Every project starts with an idea about how to solve some existing problem.
But whether you’re doing work for a client or looking to improve something internally for your organization, an idea alone won’t suffice.
You must put that idea into writing by creating a project proposal that wins stakeholder approval and funding.
In this post, we’ll go over what a project proposal is, along with the 6 types that exist. Then we’ll explore some benefits of writing proposals and review some key elements. After that, we will conclude with a discussion on how the right software platform can make creating and carrying out your proposal easier.
What is a project proposal?
A project proposal is a document that outlines a particular business problem and how a specific project will solve it. This is the key to getting approval and funding for projects.
The proposal is a vital part of the project management process, as it provides a central document that guides everything. By nailing the proposal, you’ll be able to get approval and help your projects run smoothly.
Types of project proposals
There are 5 types of project proposals. Each one serves a slightly different purpose.
There are 2 types of solicited proposals: formal and informal.
A formal solicited proposal is crafted in response to a request for proposal — a formal document requesting quotes for a specific project.
Someone can request an informal solicited proposal without an RFP. For example, informal solicitation might occur over email or through a chat room.
These can be a bit harder to get right since you don’t have an RFP to define the project requirements as clearly.
Unsolicited proposals are a form of cold outreach. They don’t involve a potential client reaching out — instead, you craft the proposal and send it to them, hence the word “unsolicited.”
Landing a project with an unsolicited proposal is challenging since the prospect isn’t coming to you first.
However, if you identify a painful problem a prospect has, and you can solve it, these can work well.
A continuation proposal is essentially an update on a full proposal. Firms use these to provide updates on current projects, account for changes, and ensure everything is on track to meet stakeholder expectations.
These are quite easy to do since they mostly involve updates.
A renewal proposal sounds similar to a continuation proposal, but you can use renewal proposals to continue your work on the project after your contractual involvement has ended.
Renewal proposals should be extremely effective if you provide excellent value to the client. It’s much easier for them to continue working with a great company than finding someone brand new.
If you need additional resources to complete a project, use a supplemental proposal. You can ask for more time or funding and potentially expand the scope if necessary.
Asking for more can be a tough conversation to have with a client, but by emphasizing the benefits of project completion, you may get their agreement.
Additionally, you must explain why you didn’t foresee any new problems and justify the extra resources.
Benefits of using project proposals
In business, clarity is key.
This is especially true when it comes to getting approval for big projects. That’s where a project proposal comes in.
Here are some ways that project proposals are helpful.
Clarifies expectationsThe most important reason to draw up a project proposal — aside from securing the “go-ahead” and necessary funding — is to get clear on all parties’ expectations.
The project proposal sets out expectations for budget, timeline, and other resources to ensure everyone’s clear on how the project will go.
It’s no contract, but it serves as a source of truth to resolve any questions, concerns, or disagreements that may come up while working on a project. If any stakeholders have questions, they can refer to the proposal.
Helps get buy-in
All stakeholders might have a common goal or problem to solve but could disagree on the means and methods of getting to that endpoint.
Projects have several components to keep a handle on, making building consensus and getting buy-in a challenge in many cases. Plus, it’s easy for various project communications to get lost in chat rooms or email chains, leading to more confusion and disagreements.
A detailed project proposal can fix this.
The project proposal offers a place to get everything down in writing. Stakeholders can then discuss the details of the proposal and make any changes if necessary.
Improves project planning
Project proposals have plenty of useful information for project planning purposes.
You can use information regarding time and resources to break down the project into milestones. Then, you can check your progress against the proposal to make sure you’re on track.
The proposal can also lead to better overall projects.
Writing the proposal forces you to understand things from the perspectives of other stakeholders, especially the ones for whom you’re doing the project.
Additionally, you may uncover new, project-relevant details as you research to put together your proposal.
For example, you might find that a common solution to the type of problem at hand doesn’t work in this specific instance — that’s very helpful for drawing up your solution.
Small businesses and solo operations can sometimes get by without creating hyper-detailed project proposals — especially on simpler projects where both parties can clearly see what’s needed.
However, creating them anyway is worth it because it makes you appear much more professional.
You’ll be more likely to land prospects as clients or customers. You’ll have an easier time justifying higher rates without necessarily providing extra services or deliverables, too.
Include these key project proposal elements
Every team structures proposals differently. Some combine parts of the proposal or add other sections.
