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Proposal Breakdown: The Perfect Proposal (If You Want To Stay Broke)

If you enjoy having an empty bank account and eating dry rice with ketchup then copy this proposal to the letter.

If you want to win lots of great jobs and do awesome work then watch this and learn from the mistakes these guys are making.

Proposal Format

They've sent an email along with a PDF. This is a staggering trend. Do people not realise what happens? Anytime you write an email with your proposal and say something personal, nice, accommodating and expressing that you understand the project is pointless. It will get lost and forgotten. The only thing people are paying attention to is the document. Take your email, make it super short and sweet and put the personal, letter-type bit in the proposal at the beginning. That way, every time they go back and look at it, they're going to be seeing that introduction letter with you explaining you understand the project and describing the value you're going to add.

Project Description

This is absolutely horrific. So this is a web design quote and the project description reads like a to-do list for a veteran web developer not the plain English description of the project. I understand it. Just about. I ran a web design business for 8 years and a software company for 6. How in the blue hell is a random person supposed to understand this? It's just full of technical words and jargon. In the video, I explain a little trick you can do when you're writing a lot of jargon and how to get it in plain English easily.

So... How much is it?

So I couldn't actually work out the price. Basically he's quoting a brochure website and can't come up with a sensible figure. He's got all these mad conditions in the pricing. Some of it is per page, then there's a different price for the content. It's so confusing. I tried adding it up and I'm not even convinced he's added it up right. Your pricing needs to be so so clear. Just ask someone not directly connected with your business if they understand it. Their mind will be closer to your customer than you are. What you think makes sense might confuse the someone else to death.


This was a mess. So the order was as follows: Email > Price > Signoff > List of things you don't get > Timescales > Payment Terms Eh!? What on earth is that order about? It needs to be in an order that makes sense. In general, follow this: Introduction (high level benefits > Specification > Timescales > Reasons to trust you > Price > Next Steps Explained > Contract Even if you don't have those things, it needs to use that flow as that makes sense in all contexts. You're giving them the basics first.


The signoff is in a weird order (not at the end of the document) but not only that, but the "big ask" should be something like this:

"We'd like to work with you and feel we can help you achieve _______. If you'd like us to work with you, please type your name here and press Sign Proposal"

Instead, there's nothing. No clue, no signposts, not even a hint of what to do next. Now look, if someone has read everything else and they're 100% on board then not having a clear call to action in your proposal won't stop them buying, but this, coupled with a terrible introduction, a specification they don't understand, a confusing order and pricing that doesn't even add up is not going to lead to any sort of success.

Burying the Good Stuff

The timescales are pretty impressive. 10 working days. Not bad but it's buried in the small print at the bottom of the document. Scary stuff. If you have something that is impressive about your company be it speed, price, quality, results - get that stuff front and centre.

No evidence

There is absolutely no evidence this person has ever even designed a website before. There's not a single mention of them as a business, no testimonials, no links or screenshots to previous work, no logos of clients - nothing. This is a major red flag for any potential client. Major! If you're not including case studies or testimonials or even worst case, examples then make sure you get them in your proposal immediately.


There was just no value to the client. I'm a critical designer but even if I switch that off and look at it objectively, it's still a Microsoft Word quote template. Utterly unimpressed and I can't imagine their potential client liked it much more. It needed an intro, to explain the value, have little to no jargon in it, be in a decent order, have proof of previous work, details like timescales in their own section, have a decent call to action and have it designed nicely. Very very poor.

Now yours can't possibly be that bad so if you'd like an old proposal that didn't get the job done reviewed then submit it by going to

Don't worry, if you want something hidden, just let me know and I'll censor it for you. :-)

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.