Proposal writing best practices

May 08, 2022

With the right tools and some best practices, anyone can create a persuasive and compelling proposal.

Let’s face it, proposal writing is hard. Tight deadlines, multiple authors, vague requirements – it’s enough to make even the most experienced writer overwhelmed. And for technical staff or marketers new to writing proposals, the task can feel impossible. But with the right tools and some best practices, anyone can create a persuasive and compelling proposal.

Here are some proposal writing best practices:

  • Know your audience. The most important person in any proposal pursuit is the client. They are the ones who decide whether you get the project, and they are the ones you are trying to impress. Before you start working on a proposal, you should think about your audience, what they value most, and how that will impact your content. When you understand who your client is and what is important, you will be able to create more impactful writing.
  • Show don’t tell. One of the ways you can demonstrate your understanding of a client and project is to back up claims with specific examples and past successes. Don’t rely on buzzwords or statements of fact to prove your qualifications. If your client has a limited budget, it’s not enough to say, “We have experience working within tight budget constraints.” Give examples of past projects and explain how that experience will translate directly to the client’s proposed project.
  • Spend time where it counts. Time is one of the most important resources in our industry – and one of the rarest. That’s why you need to learn how to prioritize your time. Think about how the proposal will be judged and what’s going to make or break your submission. When you’re low on time and juggling multiple deadlines, you don’t want to rush through what’s important. No one has ever lost a project because their cover isn’t exciting enough, or their project sheets weren’t in the perfect order. However, plenty of firms have lost projects because their approach feels boilerplate, confusing, or rushed.
  • Be brief. People have short attention spans, and that includes selection committees. Your proposal is one of many submissions they will be reviewing, so you need to make your case clearly and concisely. By keeping proposals brief, you are more likely to keep the audience fully engaged. Don’t overwhelm them with information, and think about ways to supplement text with easily digestible graphics, photos, or charts. If a client starts skimming sections because your proposal is too text heavy or long, they could miss the most important details.
  • Be proactive, not reactive. One of best ways to improve your proposals is to be proactive. Don’t wait until a deadline is approaching to create new staff resumes or project sheets; have a set process so they get done before the next proposal even starts. When materials and information are easy to pull together, you can avoid making needless mistakes when rushing.

In the end, practice makes perfect. The tools above are great, but they won’t help you improve unless you put them into action. Try volunteering to take on more proposal responsibilities or look back at past proposals to see where your submissions can improve. Think about areas that take the most time, and how you can change that. Proposal writing can be intimidating, but you have to leave your comfort zone in order to grow. 

Julia DeFrances is a marketing coordinator at BL Companies, Inc. She can be reached at

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