What should you include in a website proposal?

Getting it right and winning business

Proposals can be tedious and time-consuming to put together - but as a web developer or web development company it's your opportunity to present your solution to the client, and demonstrate why you're the best person to be doing it. It can ultimately be the decider on if a client uses you or the competition, so it's important to get it right. In this article we'll look at what to include in a website proposal and some useful tips to improve your chances of winning business.

Website proposal vs website estimate

The quick and easy solution is to just do a one page estimate - the client is always asking how much it's going to get anyway, so why not just give them what they want and save on time? An estimate may be straight forward but it's purely money focussed - it doesn't sell your service to the client. Bespoke websites are generally expensive, so you need to justify the cost.

By taking your clients through the solution and process instead of jumping straight to the end - you're more likely to win business and the client will feel happier about their decision. This increased transparency will also help the to client understand how long things will take and ensure they have realistic expectations.

Do your homework

A proposal is all about the content, so before you jump right in you need to do your homework.

The key to writing a good proposal is in showing that you understand the company and what their needs are, only with this information can you find a suitable solution to their business problem. The source of this information is predominantly going to come from a requirement gathering meeting or meetings with the client where you'll want to ask as many questions as possible - try to understand what the client vision is for the project, and their specific goals - what problems does this project solve?

When you understand the problem and requirements, take your time to research the best available solutions, the client may well be looking at other companies so you want to ensure you're ticking all the boxes.

Tell a story

Think of your proposal as telling a story that guides the client through these stages:

  • Who are you? Introduce your company.
  • Define the problem: What is the project aiming to solve, what is the objective and goals? Show you understand what they want.
  • Propose a solution: What is your solution and what is the process for realising it?
  • Time and money: How much will it cost? How long will it take? Provide a quote to summarise these questions.
  • Why should the client choose you? Show your experience and offer a call to action to progress.

Lets dig into each of these a little further...

Who are you?

In most scenarios the client probably already has an idea of who you are, but this is a good opportunity to sell and validate yourself as a choice for taking on this project - this is especially important if you're competing with other companies. Don't bore the client - create a snappy opening page that demonstrates you're an experienced professional specialising in the skills they need, name drop any big clients you've worked with or projects you've worked on that might wow them.

Define the problem

This is your chance to show you understand what the client needs. The contents of this section should be the result of requirement gathering discussions, where hopefully you've asked all the right questions. In this section you want to define why the work is needed, for example:

"...the company has gone through a period of significant growth and needs an online method of managing their clients that will simplify processes and reduce user management overhead..."

This clearly defines the company's problem - too much growth has led to an increased overhead of managing users. Now set some fixed goals that you can use to compare at the end of the project to demonstrate it's success.

Propose a solution

Now the problem is clearly defined, it's easier for you to propose a solution - directly answer the solution required to resolve the problem outlined.

This is a good opportunity to show the client the process of how their project will be realised - demonstrate some form of timeline or breakdown of work so they can see the path to completion. This helps the client to understand everything that is involved in the project, and specifically what their involvement will be. Defining what is and isn't in scope (e.g. content, data migration, hosting) will help to avoid any misunderstandings.

Let's get down to money

By telling the story of the problem, solution and process, you have now put yourself on solid ground for providing your estimate. If you just offer the client a one page quote, there's no justification for it's contents.

Don't use jargon or list things you know the client won't understand - use plain English, and keep it simple and easy to digest. If it's a particularly large project you may wish to break the quote down over several pages for the different sections (e.g. what's included in the scoping stage or the development stage). If you need to do this it would be advisable to use a summary table first that shows the overall cost and total for each section (e.g. scoping, development).

Why choose you?

Hopefully by this point the client has an understanding of who you are from the introduction, and has a feel for your proffessionalism through the above mentioned sections. Now it's time to seal the deal - the client may be impressed by your suggestions, but they could easily take your proposal to another company to get a cheaper price. You need to show them that you're the best company to fulfil their requirements.

The best way to achieve this is with examples - use case studies of similar projects, provide testimonials from clients and showcase logos of big brands you've worked with.

What next?

Lead the client into the next steps by finishing with a call to action. How do they progress with the project from here?

Tips

Stand out

Your client may well be looking at several different proposals from other companies - so don't bore them - make yours stand out and make it interesting. Put some effort into making the proposal aesthetically pleasing.

Show you're the pro

Make sure your proposal looks professional, otherwise you could be doing more harm than good. Get your branding correct and use a logo. Don't make silly mistakes - ensure the content is checked for grammatical errors - you're not going to be hired if from the outset you show poor attention to detail.

The up-sell

Do you offer any additional value that the competition won't? What support packages do you offer? Do you provide hosting?

Transparency

Be clear at the beginning about what is and isn't included - there are often stages that the client will need to complete (such as populating the content of a new site, testing or migration), that might not occur to them. If you make them aware of this at the beginning then it won't be a problem later.

Include the contract

Depending on the project you could consider including the contract and terms as part of the proposal, meaning if the client is ready to go ahead you can get it signed straight away, instead of having to send another document and slowing down the process.

PDF Proposal Generator

Safe yourself some time with our PDF Proposal Generator, offering a range of templates and an easy-to-user interface for modifying the content:

Example PDF Generation PDF Proposal Generator Tool

David Bainbridge

Coveloping co-founder and regular contributor to the Coveloping blog. David is a contract web developer based in Bristol, UK also posting code snippets and tutorials on the Code Synthesis blog.

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