What strategies can I take to write a good project proposal document?

So far the way I write them is that I include 3 main sections:

  • Technical Details
  • Delivery Items
  • Cost Estimation

My understanding is that this should be a document that describes in general how you plan to deal with the project. Should I go into as many details as possible so early?

  • 1
    Value, value and value to the stakeholders/organization - the rest is pointed in the answers below :)
    – PhD
    Dec 7, 2011 at 8:38

5 Answers 5


Looking at this from the other side, as someone who has tended to be on the buying rather than the selling side, here's what I want from a proposal:

  1. A clear indication of the scope of work, which should reflect what I have asked for (but not just a cut and paste from my words). I want to be sure that you understand my requirements, and also understand the context of my request... i.e. I want to be sure that you appreciate how the project's success or failure will impact on my business.
  2. The cost that I will pay, clearly described in terms of whether this is an estimate, a firm quote, what the components are (hardware / software / labour / project management / etc etc etc). - And also what criteria would cause a variation from the cost. I don't want to be paying for your team to get trained on the specific technology because I am the first customer that you have tried it on. And don't forget to mention the ongoing costs of licences, support, etc. That is as important to me as the up-front capital cost.
  3. Some indication of the experience of your team. I want a team that has proven skills, at least across the main players. I will accept some less experienced people as long as I am not paying full rate for them... perhaps. I also want to be sure that you are not going to put people into the project up front, then pull them off when a new project comes along, substituting less experienced people or making me share them with another customer.
  4. Your technical approach. If I have asked for a particular technology, you should reflect this back to me, or explain why you think you have a better solution. If I have not been specific, I want to know what approach you will take. I need to be sure that it is consistent with my strategy, or if not, how it will impact on me and my team.
  5. I would also like to know something about your organisation: who I will be dealing with and where any issues can be escalated to if necessary. I need to know why I should use your company rather than your competitors, and how you will help me to sleep at night without worrying whether I made a poor decision.

The proposal should be well structured, perhaps mirroring the 5 points in my answer, and relatively concise. Please don't pad it out with multiple testimonials or elaborate resumes of everyone in the company. Just tell me what I need to know. It should be spell-checked, and grammatically correct. And if you are emailing it to me, don't fill it with elaborate graphics that will clog my mailbox, or use unusual file formats. A simple MS Word document or a PDF file will do nicely!

Good luck with your proposals. And by the way, I have written this answer based on the assumption that you are selling your services to an external customer, but I suggest that the same principles would be equally valid for an internal customer, but with perhaps a different emphasis or weighting applied to the different parts of the document.


A lot depends on the audience.

Figure out who has the biggest say (and its not always the boss) and who WILL read the report.

Then tailor the proposal for them.

You should always cover all the bases anyway just for completeness sake, but figuring out who has the most input in the decision making process and focusing on them tends to work best.


If you are competing, then it is less about the project and your approach and more about why you and your company. Once the approach is described, the language needs to become about benefits to the buying organization and why it is your company that can deliver them. Proof points become important. Ghosting, where you in a professional way degrade your competitors, becomes important.

The proposal outline should mirror the buyers SOW or RFP. that way they can easily map your prop back to their requirements. Since labor is part of the deal, you can also include a summary on key personnel you plan on deploying.


Another important aspect is your past performance. You should list some similar projects you have completed with a brief description as well as contact information for the project customer. That way the person reviewing your proposal can check your "references". If you have previously created something easily accessible such as graphics or a website, it is good to include a link to allow them to see a portfolio of your work.


Here are a few key areas to include in a project charter:

  1. Project Goals
  2. Project Deliverables
  3. How the Deliverables Meet the Goals
  4. Anticipated Team Members
  5. Estimated Costs
  6. Estimated Durations
  7. Assumptions
  8. Risks
  9. Constraints
  10. Past History / Track Record

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