Before a project can begin, it must first be proposed to higher management. The shot callers then analyze the proposal and decide whether the project is greenlighted. This documentation of a planned project is called a Project Proposal. In this guide, we break down how to write a project proposal into easy-to-follow steps.
What is a project proposal?
A project proposal is an initial framework document that specifies the intricate details of a potential project. The document is usually submitted to the senior management or clients and financial backers for consideration. It surmises title, goals, and objectives, start and end dates, human resource requirements, and financial requirements.
While it may not be able to accurately predict all variables, a quality project proposal can reflect general requirements and specifics of a project even before it begins. By performing a feasibility analysis the potential profit and sustainability of the project may be determined. Remember, project proposal formats can vary depending on the organization so pay attention when preparing a proposal.
There are two broad categories of project proposals, these are distinguished by the formality of the relationship between the parties that create and receive proposals.
1. Internal Project Proposal
An internal project proposal is written and presented to individuals who operate within an organization. In most cases, the proposal is prepared by a junior employee to senior management for consideration. This type of proposal skips some details such as qualification, past experiences, and background of the proposal writer since its mostly intra-organizational.
2. External Project Proposal
This type of proposal is written by an individual consultant or freelancer to offer services for an organization or individual. External proposals are more detailed in nature as the writer of the proposal needs to introduce themselves, their qualification, relevant experience, and references if required. These are inter-organizational in nature.
Project Proposal Outline
A proposal can be varied in content, length and information based on the context. However, there are some mandatory requirements in a proposal. There are certain topics that need to be covered and explored thoroughly to ensure the proposal is effective in communicating the finer details. Below are the relevant sections that all project proposals should have.
- Project Introduction
- Statement of Need / Purpose
- Project Description
- Budget estimate
- Appendix/ Conclusion
Section 1. Project Introduction
This section of your proposal contains a brief overview of the project. An introduction is required to make an early impression on potential financers. Use clear and concise language and avoid information overload. A competent project introduction can communicate the purpose and premise of a project without confusing its readers or overwhelming them with unnecessary details.
Here are the topics to cover in this section:
1.1 Introduction is a concise summary of the proposal. Describe the project’s purpose to the reader.
1.2 Table of Contents is a formal section that lists the sections and page numbers for easy navigation.
1.3 Background is the justification of why the proposal exists in the first place. it should be able to convince the reader that a problem exists hence the project is relevant.
1.4 Project Title is self-explanatory
Section 2. Statement of Need/ Purpose
Generally, a Statement of Purpose(SOP) is associated with College applications. We however believe that a project proposal also has uses for an SOP.
This section sets up the ‘business pitch’. A potential investor reads the Statement of Purpose to fully understand the need for the project. It is usually a few paragraphs long and highlights relevant details for the reader such as the problem and relevance of the project.
Section 3. Project Description
Now we discuss the details of the project in full. This section has plenty of subsections and describes the logistics of the project. It also discusses objectives, exact procedures, and estimates resources. Here are the most important topics to discuss here.
3.1 Objectives lists the short/long term goals of the project. Write down all you aim to achieve with the project.
3.2 Solutions should be written with the aim to alleviate any concerns of investors. This category can vary based on the type of project.
3.3 Procedure section might be the most important category to include in a proposal. Here the exact operational details are written. A properly written procedure section will allow readers to understand the feasibility of a project.
3.4 Time & Resource estimation is done during the proposal to accurately inform investors about the requirements of the project. Resources include human and on-site resources while Time estimation gives an idea of the project life cycle.
3.5 Sustainability Analysis reassures the decision-makers that a project is practical for the long term and will not stagnate. Sustainability Analysis is performed differently in various industries. In some cases, it is also indicative of profit potential.
If you’ve written a quality project description, your proposal should be able to help decision-makers understand the core ideas and operational procedure. The upper management can now make an informed decision.
Section 4. Budget Estimation / Proposal
Budget estimation is a comprehensive list of capital, operational and miscellaneous expenses that might occur during the lifecycle of a project. This section should be meticulously prepared since budgeting is the most significant part of any operation. Here’s what to keep in mind when estimating a budget.
- List down the individual parts of the project and write their estimated expenses.
- Once you have a total sum, divide it into specific tasks and project milestones. This helps visualize estimated expenses across the project lifecycle.
- Refer similar projects or previous projects to analyze if estimates are accurate.
Budget estimations might not always be in your hand. In larger organizations, the task of estimating budgets might fall to employees that work in the Financial department.
If you are a freelancer or individual consultant, it is important that you set definitive payment conditions before you send the proposal to a client. We also recommend signing agreements before you begin a project. Here’s a sample of a Work for Hire agreement.
