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How to Write a Design Proposal that Win You Projects (Template Included)

Updated on July 6, 2021

12 Min Read
Design-Proposal

You’ve got a lead, but now you’re staring at the file that says ‘Proposal’ and you’re wondering where to start. You’ve also got multiple tabs open for design proposal templates and writing a design proposal, but nothing appears to be working for this client.

You can either pack up and shelf your proposal, or… go back to the drawing board trying to figure how to write a proposal perfectly.

Let’s start again…

To put it another way, design proposals present prospective clients an idea of the kind of work you’re capable of. It showcases how you’re different from your competitors and gives you the chance to make an impactful first impression on your client. The better you become at making an effective design proposal, the better you’ll get at selling your projects.

Whether you’re here to create your own design proposal or get inspiration, your starting point is likely going to be the basic skeleton that aligns with the purpose you want your design proposal to serve.

1. Design Proposal Cover Page

The cover page of your design proposal is the first impression of your idea – so keep it simple, crisp, and clear. This means that the cover page is what your client will first lay eyes upon in your proposal. And this means it should have a strong, effective visual design here that sets you apart from your competition.

When it comes to how to write a design proposal, you should consider using brand colors and showcase your design skills to the fullest. It should visually be reflective of your client’s brand aesthetic (that’s where all that research you did on the client comes in handy!)

You’ll find plenty of examples of other cover pages that can be used for the purpose of sending design proposals. But the question is: how do you know whether the aesthetics of your design proposal are working as they should? Consider going through our design proposal template when you’re creating a skeleton of your own proposal.

Envato ElementsSource: Envato Elements – Proposals

A design proposal cover page gives your client an idea of the kind of aesthetics you work best in. They’ll also get a strong understanding of the different tones and messages you can work on, whether it’s a campaign or a 360 branding redesign.

How Designs Work

It’s not only focused on the entire project but a holistic view of how added value to your previous client and the recent work you’ve been doing.

This brings us to the next part of your design proposal, the cover letter.

2. Design Proposal Cover Letter

When it comes to making cover letters, keeping it simple yet effective is the key to success here. This is one of the first pages about your work that you lead is going to take time reading and assess whether they want to continue reading to the next page or shelf your proposal. You should keep this in mind when you’re thinking about how to write a design proposal.

Take some time to identify what it is you’re trying to sell and whether you have a stronger understanding of the kind of work your client needs. You can gauge that with the help of a simple mind map. You can find this in our design proposal template.

Design Template Outline

If you pick up a sample article (or the one in our template), you’ll see how a simple cover letter can make the impact you’re trying to create.

Cover Letter

The next part of your proposal should entail a page towards the project overview that you’re offering. This needs to have objectives align with the outlook of your client and a basic objective that helps clear out these.

Design-Proposal

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3. Project Overview

Project Overview

Once you have these penned down you can then convert these to goals that are quantifiable. This step is necessary as it outlines your methodology of achieving the goal you’ve set, but you should not go deep into how you’re going to do it as the client hasn’t yet signed up for your service yet (and you wouldn’t want to give away the kitchen sink too early!).

As a start, you can explain the goals in a quantifiable measure without giving too much of how you plan on achieving this goal. Remember the key to success in ‘how to write a design proposal’ is to make these as short and concise as possible while keeping the perspective of your potential client.

Goals

An executive summary of the project should be presented based on your conversations with the client. Use your potential client’s own words to avoid any misunderstandings. If their definition of the project is ambiguous, you need to clear this up before starting with the design proposal.

This means you’ll want to go back to the drawing board and map out what your potential client needs, their current struggles, and how the solution you’re providing helps solve that problem.

Often, adding a ‘Why Choose Me’ section helps explain that you’re the right person to solve their problem. You’ll need to keep this section concise and explain how you can help your potential client’s growth and how some of your values and vision align with theirs.

To help substantiate your claim here, you could add snippets of testimonials from your previous clients. The testimonials will give you a more professional impression, as you’re letting your work talk for you.

You’ve now shown some of your work, why you’re the best person for the job, and how you’re approaching your client’s problem. It’s time to bring the elephant out of the room now. Your next section should ideally talk about your pricing plan.

This not only shows that you value your time, but the placement of this section here tells your client that pricing is important before we explore other details of the project. If the pricing plan doesn’t match your client, you’re saving them time from moving forward.

