Make Every Proposal Count

Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references, and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills – but, in most cases the first (and possibly the last) impression you make on a potential client will be through your bid proposal.

Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you’re only looking for one outcome: to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:

Know the client.

Some clients have posted a number of jobs. Check out their previous projects and get a feel for their business and the skills they tend to need. Also check out their feedback, both given and received: you’ll get a feel for how they like to work and communicate, and you may also get a sense of what’s most important to them (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking lots of questions early in the project, etc.)

Ask questions.

Use private messages (PMBs) to get clarification and additional information. You’ll not only better understand the project, but you’ll begin to build a working relationship with the buyer.

Tailor each proposal.

You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don’t. Each client and each job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Clients can more easily ignore proposals that appear to be boilerplate or generic, so, if you do cut-and-paste, tweak the results to ensure you specifically address the client’s needs. Every proposal should read like it was developed specifically for that particular client.

Stress the benefits.

Your proposal isn’t about you – it’s about the client. The client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. While you should certainly describe yourself, make sure you describe the benefits and advantages of what you will do. And if you can, explain how you can add additional value or features to the project.

Don’t oversell.

Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do and use facts to back up your skills and experience. Provide relevant samples or links to previous work – the more relevant, the better. Buyers can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure you created, but if they need a website created, providing links to sites you’ve designed will be much more effective.

Get to the point.

Clearly explain your services, features, and benefits. Be concise in demonstrating your skills and experience. Include one or two quick descriptions of previous work you’ve done – work that is applicable to the project – and refer the client to your profile and portfolio. Longer is not always better.

Also, avoid jargon. Elance is a global workplace, and word usage varies from country to country. Get rid of catch phrases and just say what you mean in simple, clear and everyday language.

Let your personality show.

Share your enthusiasm for the project or the client’s business. You and your potential client will work together on this and hopefully many more projects – give them a chance to see you as a real person.

Review your proposal as if you’re the client.

Put yourself in their shoes: How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you’ll receive? Do you feel confident the provider can deliver? Do you get a sense of the provider’s excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line, would you consider hiring this provider? Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic – focus instead on what your proposal says about you and what you’ll do.

Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after you finish writing. If that’s the case, take a few minutes to review old proposals you’ve written. They won’t be as “fresh,” and you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you’ll find things you wish you’d done differently – apply what you learn to help make each new proposal count.

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