Writing web design proposals is a tedious, monotonous process. It’s a lot of work that, in the end, may not pan out to much.
You, like most creatives, would probably rather spend time actually working than pushing prospects through sales funnels. But if you don’t take the time to work on your proposals, then you and your business will be in a pickle.
As a skilled designer, you’re more than capable of designing websites—but how comfortable are you selling them? Are you winning as much business as you could be?
Your project proposal can be a make-or-break factor in landing design projects, so mastering the craft is critical. In this post, we’ll show you the eight sections that every website design proposal must have, and give you a free template you can use to start winning more work today.
Let’s go into:
- Laying out your introduction
- Presenting the problem being solved
- Explaining your solution
- Giving a project overview
- Outlining your process
- Explaining next steps
- Delivering the cost
- Tips and tricks for presenting your proposal
1. Introducing yourself
Project proposals are supposed to help clients understand what they’re getting into—not overwhelm them with details.
(Lay out your proposal using InVision Freehand.)
Your introduction should (lightly) reflect the conversations you should have already had about the client’s needs. Pieces of information you might want to include are:
- Client name
- Project title (the problem being solved)
- Name and title of your point of contact
- Your name and title
- Date of submission
Here’s an example of a good introduction section:
Logo, project name, client name, designer name, date. Check, check, check.
2. Problem overview
After you introduce yourself to the prospect, the first element that follows in a successful web design proposal is the problem overview. The client should read this and know:
- There is a problem or opportunity for their business that they’re not capitalizing on.
- You have a complete, deep understanding of their problems and their needs.
Understanding the core problems your client is facing will help you define both your responsibilities and the project’s scope. Doing this gives the client a reason to believe in you and your process.
The best web design proposals are the ones that place the client’s needs and necessities in the spotlight and make the prospect feel and believe that you can solve their problems. For example:
Show the prospect that you care.
3. Solution overview
After spending time researching the company’s history and talking to stakeholders, you should understand their problem and start formulating a solution. It’s your responsibility to explain the business benefits of your design practice.
(Check out InVision’s Design Maturity Model)
By using business language to explain design’s positive impact on their problems, you’ll position yourself as a key figure in driving their future business success. For example, you can demonstrate value by explaining how the new design can boost revenue and improve their branding.
Tip: When presenting your ideas and potential solutions, try to anticipate the conversations the prospect is likely having within their organization, what language they’re using, and let your solution section present a deep dive into your knowledge of their problem. Back to our previous example:
This section demonstrates the ability to understand the prospect’s problems while meeting all of their needs.
This is where you’ll need to outline exactly what you will be delivering as part of the project.
This is an important section, but more for what you’re excluding than for what you’re including. Scope creep is a common problem in website design, particularly if you are working with relatively inexperienced small businesses, and it can only be prevented by setting clear objectives and expectations.
For instance, you may agree to design them a website but then realize they don’t have a logo. What do you do? You need a logo to put on their website, so do you design it?
Here’s an example:
Keep it clear and stay paid.
5. The process overview
Once you’ve clearly outlined what the problem, solution, and deliverables, the next section will take a deep dive into execution and outline how you’re going to go about creating the website and solving the client’s problem.
In this section, you’ll want to:
- Outline the different steps in the process
- Outline a basic timeline, so the client knows when to expect each deliverable
- Outline your expectations from the client so they know what they need to do and when to help the project stay on track
The process of designing and building a website looks different for every client and is dependent on many different factors. The worst thing you can do is miss a client-specific step in your outline and have to reset their expectations mid-project—and inevitably lose time and money.
To help you avoid this, here’s a list of typical steps in the website development process you should consider:
- Research (users, competitors, etc)
- Initial designs plus any revisions
- Setup and configuration of CMS
- Testing and QA on browsers and devices
Here’s an example of a thorough process section:
Leave no questions unanswered and no process unexplained.
6. The cost
This final section is often where a web design proposal is won—or lost.
Before you even start working on your proposal, ask your client what their total budget is. While this can be scary and you might get the sense that you’re encroaching on some line, you’re not. It’s not uncommon for a prospect to head into bids with a pre-determined figure on their mind.
(Streamline your client work using InVision Craft.)
Discussing the prospect’s budget out in the open before creating the proposal is a positive scenario for you both. This conversation will help them develop a budget for the project, and it will also let you know whether or not the project is financially worthwhile for you before you put in the hard work of developing a proposal.
While you might be a fortune-teller and guess their budget, more often than not you’ll overshoot and take yourself out of the running completely. Or you’ll underprice yourself so severely that you’ll leave behind a ton of money.
Once you’ve got the client’s budget, your web design proposal should present the breakdown of costs in a clear and palatable way to your prospect.
It’s often helpful to tie it back to the process you’ll go through (particularly if you’re charging on an hourly rate or a project fee that is based on hours). This makes it really easy for prospects to understand how the different aspects of the project come together to form the total cost.
Here’s an example:
Get your money right.