But at minimum, an effective project proposal contains a few critical sections.
Let’s take a look at some of the key elements to include. Note that some of these — such as time, budget, and resources — don’t have to be in this exact order.
The goal of your intro is to hook the reader and introduce the problem you’ll solve.
Introduce both the core problem and your company. This is also where you’d provide a brief summary of past accomplishments and projects to bolster your credibility.
Keep the introduction short — you don’t want to lose the reader’s interest.
Now, you must expand on the problem and “twist the knife” again by explaining what pain the problem is causing your client.
This develops urgency and makes you appear more knowledgeable, increasing project approval chances. You can also point out additional issues your client may not have been aware of at first to make this more effective.
Overall, a strong problem statement demonstrates that you did your research and tailored your proposal to this specific issue.
After stating the problem, introduce your proposed solution. Give both a summary and the steps you’ll take to reach that solution. Include a list of specific deliverables and your chosen project management methodology, too.
This is another place where it’s important to only provide the necessary details to avoid losing your reader’s interest.
Alongside your solution, it’s a good idea to discuss the scope of the project. Being extra clear on project scope helps avoid “scope creep,” where your client slowly adds more requirements.
Lastly, explain how you’ll measure project progress and success. Include a few key success metrics and the exact numbers you’re aiming for.
Delivering projects on time or faster is always a significant concern for anyone involved in the project.
Detailing the project timeline in your proposal helps set project timeline and delivery expectations. Also, it reassures stakeholders that you’re prepared and thought things through.
Break the entire project into specific milestones and steps with an approximate timeframe for each.
Here’s a Roadmap board that is useful for detailing a project’s phases and the timeline for each:
Notice the timeline column titled, “How long this will take.”
It’s also worth noting that if you build your proposal on monday.com, anyone can switch over to the timeline view for better visualization of the project.
The other big concern besides time is money.
According to the Project Management Institute, companies waste about 11.4% of their investment due to poor project performance.
The client is spending big money on this project. They want to know where every dollar of your potential funding will go before handing over that money.
Provide a detailed summary of the estimated budget, breaking down items as specifically as possible. This will help show stakeholders how their investment pays off and help you uncover any potential hidden costs.
This Project Cost Management template provides a good place to start with your budget section:
Before you finish the proposal, you also want to make sure you list other available project resources.
In many cases, this includes discussing your personnel — your team members available to work on the project.
Make a list and provide a brief description of these resources. Use this Resource Management template as a starting point.
Finally, you need a place for your main stakeholder to sign off on the project so you can officially commence work.
Add a small section at the end with space and lines for your signature and signatures from any other relevant parties. Consider including your name, title, and contact information at the very bottom as well.
Depending on the project, stakeholders, and competition, you might insert a small conclusion section before all this to recap the entire proposal.
How to create and execute your project proposal with a Work OS
Want to make the entire project proposal process — from accepting RFPs to getting approval — seamless?
With a Work OS, you can track and manage every step of the process in one place. Here’s what that looks like with monday.com.
If you provide solicited proposals, you have to wait for RFPs. There’s a good chance you will receive several RFPs per day or week — but you can’t take them all at once. Some might not even be a good fit for your team or organization.
Thus, you need a way to monitor each RFP and proposal and turn away requesters you aren’t a good match for.
A board like the one this template provides lets you keep a list of all RFPs along with their deal status, proposal status, and much more:
Creating the proposal
Once you review an RFP and think you can take on the project, it’s time to put together the proposal.
You could do this by hand or in some specialized software program. You could also build it from scratch effortlessly alongside your virtual workspace by using a Work OS.
Even better, you could use monday.com’s Project Proposal template.
Some of it is shown here:
Planning the project from the proposal
Once your client has accepted your proposal, it’s time to get to work.
But first, you need to put together your plan for managing and completing that project on time. Your proposal will inform this planning since it has plenty of project details within.
To make things easier for yourself, grab this Project Management Plan template:
Win more projects with compelling project proposals
A well-written project proposal with all the right elements can wow the other party and make them eager to commence the project. It defines project expectations — so all parties know what to look forward to — and it helps you stay on track once the project kicks off.
As you saw above, a Work OS like monday.com is your most powerful asset, not just in creating your project proposal but in carrying out your promise.
Try monday.com free for 14 days to see what we mean.