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HOW TO WRITE A PROJECT PROPOSAL

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Just like the city of Rome, a project proposal is not built in a day. What’s needed is strategic planning and a great deal of time to make sure it’s right and gets the support needed to bloom.


A proposal is all about gaining approval for a project, and to gain approval it’s crucial that you can successfully convey your ideas. This is where the skill of writing comes into its own and you rely on persuasive communication to give stakeholders a glimpse into your vision for the perfect project. If this has piqued your interest, then this is the guide for you.


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Use the links above to skip ahead to the sections you’re most interested in.


WHAT IS A PROJECT PROPOSAL?


A project proposal is a written document which addresses the key questions surrounding a project. It outlines every detail that stakeholders should know about the project, which will include goals and objectives, the timeline, and the budget.


A good project proposal summarizes the details well and sells the idea to your stakeholders so that they’re eager to get involved. It should also describe what they want the project to achieve in a very concise way, why these objectives are important, and a detailed plan on how you plan to accomplish this.



WHY ARE PROJECT PROPOSALS IMPORTANT?


Because the main aim of a project proposal is to outline the key purposes and scope of a project, creating one before a project takes place is extremely important since it ensures both parties agree and are clear on what the actual project will include. The decision-maker is assured that the service provider fully understands the project scope and is able to see it out through to completion. Having these assurances from the start is crucial to the success of a project as it encourages positive collaboration through effective communication of the shared goals and objectives.


TYPES OF PROJECT PROPOSALS


There are six different types of project proposals you will see in the wild, and making sure you understand all of them can leave you better equipped to write your own. Each type of proposal has a different goal.


Requested Project Proposal


A solicited project proposal will always be sent as a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP is a document that announces a project in great detail, describes it and asks for bids from teams. When you create this type of project proposal, you will always be competing against other companies, so thorough research is critical and persuasive writing will help you get picked over your competitors.


Unrequested Project Proposal


On the other side of the coin is an unsolicited project proposal, where you’ll send an unrequested proposal. No one has asked for your proposal and there is no RFP involved. This type of proposal is similar to a cold call your sales team will make, and if done properly, an unsolicited project proposal could be just as useful as a solicited one.


One key difference is that you won’t be competing against other companies, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to be just as persuasive because you have no idea whether the stakeholder you’re pitching to is in need of your services.


Informal Project Proposal


An informal project proposal typically comes into fruition when a client reaches out with an informal request to receive a project proposal from you. Once finished, you can respond to them with your detailed pitch.


This is not an official RFP, so the rules aren’t as concrete, which means that an informal project proposal will likely not include a great deal of context. The upshot of this is that the writer will need to conduct a lot of solo research.


Renewal Project Proposal


A renewal project proposal is necessary for when a project has ended and needs to start again. This is commonly used to send to existing clients in the hope that they will extend their services with you. A large part of the research that goes into this proposal is often sourced from the success data of the previous project.


The goal of this proposal is to highlight the successful previous results that have been produced by the project. If the results are negative, then it’s unlikely that any amount of begging could keep the customer. If however, the results are of worth, work should go in to persuade project sponsors as well as other stakeholders of your ability to produce even better results in the future.


Continuation of a Project Proposal


Continuation proposals will act as a reminder to let a stakeholder know that the project is starting. In it you just have to provide stakeholders with all the key information about the project, rather than try to persuade them to take the project on in the first place.


One example of when you would send a continuation proposal is when you’re looking to source additional funding to extend a project’s duration and scope or prolong an existing project beyond its preliminary funding period.


Supplemental Project Proposal


A supplemental project proposal is similar to a continuation proposal, as it is needed in a situation where you may have exceeded the initial budget in a project and you need more resources than you first requested.


This happens when the scope of the project has gone beyond earlier expectations. The project team must alter the project’s scope, timeline or budget to tackle unexpected hiccups or capitalize on new opportunities that were not foreseen in the initial proposal.


The purpose of this project proposal is to persuade stakeholders to invest more resources, which can only be done by proving the value of the proposed changes to the project.


THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN WRITING A PROJECT PROPOSAL


No matter the type of project proposal you’re planning, we’ve created some useful tips to start you off in the right direction when writing your own.


Write for your audience


It’s crucial that throughout the whole process of writing your project proposal that you keep your audience (the stakeholders) in mind. Consider where they’re coming from, what drives them, and more importantly, why they should give you funding. Another important point to consider is whether it will directly impact them. All of these points should be considered, as knowing your audience can multiply your chances of winning them over.


Do your research


The best project proposals include thorough research, and everyone involved knowing the plans inside out. You need to be sure you can back up your claims, be sure on the problem, and even more sure on your proposed solution to it. This can come in the form of reputable sources such as customer testimonials, user analytics, and case studies, all of which will show evidence for your proposal working in real life.


Keep it concise and digestible


Although a project proposal can be a meaty piece, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be majorly complex. For example, you can discuss the project plan, but you don’t have to explain every technical detail. Simplicity also comes across in the writing style. Make sure you are keeping your writing simple, clear, and error-free.


Be persuasive


Persuasion is an important tool when it comes to writing a project proposal given that your prospective audience will likely do something for you if it goes well. If your reader is neither intrigued or engaged by your project, there’s little more you can do to convince them to help you. If you describe your software application but don’t include an exhaustive list of the many features that will come with it, explain how it will benefit clients, and its huge impact on the industry, your audience will struggle to come up with an answer to the question, “Why should I invest in this project?”


