Periodically, a solopreneur consultant must write a proposal. Some organizations, especially government entities, will publicly announce that a project is available and request bids that must be submitted in proposal form.
Occasionally, a solopreneur may receive a request to submit a proposal (RFP) from an unknown party. Experience will eventually teach you to not respond to a surprise RFP. Invariably, an unexpected RFP is sent by a phantom client who is either fishing for pricing information, or seeking to obtain additional proposals when it has already been decided who will be hired for the project in question, but company policy mandates that a certain number of proposals must be reviewed.
Submit proposals only after you’ve spoken with the decision-maker and received an invitation. If you’ve set it up right, the proposal will serve as a confirmation letter that spells out project details that have been previously discussed and agreed-upon.
An invitation to write a proposal is an opportunity for you to shine. Showcase yourself, your brand and your expertise and write a powerful document that reveals your analytic prowess, writing ability, practicality and creativity.
Study the requirements
If there is a written RFP, study the requirements and make note of the submission deadline. Is the project a good fit for your organization? Do you have time to write a worthy proposal? If you meet with the client beforehand to discuss the project, take good notes and confirm that you understand the goals, specifications and expectations involved. Do you have the expertise and resources to do the job? Can you achieve the goals within the time frame? Can you do the job within the budget? Must you sub-contract work out and if so, will you be able to make a profit on the project?
Confirm the desired outcomes
Interview the client and confirm the desired outcomes of the project and assess what achieving the project goals means to the organization.
Evaluate your proposed solution
Make sure that your approach to producing the deliverables will please the client. What is the primary criterion for the proposal? Is it speed of completion, price, or something else? Present a methodology that reflects what means most to the client.
Be advised that a proposal is a sales document. Highlight your strengths in the context of project goals and address any potential reservations that might prevent your proposal from being accepted.
Some proposals specify that a certain format must be followed. If there is no such rule, include the following elements:
- Give an overview of the current situation that has given rise to the need for the project.
- State the goals of the project, expected outcomes, or deliverables.
- Describe why you and your organization are uniquely qualified to successfully complete the project.
- Present your proposed methodology for achieving the project objectives and goals.
- Detail the timeline and cost (the justification of your proposed fee).
- Reinforce the benefits associated with achieving the project goals, outcomes, or deliverables.
Finally, make sure that your proposal addresses all elements of the RFP or client needs. Check your spelling and grammar. Go on-line and view examples of proposals; find a format that visually communicates you and your brand and make that your template. If hard copy must be submitted, print your document on good paper stock.
Thanks for reading,
Kim L. Clark is an external consultant who provides strategy and marketing solutions to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Kim is the founder and principal of Polished Professionals Boston and she teaches business plan writing to aspiring entrepreneurs. Visit polishedprofessionalsboston.comfor more information.
photo courtesy of WOCTech [FLICKR]