You can use tools like InVision Studio, InDesign, or even Photoshop to mockup nice pricing tables like the above, or you can create a more basic one in Word or Google Docs if that’s where you’re writing your proposal.
Alternatively, dedicated proposal tools like Qwilr make it easy to create beautiful pricing layouts like this. You can even make certain sections or line items optional so that your prospect can select whether they want that extra upsell (i.e. submission to search engines), which can help you make a little bit extra on each project.
7. Call to action
Now that all the information is out there, including the deliverables, process, and costs, it’s time to prompt the prospect to take the next steps: to accept your proposal and kick off the project,t.
Ideally, you’ll want to give them a way to accept and sign off on the proposal straight away. If you’re sending your proposal as a PDF, Word, or Google Doc, this can be a little difficult as they don’t really have built-in acceptance or signature features.
To solve this, you could do any of the following:
- Ask the prospect to send you an email saying something like “Please proceed”
- Link to contract (or other binding agreement) in a tool like Docusign, which gives them the ability to accept and sign.
Alternatively, if you use a dedicated proposal tool, it will allow your prospect to accept and sign the proposal right there from within it.
Here’s an example:
Make the next steps clear with a visible CTA.
Whatever you do, don’t force your prospective client to print out your proposal, sign it, scan it and send it back. That’s time-consuming, particularly if someone doesn’t have immediate access to a printer, and research shows that it dramatically increases the time it takes to get documents signed off.
(Plus, it’s not environmentally-friendly.)
Send your proposal as a web page
If you’re sending your proposals in a document format like PDF, you might be doing it wrong. After all, the PDF was invented in the same decade as the Palm Pilot, and I can’t imagine you’re using a Palm Pilot anymore.
By sending your proposal as a web page instead of as a PDF, you get the following benefits:
- Responsivity: Web pages are responsive, meaning they look great on all desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. With the majority of email being opened on mobile devices these days, you’re ensuring your leads have a great experience with your proposal.
- Security: Web pages can not only be password protected but you can also add time limits that ensure your proposals can’t be viewed after a certain date, as well as view limits, so they can only be viewed a certain number of times. You can even require prospects to log in using their work email address before viewing the page to ensure that only the right people see it.
- Interactivity: Web pages can have interactive content like video, audio, maps, forms, spreadsheets, InVision Prototypes and more embedded into them. You can even add things like pricing calculators that allow prospects to see what the pricing would look like when they add that extra upsell.
- Trackability: Every interaction your leads have with a web page can be tracked, so you can see when they view your proposal, for how long, what content they view, where they’re viewing from, and more.
- Accessibility: Because web pages use clear HTML markup, accessibility tools like screen readers are able to figure out what content is on the page—meaning the 50 million Americans who have a disability will have no trouble accessing your proposals and documents (and you won’t fall afoul of the Office for Civil Rights).
- Editability: Unlike a PDF, web pages can be edited at any time, even after you’ve sent it to the prospect. So if you discover you’ve made a typo, you can quickly go in and change it before anyone notices.
Tools like Qwilr make it easy to create your proposals and other sales and marketing documents as web pages. You use the WYSIWYG interface to add text, photos, videos, prototypes and more to your proposal and when you’re finished, you simply email your prospective client a link instead of attaching a PDF.
Start with a template
Just like UI kits and CMS themes give you a head start on designing and building sites, there are some great website design proposal templates out there, like this one from Qwilr, that can give you a headstart on creating a great proposal.
They come with pre-written content like the sections mentioned above, beautiful images, pricing tables and more and can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes you to create and send proposals.
(Check out the proposal template here.)
Recycle your best content
It’s likely that you’ll be writing many website design proposals over the course of your career, and it makes no sense to start from scratch each time.
So I recommend doing one or more of the following:
- Save proposals you like in a dedicated spot: If you’ve created a proposal you think is particularly good, save it in a dedicated spot rather than just leaving it deep in your disorganized Google Drive or Dropbox. That way, when you need to create another proposal you can easily come back to it, make a few edits, and send it off.
- Save sections that you don’t change much: There are certain sections of website design proposals that don’t change much from proposal to proposal. Things like ‘About Us’ and ‘Our Team’ are great examples, and even the ‘Costs’ section can often be quite similar if you’re doing similar types of projects over and over again. So make a bit of a swipe file (even if it’s just in a Google Doc or Word Doc) where you drop in some of this reusable content, and then you can easily copy and paste it into new proposals in the future.
Nail the proposal
Writing winning web design proposals can be a drain on time and resources, there’s no doubt. But if you begin to think about your proposals as if you were an end-user and optimize the actual user experience of your sales prospecting, you can transform your efforts into a solid sales channel.
With a little bit of time and ingenuity, revamping your web design proposals can improve your close rate dramatically. Revamp your documents today with the sections we discussed above and start closing deals! To get a head start, here’s a link to a free website design proposal template.
Aaron Beashel is a B2B SaaS marketer currently leading marketing at Qwilr, a tool that makes it easy to create and send your proposals as beautiful web pages. When not marketing, you’ll find him surfing and snowboarding as much as he can.