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Design Proposal Writing 101: How to Win Great Design Clients Easily

As a designer, winning new clients can be tough. The competition is stiffer than ever before and your potential clients have a large number of freelancers and agencies to choose from. Did you know that one of the things where you lose a big chunk of your clients can be greatly improved?

We’re talking about business proposals. Creating and sending the ideal design proposal may seem like a drag but it’s actually quite simple. Let’s see how you can write proposals that convert even the coldest prospects into new design clients.

Use a modern format for your design proposals

Depending on how long you’ve been in the business, you probably sent out a few old-fashioned proposals in the form of Word and PDF files. These are seemingly effective - anyone can whip up a Word document, type out a proposal and include some information about your client.

The problem is, Word or PDF documents aren’t very pretty. No matter how much you edit them, they’re standard text documents at the end of the day.

If you’re selling a design service and you’re using Word or PDF to send your business proposals, you’re sending a bad message.

Instead, use web-based proposals. These business proposals are created in a piece of proposal software and you can send them to your clients as a link. No more attaching files to your emails - just a link that the client can open on any device.

Speaking of which, the vast majority of business proposals get opened on mobile devices first. Word and PDF files look very clunky on mobile devices and potential clients have to zoom in and out to get all the information. Web-based proposals are optimized for all devices and look the same no matter what your client is using to open them.

Business proposal templates

Use stunning visuals throughout

You only have one chance to make a first impression. As someone in the design industry, you will be judged by the quality of all of your collateral. Just like it’s essential to have a fantastic website and portfolio and a designer, it’s also crucial not to leave your proposals up to chance.

Start with the cover image - you can create something of your own to represent your company and maybe add a splash of your company colors. If you’re using a proposal template, you’ll have cover out of the box. When we researched the effectiveness of the proposals sent through our system, we realized that rarely anyone sends proposals without a cover image, so all of our proposal templates have one.

When creating a proposal, it's essential to include your company logo, both on the cover page and throughout the proposal. This helps to establish brand consistency and professionalism and also ensures that your proposal is easily recognizable and memorable. If you don't have a logo yet, there are plenty of options available, including hiring a professional graphic designer or using a creative tool like a logo maker to create unique and eye-catching logo designs. By incorporating a well-designed logo into your proposal, you can increase brand recognition and make a lasting impression on potential clients.

Use templates instead of writing each proposal from scratch

Every client is unique and they deserve your time and attention. However, it’s better to spend that time doing actual work for them, rather than writing a business proposal. Unlike work, there are shortcuts you can take with proposals and our favorites are the proposal templates.

Think of proposal templates as Lightroom presets - they save you time so you can focus on the right things. They are essentially business proposals that are 90% complete. All you have to do is add the specific information that relates to the client and the offer you have for them.

In our template library, we have more than 200 templates, with a handful of them for the design industry. These templates have all the elements which are proven to convert prospects into clients. 

Using these templates, you can create proposals within 15 minutes, rather than hours. This leaves you with more time to find new clients and make your existing clients happy.

Show off your portfolio within the proposal

If you want the client to sign and start working with you, you have to convince them that your work is amazing. Besides the price, one of the key determining factors in whether you get hired is your portfolio. Of course, sending your full portfolio is not convenient because you want the client’s full focus on the proposal.

This is why you need to add a section with proof. We have this section in each of our proposal templates and it basically shows testimonials/proof from previous clients, along with examples of your work. Instead of including your entire portfolio, just show an example or two of your previous work which is most similar to what the client wants to be done. For example, some content that you wrote, a few designs you made, etc.

Make just one offer

If someone wants you to redesign your website, you may be thinking it’s a good chance to spice up your offer and try to upsell the client. Installing WordPress will help you find interesting solutions for you. For example, adding social media graphics to the lot for an increased price. However, if you decide to use PSD to WordPress, make sure also to get a good web hosting for more security.

While upselling is one of the most efficient sales tactics, it does not work so well for design proposals. As a designer pitching a client, your main aim is to get the client to sign and pay. Creating an impressive logo design will serve to make a good first impression on your prospective client. By adding upsells and packages, you’re forcing the clients to make more choices instead of making it a simple yes/no decision whether to hire you or not.

In analyzing the proposals sent through our system, we found that those with a single offer fared much better in terms of conversions and the money made after signing. So, keep your offer simple for the best results.

Write a stunning introduction

If there’s one section where you really need to spend more time than anywhere else, it’s the introduction. According to our findings, this is where the clients spend the most time and it’s one place where most designers make ONE crucial mistake.

That mistake is - focusing on themselves.

Your client doesn’t want to know what kind of awards you have, how many clients you worked for, what you achieved and what makes you a great designer or an agency. You are here to make an offer for them and the introduction should focus on them exclusively.

Start with the information you have from your meetings and discovery calls and show the client that you understand their problem and that you know how to solve it. Your chance to show off your work comes later, but in the introduction, the focus is strictly on the client.

Don’t go crazy over video

Video has been touted as the most amazing marketing tactic for a few years now, but the truth is, it’s not so great for sales. It can be useful to send a video within your business proposal to explain something in more detail or to show off a project you created. However, including a video in your business proposal barely makes a difference when it comes to conversions. Proposals with a video convert only 3.80% better than those without them.

Instead, use live chat to engage with your clients as they read your proposal. One of the benefits of using Better Proposals is the live chat integration which lets you chat with your clients as they read your design proposal. That way, you can answer their most important questions right then and there and increase your chances of conversion.

As opposed to including videos, live chat does actually work. Proposals with this feature converted 16.85% better than those without them.

Wrapping up

The ideal design proposal is an incredibly powerful sales document. As you can see above, there’s quite a few boxes you need to tick to make a stunning design proposal, but it only seems to be that way. Instead of writing your business proposals manually, wow your clients by using Better Proposals! Your design proposals will look great, have all the right elements and make the clients reach for their credit cards.

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.