A consulting proposal is a document that a consultant sends to a potential client in which he describes a job that he wants to take on and the conditions under which he will do it. Consultancy proposals are usually written only after the consultant and potential client have thoroughly discussed the work. Knowing how to write an effective and clear proposal can help you get new clients for your practice, making it an essential skill for all freelance consultants.
Part 1 of 3: Before writing the proposal
Step 1. Learn as much as you can about the job under consideration
A consulting proposal is not like a resume, so it is not a good idea to just send yours to as many recipients as possible to do business. Each proposal must be tailored specifically to the client you are trying to get. The more informed you are about the client and their needs, the better you can write your proposal, so the first step should always be to educate yourself. There are many ways you could do this:
- The most appropriate and direct way is to simply meet with the client and discuss the proposed work. Take careful notes and ask lots of specific questions so you understand exactly what the job entails.
- After this, you can continue with the phone calls and emails to clear up any lingering questions.
- As you write your proposal (see below), it can also help to do a little independent research. For example, if you're trying to prove why your services will help your client succeed, finding business surveys that support your argument will be a good idea.
Step 2. Agree on the exact role you will have
Don't sign up to work as a consultant only to have your client pressuring you to do work you didn't agree to do. It is important to have a clear idea of what the client expects of you so that you can write your proposal and that your work is limited only to what they have agreed to. The things that you should emphasize are the following:
- Your specific duties and the result the client hopes to achieve
- The term of your work
- The specific objectives to be achieved by certain dates
- Sometimes you may need to talk to many people. For example, if you hope to be a consultant on a dispute between management and employees, it would be advisable to speak with representatives of both parties as well as the client you hire.
Step 3. Determine the customer's financial commitment
This is perhaps the most important information of all. If the client isn't willing to pay you what you think your work is worth, you don't even have to worry about writing the proposal. Have an agreement with the client about how much (and how often) they will pay you before you start writing. In this way, you can refer to the payment agreed in your proposal, which the client will have to sign and agree to in order to contract you.
- In addition to the fees for your services, you will also have to reach an agreement with the client about the secondary expenses that you may have during the work (for example: gasoline, supplies, travel, etc.). It is in your best interest to get the client to agree to compensate you for those things.
- Don't write a consulting proposal if the client doesn't seem sure how much they will pay you (or when they will).
Step 4. If possible, get the job without a proposal
Many consulting services will offer advice to the effect that "it is easier to write a confirmation of services than a proposal for services." Keep in mind that a consulting proposal is just that, a proposal, that does not guarantee any work. A client will likely request proposals from many consultants and then pick only one, so if you can, try to get the client to hire you even before writing the proposal. In this way, when you send it to them, the client will only confirm that you can start working and not decide if you can do it or not.
Part 2 of 3: Write the Proposal
Step 1. Begin your proposal by addressing the potential customer
Begin your proposal as you would begin a letter: with a short paragraph where you summarize that you want to do the job for the client and that you are the best candidate for the job (you will go into detail later). At this point, it's okay to be "warm" and personal in your tone, although you should always maintain professionalism.
- Mention the customer by name. If you have a friendly relationship with the client, you can use his first name. Otherwise, use "Mr." or "Mrs.". Try to show the client that this proposal is tailored specifically for him.
- You can search the Internet for specific models of proposals for each case.
Step 2. Describe the work in the first paragraph
Some of the discussions you've already had around work to show your client, in a few sentences, that you know what to do. Show your understanding of the problem you need to solve, the tasks the client expects you to do, and the scope of your work (a one-time job, long-term, etc.).
At this point, be specific about the job, but don't emphasize precise details like money, hours, etc.; you'll get to this later
Step 3. In the second paragraph, describe your qualifications
At this point, you try to sell yourself as the best possible person for the job. Highlight things such as your training, your experience, and previous jobs that you have received positive feedback on. You can also refer to your attitude and values, although you should keep them in the background against more specific qualifications.
