Only slightly less daunting than a budget proposal, creating a project proposal can be still be intimidating. Creating a proposal often means confronting worst case scenarios in addition to bringing your idea into the world, where it can be met with confirmation or, in some cases, condemnation.
Before you can present it, you’ve got to create it. Follow these formatting and proposal template tips below to create a successful project proposal.
Start with a Summary
Begin your proposal by essentially wrapping the whole thing up. The summary should be short, clear and concise while still covering the project overall. Include the problem, objectives, timeline, key elements and high-level budget.
Remember, the summary is the first part of the proposal, and for some execs, it might be the only part they read. While it comes first in the project plan template, refrain writing the summary until you’ve completed other parts of the proposal. This should be written last, when you feel you have a full grasp for the project.
For the most part, summaries should stay under 10 lines in length.
Even if your audience for the proposal is well informed on your project, make sure you take the time to provide context. It’s important not only to inform your reader, but it also shows you have done the work and understand the challenge holistically. Cite outside sources when applicable, and include data and historical context where necessary. Use background to set the scene for your proposed solution.
This section should be under a page in length.
Plainly state your objectives before diving into the heart of the proposal. What will this proposal achieve?
This section should be short and to the point. Objectives can even be stated using bullet points.
Project Outline/Solution Outline
The "project approach", or justification section, is the most varied industry to industry when it comes to proposals. Some of these subsections might be irrelevant to your project, so use discretion when outlining this section.
State the problem
What’s the justification for your proposal? Why do you need to solve this problem. This is a short summary (a few lines) of the challenge the team faces.
Explain your approach
This is an introduction to the solution. Explain what you are prioritizing in the solution itself. What are the most important elements to consider? What will you prioritize and deprioritize?
Propose your strategy
With your approach and problem laid out, now is your opportunity to explain your solution and business strategy. This explanation should be short and high-level, as you will continue to fill in the gaps and outline the strategy in later sections.
This section takes you deeper into the solution you are offering. Here, you will provide information regarding your team or company’s capabilities. Explain the background, previous successes, and why your team is uniquely qualified to work on this project.
In addition to introducing your team, start to address timelines and budgets. Once again, this will be more in depth, including time, dates and possible vendors. You’ll want to pad out time and budget appropriately--everyone loves a project done early and under budget. You can also use the timeline and budget section to address cavitates or potential problems. This might sound like admitting weakness, but in reality, it’s letting your audience know how prepared you are to tackle possible obsticles.
Length of execution summaries can vary widely based on the breadth and depth of the project. It's the moment where your preparation will show, so always err on the side of more over less.
Metrics of Success
Teams often forget to consider this section, but it’s arguably one of the most important of a project proposal. While you have a solution, you need to let your readers understand expectations, and by what manner you will evaluate the success of your work. If it’s an event, a metric of success might be attendance numbers. If you’re proposing a new software in the office, a metric of success may be time saved or number of times the application is used per day.
A metric of success takes the high level solution you're offering and breaks it down into measurable segments. This section doesn’t need to be long, but it needs to address how you are evaluating success.
Wrap up your proposal by highlighting key points mentioned above. Similar to the summary, this section should be concise, while still addressing all parts if the proposal.
Remember, while a proposal can be scary, it’s also the first step in making an idea come to life--it’s worth getting excited about. Your excitement will transfer into the proposal itself, so do your best to stay positive and create something you’re proud of!
Still Need help?
Here are some additional project proposal templates you can use:
- Tips & Examples for A Project Proposal
- Project Proposal Writing Guide
- Defining the Project Scope: Tips & Free Project Plan Template
Or if you want direct one-on-one help, you can book a free consultation with one of Ace-up's Business Coaches. They're the best in their fields and knowledgeable on a variety of industries.