Section 5. Authorization
A workplace requires a definite hierarchy to function smoothly. When a task is to be performed it needs to flow through appropriate channels. This section discusses the decision-makers and command structure of the project should it commence. A project team may be presented in this section for consideration. Delegation of tasks and departments can also be included in this section.
Section 6. Appendix
The final section of a project proposal wraps up all documentation. Its objective is to summarize the details of a project. Any information that was not included in the preceding sections is included here. One can add any conclusions and final words in this section. The appendix might also contain an Executive Summary.
Executive Summary is a brief summarization of the document. The summary is detailed and full of relevant information so that readers can be acquainted with most of the proposal without having to read it all. It contains a problem statement, analysis, and conclusions. It is an important part of the Appendix section.
Concluding a project proposal is sometimes more important than the rest of the project. The conclusion portion summarizes the entire document and thus we decided we’d make a detailed tutorial on how to conclude a proposal strongly. Here’s what you should always keep in mind.
Summarize the crucial points
A conclusion should always contain a summary of the proposal. Highlight the most important details in brief, concise sentences. This emphasizes the importance of the specific details and makes the document more readable.
Target potential objections
If you’ve worked on a project before you will know that criticisms and doubts are a natural part of the process. Take references from similar projects before and research questions or objections that the decision-makers might have. If you can target these objections and offer alternatives in the conclusion, your proposal will become more robust.
We talked about Executive summaries before and we’ll reiterate it again. This is a brief summarization of the document but contains all relevant information. It is written in a way that one can simply read the Executive Summary and become familiar with most of the content of the proposal.
A solicited proposal is when a proposal is requested by a senior authority or an interested third party. Thus, it can be both inter and intra-organizational. The authority inspecting the proposal might request a subordinate write a formal proposal to an informal request. A third party might request a proposal after learning about an organization.
This type of proposal is highly formal and usually, the premise of the project is already known between all parties involved. A third party might request a proposal as a form of quotation.
This type of proposal is more informal in nature. Usually, an unsolicited proposal is made when one takes the initiative without prior consultation. This type of proposal is more common for freelancers or businesses that are looking for new ventures. A party sends an unsolicited proposal to offer services that receivers of the proposal might be unaware of. When preparing one of these, the sender should be sure that the receivers are made aware of a potential problem that the project can solve.
Renewal/ Supplemental Project Proposal
A renewal proposal is a formal proposal presented after budget appropriation, the end of a fiscal year, or after the end of the initial project timeline. After feasibility analysis is performed, renewal proposals are sent to the relevant parties to ensure that the project continues with a renewed lifecycle.
A supplemental project proposal is normally written when an ongoing project exceeds the initially allocated budget. It is also written if there is a need for additional manpower and physical resources. As its name suggests, it is a supplementary proposal and not one to be considered when proposing an entirely new idea or a radical departure from an ongoing project.
Best Practices for Project Proposals
At the end of the day, no amount of research and references are going to aid your proposal as much as following the best practices around the world. Here are our handpicked ones:
- Always research the problems and solutions that a project can address. If you can target the core problem and propose an efficient solution, your proposal is going to hold a lot more weight. Bonus if smaller issues are addressed and solutions are proposed.
- Format for proposals might vary according to organizations and industries. Be sure to find relevant formats for your proposal.
- Readability is key. Your proposal does not need to look like a thesaurus. Use simple, concise sentences so that people of all backgrounds and qualifications can understand its contents.
- Using testimonials, survey data and market trends can help convince the decision-makers.
- A communication format should be specified in the proposal. This clearly defines the hierarchy and sources of reference for the decision-makers.
- Highlight the next steps you can take if the proposal is approved. How will you begin preparations? Where will you work from? Who will be involved in the process? By regulating these details, upper management can effectively allocate necessary resources.
- Your credibility can be an important dealbreaker for a proposal. If you can, mention all relevant experience, area of expertise, and track record of your previous ventures. Your job is to convince the decision-maker that you are capable of contributing to the project.
- Budget estimation is vital to the longevity and sustainability analysis of a project. If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to get an expert’s opinion.
- Mention the potential risks that the project might have to overcome during its lifetime and study potential mitigation strategies. This makes your case more robust.
- Pay attention to the formality of a proposal. There are liberties you can take with informal or unsolicited proposals when compared to solicited ones.
Our tutorial covers all the relevant trends and topics of interest in modern project proposals. We hope you were able to find relevant information from our article and wish you the best for your proposal. If you’re a freelancer, you might want to check out some contract templates we’ve designed. For more on business solutions, check out Docdown.