Remember that you may compete with other consultants. Try to give an idea of how you will provide a measurable benefit in terms of money or time saved. In this way, you can give yourself an advantage over a competitor with better or similar qualifications who does not express this in a very adequate way
Step 4. In the next paragraph, describe the work you propose
Make a list, use strict terminology and specific details, as well as what you will do to solve the customer's problem. Detail the exact results that the client will see in your query. At this point, be specific about your methods and timing.
To avoid problems later, it is also advisable to describe what you expect from the client during your work with regard to personnel, access to workplaces and equipment. For example, name a few people you hope to work with full time, name the industries you will have access to, and so on
Step 5. Describe what you will not do during your consultation
As a consultant, you should avoid the problem of "mission expansion", that is, increasing your responsibilities little by little without receiving any additional compensation. Isolate the problem you will be working on and state very clearly that related issues are not included in this proposal.
A good way to present it is in a bulleted list, which will make it very difficult for the customer to forget the relevant information
Step 6. Propose a price for your inquiry
This depends on what you do and who your customer is. Remember that you may be competing against other consultants, so try to keep your rate competitive for your industry and situation.
You will also have to describe any other additional expenses, such as meals, hotel rooms, transportation, among others, that the potential client will have to pay you. It's a good idea to have an approval process in place (for example, you can specify that you will submit your receipts at the end of each month). This will make it harder for the customer to refuse to pay you on the grounds that they "never agreed to pay you that much."
Step 7. Conclude by summarizing your proposal
Similar to an academic essay, the goal of the final paragraph is to provide a quick and accurate summary of the rest of what the proposal is about. Reiterate your suitability for the job, your appointment preparations, and your confidence in getting results. At this point, as in the opening paragraph, you can be a little "warmer" and refer to the customer by name.
At the end of the proposal, sign, date the proposal and leave a space for the client's signature
Part 3 of 3: Make a More Effective Proposal
Step 1. Be short and nice
Keep your proposal as short as possible to accurately describe you and your work. At this point, you should go for quality, not quantity. Any excuse that the client has to stop reading your proposal and choose another consultant's is something you should prevent, so give your proposal a quick read.
For most jobs, two pages is a good length for the proposal. If you refer to large data sets in your proposal, attach them in appendices to limit the length of your actual proposal
Step 2. Stay focused on the customer
Although you can always dedicate a space to your qualifications, the most important person in the proposal is not you, it is your client. Even when talking about yourself, frame your discussion in terms of how well you meet the customer's needs (not how great you are).
Avoid lengthy discussions about your work history (or your company, if you are not an independent consultant)
Step 3. Avoid buzzwords
Many clients (especially business clients) spend their entire day listening to nonsensical phrases that people parrot over and over to try to sound important. Avoid this unnecessary heaviness. Instead, write your proposal in short, clear language. Don't try to make your promises sound more interesting than they are with the help of flashy jargon. Instead, just make interesting promises.
Some examples of buzzwords include things like "best practices", "synergy", "disruptive", "optimized", etc.; every industry has its own. These words have effectively lost any power they have ever had through overuse and imprecise application
Step 4. Pay attention to spelling and grammar
This may seem insignificant, but it is essential. Even if you are not a consultant for a position that requires some written document, simple and professional communication shows that you have taken the time and energy to present your best side. Mistakes don't mean you're less qualified for the job, but they do mean that you didn't pay enough attention to get your entire proposal done perfectly. In a close competition between two consultants, this may be the deciding factor.
After finishing your proposal, be sure to review it a second time, correct the grammar and fluency. If you have time, also let a friend or family member correct it; they are much more likely to see any mistakes you missed since they weren't really involved in writing it
- Your proposal should be more of a confirmation letter than a prospect. In other words, you and the client must have already met, discussed the work at length, and reached some kind of understanding regarding the expenses.
- Never start a consulting proposal without full knowledge of the job at hand. You are less likely to land a job you don't know as much about and, more seriously, you are likely to run into overspending and disputes with the client if you start a job that you are unfamiliar with.