Have a clear structure (Use a template)


In essence, the purpose of a project proposal is to make the best first impression to potential investors. Coming up with a project proposal from scratch adds to the many stresses that come with designing a project in the first place, so using a pre-built template can ensure everyone stays on the same page. There are many great sites out there that offer a wide range of templates to keep your proposal contemporary and eye-catching, the hardest part is choosing which one.


Accompany your proposal with a cover letter and table of contents


The very best project proposals read like a book, and what book has neither a cover letter nor a table of contents?


These two elements are best when they’re together, and when they are, it’s the perfect blend to help ease your audience into the proposal, and mentally prepare them for what they’ll soon be reading. A further enhancement to improve the reader experience would be to create a clickable table of contents to enable easy navigation for your readers between different sections of your project proposal.


HOW TO WRITE A PROJECT PROPOSAL


The way in which you write your project proposal can ultimately decide whether or not it is successful. The best way is usually to follow a step-by-step plan, so you can be sure the format is consistent and the story is linear.


Follow our steps below to ensure your project proposal does what you want it to.


Step one: write the executive summary


Developing an executive summary is the first step you need to take when writing a project proposal. The section itself is relatively short, but it’s an important one nonetheless as it provides potential investors with a brief overview of the key information about the project. It needs to summarize what’s coming up and persuade the reader from the beginning to continue reading.


It will often contain a short summary that addresses the crucial selling points of the project, such as:

  • The main problem your proposal is looking to fix

  • The resources that are needed

  • A budget and timeline

  • Who will be the main beneficiaries

  • How success will be measured

Precursive Project Timeline
Precursive Project Timeline

A great executive summary will capture your audience’s attention. It should get them excited from the first word because only then will they want to find out more.


Step two: explain the project background


The second step of writing a proposal aims to provide the audience with the background of the project. When you’re putting this section together, it’s important you clearly explain the current problem, why it is a problem, and why your audience should care about solving it. The use of statistics in this section is highly advised as it can help get your point across more effectively.


It may be worth including some of these points:

  • A thorough exploration of the problem your project is addressing

  • What you already know about the problem

  • Who has tried fixing the problem before

  • Is there any research out there already on this

  • Why any past research has not been able to solve the problem

We recommend limiting this section to just one page.


Step three: Present your solution


Once you’ve concisely presented the problem and captivated your reader, you need to showcase your solution. This provides an excellent opportunity to lay out your project approach in greater detail. Here’s a few of the key items you should be including in this section:

  • Project schedule

  • Vision statement

  • Milestones

  • Project roles and responsibilities

  • Notable reporting tools

This section allows you to explain how you will measure and report on your project’s success, which can often be a key success factor for many potential investors.


Step four: Outline project deliverables


Outlining your project deliverables is a critical step in the project proposal writing process. Stakeholders and investors will want to know exactly what it is you’ll be delivering to them once the project is complete.


Depending on the type of project you are working on, its deliverables can be one of a number of the following:


  • Software application

  • Report or plan

  • Prototype

  • Training material

  • Infrastructure

When it comes to defining your project deliverables, visualizing the project and its end goals should be easy for all stakeholders, which will include realistic timelines and budgets, with a specific date for each deliverable to be complete.


Step five: Request the necessary resources


If you’ve got this far, then you will have successfully convinced your reader that your project is hot off the press and needs to be implemented. If so, don’t celebrate too early, because there’s still a lot to go.


This is the part when you need to share many of the crucial details, such as:


  • Project budget - This is every element that will cost even a cent, from the supplies that go towards creating the project to team salaries.

  • Cost breakdown - This part should highlight the need for each resource you require, which will convey to stakeholders the importance of their buy-in and what it will be used for.

  • Resource allocation plan - You must always remember to incorporate a general overview of where each resource will be allocated and how it will be used. If there’s any substantial sum of money it’s always good to state where this money will be going, e.g. technology, development, etc.

Project Financials in Precursive
Project Financials in Precursive

Requesting resources can be a minefield, so if you can be clear from the start on what you need, how much you need, and why, then you’re covering a lot of the groundwork and making it easier for yourselves in the long run.

We recommend that you save the required resources until the end of the project proposal so your readers (stakeholders) don’t feel inundated with requests and may decide to hold off if they feel overwhelmed. It’s better for you and for them if they first know what their resources will provide and the main objectives of the project.


Step six: Write your conclusion


The purpose of a conclusion in a project proposal is to summarize and give a short review of the points outlined throughout the document. This serves as a final chance to convince your audience, so you should make it count by making sure the proposal includes the most important and valuable evidence to ensure approval.


The conclusion is the ultimate closing statement, designed to stress the impact of your project. The onus is on you to prove to your audience that you have thoroughly researched every potential solution and you are confident that your suggested method will be the most effective.

 

WHAT NEXT?


It’s time to give your project proposal plan an upgrade, if you want to make the best possible impression to your stakeholders. The perfect project is a proposal away from coming to fruition, you just need to put in the legwork to wow your audience.


Ready to make the business case for PSA at your business? Book a demo today to see Precursive in action, and learn how PSA software can save your organization money, boost customer retention and reduce churn.

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