How to Build a Proposal

How to Build a Proposal that Wins Over Customers’ Hearts and Online Signature

Lauren Bonk

We talk a lot about signing contracts over here at ApproveMe, with our main mission being to relieve the headache freelancers experience when trying to collect an online signature from their clients…

Some of you might be thinking, “An E Signature is all well and good, but how do I get my potential client to even want to sign a contract in the first place?”

Now, that’s a tricky question, isn’t it?

As a freelancer or small business owner, you know you’ve got a service or product that’s valuable, and you know there are people out there who need it. So, when a potential client comes along, it’s important to be able to effectively express how you can meet their needs.

That, fellow entrepreneurs, is why you need to learn how to build a proposal that will win over your customers hearts (and online signature).

The word “proposal” can sound a little intimidating… creating images of people in business suits talking about “name equity” and “scalability.” Let’s just move away from the jargon and break it down a little.

The dictionary defines the noun “proposal” as “a plan or suggestion, especially a formal or written one, put forward for consideration or discussion by others.”

That’s not so scary, right? Your plan here is to present what you have to offer so that someone can consider your services. But where do you begin?

Identify your potential client’s values.

Whether they’re looking for a graphic designer or a producer of hand-crafted, artisan drink-umbrellas, a prospective client is looking for a contract that will best meet their needs. Price, speed-of-production, and customer service are just a few of the qualities they might be evaluating, but the point is that it’s your job to do the research.

Ask a few important questions during your initial discussion that will give you a better idea of what they value. What is their story? Why do they do what they do? If you’re talking to a business owner, ask for a mission statement or links to their website and social platforms. Any information that can provide insight into their needs and standards will be helpful.

Once you’ve identified those crucial bits of information, it’s time to…

Refresh yourself on your values.

The goal of identifying your prospective client’s values is not to simply tell them what they want to hear. You don’t want to make promises you can’t keep just to score a contract, and you definitely don’t want to damage your reputation by not following through on your word.

The goal of that investigation is to find out which of the client’s values match yours. By highlighting the aspects of your services that fall perfectly in-line with what the client is searching for, you add new levels of desirability and authenticity to your offerings.

Example time. Let’s meet…


Brian and Tina:

Brian and Tina are getting married in the fall. Brian is a highly-respected bartender known across the tri-state area for his Pina Coladas, which are the perfect color of pale yellow. The couple would like to order 350 carefully-manufactured drink umbrellas in a complementary shade of blue. They’re shopping around for manufacturers, and want to find a happy medium of price and quality.

WordPress Contract Plugin - eSignaturePhoto credit by Unsplash

Amy is the owner of a small artisanal party favor business. She’s also a terribly savvy business woman, and decides to find out a little bit more about the happy couple. Rather than simply presenting the them with a catch-all proposal, she asks questions. What do they do for a living? Why are they placing such importance on the drink umbrellas?

WordPress Contract Plugin - eSignaturePhoto credit by Pexels

After finding out that Tina owns a specialty organic grocery store, Amy realizes that she has some very specific attributes that would set her apart from her competitors. When drawing up her proposal, she is sure to mention her exclusive use of recycled paper that has been dyed using local and natural colorants. Knowing that the specific shade of the umbrellas is important, she includes details about her extensive list of custom color options. She begins by stating her beliefs about quality workmanship on a small scale, and using responsibly sourced supplies to create her customized products.

When it comes time to choose between Amy and her competition, these are going to be the details that stick in the couple’s minds.

Now, we realize that all of this might seem a little… warm and fuzzy, right? You’re a business person who needs concrete details. You want to build a proposal that will take your customers on a tour of your business and ultimately lead them to a signature. We get that. There’s no dancing around the dollars, so let’s think of these hyper-personalized portions as… a tailored lead-in to the nitty-gritty and fine print.

The primary goal of this proposal is an expertly maintained two-way street; a signed contract that benefits both you and the client.

When you boil it down to the basics, it involves one person paying another person for their services or products. You’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty details of service, rates, and payment just like any other freelancer. Why not put forth the effort and set yourself apart from your competition?

One of the many benefits to learning about your customers  is being able to determine the tone formality of your proposal. If the reader comes from a strict corporate background, it might be a good idea  to approach your writing with a more formal tone, while a love-struck couple who feels strongly about drink umbrellas might appreciate something a little softer.


Regardless of your future customers’ personality, these five details must be included in your proposal:


  The quantity and description of services or goods being provided


  The date by which the job must be completed


  A clear and concise layout of your rates and (if applicable) material costs


  Provisions or details specific to your project that require extra time or fees


  Payment timeline

It’s important to be as clear as possible when outlining your rates; you don’t want to end up providing free services because you neglected to mention a part of your process.

The bottom line is that a customer will be looking for a bottom line.

Ultimate cost is a high priority for someone shopping around. If all you can provide is a generic list of services and a price, that’s all they will see. By writing a proposal that is directly written for a potential client, you’ll have a better chance of leaving an impression that is more than financially-driven. Scheduling an actual meeting to go over the proposal together can be a solid way for you to ensure that the client sees the details you carefully laid out before they flip to the last page.

Speaking of that last page…

Hopefully, all of the work you put into researching your reader’s needs pays off in the form of a signed contract. If you have the privilege of being able to meet your potential client in person, handing a physical contract to them won’t be an issue… but if your meeting is happening over the phone or a video call, it would take significantly longer to drop one in the mail or even wait for the scan/sign/fax transaction to happen remotely.

Wouldn’t, say, a WordPress Contract Plugin make that part of the process easier?


Here at ApproveMe, we’re here for you. While, yes, we do provide a product that helps you obtain a legal online signature quickly and easily, we also want to help cultivate a healthy and helpful environment in which entrepreneurs can function and thrive. We’re excited to provide educational and fun information around here, and we hope you’ll join 2,500 others by subscribing to our weekly freelancing tips.

Now, get on out there and start proposing!

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