4. Pricing Plans

It’s a good design proposal idea to rework your pricing plans and present them in a manner that favors you and the client. To get an idea of how you can do that, take a look at some agency pricing models. For instance, if you’re pushing for an ecommerce website development project, you should consider breaking down the cost before presenting it to your client.

You can also present a custom pricing plan where your client picks his desired service offerings. It’s important to reword the services in a way that helps your potential client understand what they need.

For instance, if you’re offering branding services, you can reword it as “Going for a New Look?” This service includes a 360 rebranding where you’ll be creating new templates and changing the overall look of your client’s brand to better target their audience.

Going For A New Look

In addition to our design proposal template, I’m also placing a few more examples of pricing plans to give you a better idea of how you can approach this section. These examples are not sponsored and only help in differentiating how you can present your pricing plan better.

For a simple pricing plan, agencies may segment their offerings into tiers. Often, these cater to different client profiles, along with an option to work with a monthly or annual billing plan. Let’s take the example of Smplrspace to understand this strategy.

SimplrspaceSource: Simplrspace

Some agencies place these options with one of their options preselected as a popular option. This shows the client that the agency is best known for this kind of service (though it is also an upsell tactic) and gives them an idea of what to expect.

Below,  the DesignJoy agency shows its first plan (highlighted in purple) as a popular plan it offers. DesignJoy has also added a small description to highlight how it’s “Perfect for those looking for a design solution.” Clients that require more than just a redesign can opt for the other two options, but notice there is no price listed for their enterprise plan.

DesignJoySource: DesignJoy

You’ll find this common in most agency pricing models, as this sort of plan is meant for clients that have a larger budget and require very specific services. To cater to that need, agencies place a “Schedule a Call” option to start that conversation.

Some agencies present their pricing plans with the option of a free trial. This works especially for agencies that have a SaaS-based service that they want the client to experience for themselves. This caters to clients that are tight on a budget and still relatively new in the market.

I’ll help elaborate on this kind of a pricing plan with the help of GetGuru.

GetGuruSource: GetGuru

You can see in this example how GetGuru uses the first option as a trial version (freemium) of their service. This free offer services as a hook to get the client integrated within their system, which helps in keeping the conversation going with them and giving the customer a taste of what they offer so that they can be ultimately upsold to more valuable paid offerings.

Once they’re able to get the conversation going, they’re already delivering on client services by keeping their client updated about a project that’s in the pipeline. In another way, through this method, they ‘assume the sale’ and now work towards delivering a quality project.

Although this kind of pricing works best for a SaaS product or an image library, you can still use this strategy creatively. Say you offer simple website templates, or even client billing templates as part of your design services. Your potential client can opt for a one to these templates, or have them customized based on their requirement for additional charges.

You’ll find many creative ways of presenting the pricing plan, however, the underlying basis of the pricing plan depends on the kind of services you wish to offer. This also greatly depends on the client profile you’re catering to. You absolutely can do a tiered structure that has the basics, followed by higher-level plans that offer more features and enhancements. You may also want to offer a la carte offerings, allowing your prospective client to pick and choose what they want you to deliver upon.

The next part of your design proposal caters to details about the project you have in mind and how you’re planning to execute it (superficially though; you don’t want to give away your strategies and tactics in a proposal, you just want to reel them in!). This brings me to the section that explains the timeline of your project and the scope of work you’ll be taking on.

5. Project Timeline and Project Scope

At the early stages, you don’t need to provide the full scope of the project. In the Project Scope section of a design proposal, you give a high level of your deliverables. In other words, there’s no need at this point to share the kind of colors you’ll be using for this project, and you’re not at all at the point where you are going to be creating design templates for your client. The best thing to do here is to explain the process while keeping a fairly liberal timeline in place.

Here’s an example of a timeline you can use.

Proposed Timeline

The said timeline explains your methodology of work. It highlights how long a project would take and what portions require the most amount of time. While you’re highlighting this, it’s also important to bring clarity of what work you’d be undertaking to avoid ambiguity of the project.

Project Scope

You can do this with a simple list of resources you’ll require to deliver the project when you’re handing off your project. You should also highlight factors that can greatly impact the price of your services. For instance, if you’re using high definition quality images from resources like Shutterstock, you should consider letting your potential client know that the pricing includes/excludes the cost of such resources.

You should also clarify how you move onto the next phase of a project: is it on the basis of payment clearance or are you charging at the end of the entire project? The typical payment schedule is to usually do 50% upfront, 50% at the close, but your methodology may be different.

