How to write a business proposal in 10 simple steps

Andy Bounds ( recently wrote a great piece on his 8 top tips for writing proposals. Here’s Andy’s advice, with 2 extra tips (points 9 and 10) from Proof Communications.

  1. AGREE EVERYTHING VERBALLY. Your proposal should be a confirmation not exploration. It should confirm what you’ve already agreed verbally, not explore new stuff.
  2. PRE-AGREE HEADINGS. Before you write it, agree with the customer the headings/structure of your proposal. That way, it’s relevant, tailored, short, easier to read (them) and write (you).
  3. BRILLIANT FIRST IMPRESSION. All your first impressions must impress: your covering email, proposal attachment’s filename, look and feel, title (see point 4).
  4. PRIORITY #1 ON PAGE #1. Your title must include the customer’s #1 priority. After all, which sounds better – “Our proposal” or “How we’ll save you £20million in tax”?
  5. EASY TO ACCEPT. State what the customer has to do, to accept it – “sign page 3” etc
  6. CLEAR TIMELINE. Show key milestones, deliverables and deadlines.
  7. EASY TO READ. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Lots of headings. Lots of white space.
  8. USE SPELLCHECK. Customers want to see professionalism. So DON’T make any smelling piss-takes.
  9. GRAPHICS. Use graphics to illustrate your timeline (Gantt chart). Include photos to show your product and team. Use different colours for your heading hierarchy. Include a well-designed cover. Graphics make a proposal more visually interesting and easier to read.
  10. PROOFREAD. Point 8 SPELLCHECK is important. But spellchecking is not infallible. Print out the document and read it aloud from end to end. You’ll find typos and words you trip over.

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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