

5. Look professional

Pixelated logos, mismatched fonts, and typos are the best way to lose credibility right off the bat. Our data shows that branding goes a long way, with proposals sent from a custom domain converting 19.3% better than the ones sent from a third-party domain.

6. Integrate live chat

Great customer service is always crucial to increasing your conversion rate. Live chat not only helps you to respond to your client's questions in real time but also puts them at ease. That’s why proposals with integrated live chat convert 18.2% better than those without it.

7. Make the offer easy to accept

The harder you make it for the client to do business with you, the more business you’re losing. With business proposals, the answer is easy - use a web-based platform like Better Proposals. That way, you’re letting clients sign documents electronically and pay, all in one place.

Using traditional PDFs sent as email attachments makes your conversion rate 88% worse. It's not a surprise when you think about it - nobody likes going through the hassle of printing, signing, scanning, and sending the document back.

sign by drawing with better proposals

Using Proposal Software To Write, Send & Track Your Business Proposals

The truth is, rarely anyone writes proposals these days – most people use proposal software. Here’s why it’s a good idea:

  • Proposal software is web-based. You can send your clients links instead of PDF files.
  • Proposals are optimized for different devices. They look and feel the same on a phone, laptop or tablet.
Use a proposal software
  • You get to use proposal templates. (We have more than 130 of them.)
  • You can track what the client does with the proposal. You get notifications when they read, forward and sign.
Progress of your business proposal
  • Clients can instantly sign proposals electronically. This means your proposals are considered legally binding contracts. No need for third-party tools like DocuSign or DocuSign alternatives – good proposal software has that already built in.
  • Clients can pay from the proposal. Paypal, Stripe, GoCardless, you name it.
Pay from the proposal
  • You can use a variety of integrations. MailChimp, Zapier, Salesforce, HubSpot, or whatever else you are using in your sales workflow.
  • Detailed reporting. Find out what works and what doesn’t, no guessing.
Sales report from your proposals
  • The ability to use live chat. You can chat with the client as they’re reading the proposal, increasing your conversions.
  • You get to write your proposals in 15 minutes, not 5 hours. Pull the data from your CRM and populate it with automatic fields - it’s that simple.

These are just some of the many reasons why you should consider using proposal software rather than opening Word next time you want to write an effective business proposal.

The takeaways

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting a new business, following our guide will help you dramatically increase the number of people who say yes to your proposals. In summary, here are the exact steps that you need to take to write an amazing business proposal:

  1. Start off with a proposal template
  2. Find out the questions that your clients are asking
  3. Think of how you want the clients to feel as they read the proposal
  4. Include the 8 elements of a winning business proposal, as listed above
  5. Use proposal software to automate the writing process

One of the biggest reasons people take forever to write business proposals and ultimately do a bad job is because they are using software that simply isn’t geared up to doing the job in an effective way. It might sound like a self-serving suggestion, but you should take a look at using Better Proposals for writing your next business proposal. 

The business proposal templates in our Marketplace alone will save you a ton of time with many business proposal examples to browse, and our proposal software has everything you need for writing proposals in one place.

Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.