Let’s now get into the main part of your proposal,  the pitch deck. This is where you technically pitch the client by way of sharing your portfolio of sorts, including design inspirations that you believe would be a good fit for the client’s brand.

6. Pitch Deck

The idea of the pitch deck is to give your potential client the overall idea of what their business assets would look like after the redesign. For instance, in your design proposal, you can show snippets of their website, changes in the theme of their mobile application, or even rebrands of their letterheads and business cards.

The Big Idea

That said, don’t overwhelm your client with your work as it’s easy to lose track of yourself when showing inspiration (after all, that’s where the fun lies!). You want to keep the inspirational ideas targeted towards the goals you have set and under the client’s proposed budget.

To maintain the impact you’ve created, try to break down your pitch deck into four sections.

  • The core idea – the underlying theme that fits your potential client’s mission.
  • Why your idea will work – a summarized explanation of how your idea will create the impact you’re committing to.
  • How you’ll achieve the set goals – a brief high level (not detailed, superficial only) explanation of the methods you use to reach your goals
  • How you’ll be measuring success – the tools and kind of reporting you’ll be providing your client to measure the success of this idea.

If there’s something that doesn’t align well with the client’s goals as you know them at the present, don’t push them into the pitch deck. You can always upsell your services at a later point once you’ve delivered the project you have in mind.

You’ve now explained your idea and enticed your potential client enough to go with this plan.

7. Terms and Conditions

It’s important to get the small print out there before either of you take on this project. You’ll need to highlight the legalities of your work and the SOPs you follow. This is where you’ll be providing your potential client with links to your contract.

Legal Documentation

You’ll find plenty of resources online to give you some sample terms and conditions for your design work. However, to properly safeguard your work, I’d strongly recommend you to opt to have it reviewed by a corporate lawyer.

Consider this expense to be an investment, as it would go a long way with your business as you continue to scale your service (these terms and conditions are only created once but reused time and time again). Furthermore, as you pick a niche client profile, you’ll want them to know how professional you are about your work.

You’ll probably realize how the tone of your proposal has taken a shift towards a serious wavelength. You want to invite potential clients to work with you and not intimidate them with your legal process or work methodology.

To do this, you can sweeten the tone by adding a section about the previous work you’ve done. Let’s have a look at how you can achieve this.

8. Our Previous Work

This section needs to stand out a little from our entire proposal. You’ll want to place your recent work along with some of your work that’s made it in the news. Storytelling goes a long way here, so you can also present this section as a synopsis of a case-study that your potential client can view at a later time.

Try linking this to your current website, as it substantiates your work. It not only makes your work look more convincing, but this can also lead your client to your current clients creating a positive impact on their website.

Let’s now look at some examples of how you can showcase your work.

I’ll start this one off with this episode from Mad Men, a popular Netflix series highlighted by Brittany Jezouit on Medium. She brought light to this video in her article “The Art of the Pitch: how to showcase your work as a designer.”

I’ll start this one off with this scene from popular series Mad Men. The scene illustrates how an advertiser adds an emotional appeal to a pitch for their client. The example was highlighted by Brittany Jezouit in an article on Medium. She brought light to this video in her article “The Art of the Pitch: how to showcase your work as a designer.

 

Let’s have a look at a ready-made design template from Visme. This example showcases how your entire design proposal follows an overall theme. It’s packaged in a way that is easily usable and keeps things simple and effective.

Visme Design ProposalSource: Visme

You can see various mockups and examples of how you designed different assets, whether that’s in a digital or on-ground scope. You don’t necessarily have to show metrics and how you achieved success with your previous clients as that can be linked to case studies on your website.

You have to remember that this proposal is centered around the lead you have and your efforts are toward onboarding this very client.  If we were to put this down as a skeleton, you can elaborate on your latest work using this simple template.

In a Nutshell

I’ve covered a lot of ground on helping you understand the template of your design proposal. You’ve now uncovered the many ways you can create the flow of your proposal and the elements that make an impact on your client.

Hopefully, you can build on this template and pave your way to win client profiles that you seek. If you think I’ve left a certain section out or a section that could have had a better flow, feel free to give me your feedback!

Thanks and happy hunting!

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Taha Qureshi

Taha is a tech enthusiast and he believes there's no end to creativity. His roots are in content, digital marketing, and analytics. In the after-hours, he reads philosophy and teleports his game controller to its afterlife.

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