How to Ace your First Website Proposal

As a freelancer I work regularly with design agencies. They have their own clients for which they have pitched and won work from. To win this work they would have competed with other agencies in what is know as a bid process. During this time a proposal document is submitted responding to the client’s offer.

The website proposal is your way of convincing the client that your company is right for the job. Question is how do you go about writing one? What information should you include? It’s certainly not something I learnt at university so where do you start?

A website proposal is a task in business problem solving not in demonstrating how good your company is.

To begin with you will need to understand that this is a persuasion tool whereby you are detailing to the client how you can best solve their business problems.

Try to understand your customer, show that you understand their need and then show your solution to their need. If you simply outline how wonderful your company is you will probably fall short. This is not what the proposal document is about. It is a problem solving document.

Before doing anything find out why your client needs your services. Some clients will be quite upfront as to why they need a website whilst others won’t and will require some research and asking questions. By asking questions you will uncover the underlying problems that the client is facing and wants you to solve.

Questions you may ask:

  • How are users finding your website? (If they have one)
  • What are they doing when they get there?
  • Is it easy for user’s to solve their goals and find answers?
  • How does it look on mobile and is it responsive?
  • Is it trustworthy and look professional?
  • What information is there about services?
  • Is the website easy to browse?
  • What is the contact experience like?
  • How easy is it to find a product / purchase a product?

If your client doesn’t have a website you will need to better understand the needs of the client and the motivations behind a new website. Researching these issues will help you to write your proposal.

Once the research is complete, use the following framework to structure your proposal document.

Let’s take a look at each of the following elements in turn:

  1. Goals & Objectives
  2. Recommended Solution
  3. Benefits
  4. Fee Summary
  5. Fee Schedule
  6. Estimated Project Timeline
  7. Next steps
  8. Terms & Conditions

1. Goals & Objectives

Also known as a problem statement, this section shows that you have understood the client’s problems. You’ve done your research and are putting your findings down for the first time in the form of a statement.

For example:

XYZ Company is looking to build their brand and web presence, for which there is currently none. An opportunity exists for the sale of locally sourced, quality vegetable and fruit boxes delivered weekly to homes in the North East of England. The website will be a lifestyle e-commerce site with regularly updated blog content, recipes, videos, photography and news items. The website will also need to be personal, lively and fun and will use social to heavily engage, attract and gain new customers online.

The website should include a postcode search to check delivery areas, a shopping cart for viewing and purchasing products, a cms for the site owner to manage orders and products and a customer admin area.

2. Recommended Solution

After defining our client’s issues in the problem statement we now provide a solution. Be persuasive here and highlight what you can do as a company. Show how your services solve their problem.

XYZ Company should consider building a website to grow their brand and web presence online and on social media. By being a first mover in the market XYZ Company will profit through customer gathering and retention through loyalty and social media initiatives built around the website. We will provide a website based on XYZ Company’s current branding which is mobile responsive enabling customer’s to purchase on their portable devices and at home on desktop computers. We will provide a content management system for the website to update pages, manage products and delivery schedules and a customer login area to manage orders, recipe postings and other customer generated content for the website. The website will be one of a kind in the North East of England championing fresh and sustainable food through a lifestyle themed website.

3. Benefits

We are going to educate the client now on how the website will benefit their business and improve profitability and their bottom line. Remember that web design and web development may be new terms for your client, so explain the benefits further.

We will work together to best deliver a website that solves your business problems. We will start with a discussion to define your business goals, aligning with your business strategy and providing you with a project plan. We will consider how best to layout your website to make it easy for customers to browse and purchase. We will consider user journeys and personas to see how we can best accommodate different user behaviours and needs. We’ll go over style ideas and provide visual mockups that you can edit until you are happy with the design direction. Our mockups will be provided in both desktop and mobile sizes making sure that they are user friendly leading to greater customer satisfaction, reduced bounce rates and increased sales.

We will then start building your website so that it loads quickly, is responsive and has a content strategy to promote your business, services and provide solutions for your customers.

Both the front end and back end will be designed with usability in mind. Our custom CMS will enable you to manage your products easily and fulfil orders quickly and efficiently. You will also be able to edit all aspects of your website pages with imagery, videos and content.

4. Fee Summary

Provide your pricing information in a readable, simple format. It doesn’t need to be too detailed here unless you are providing services for a complicated project that requires a budget schedule.

For example:

Customized website design and development

Our website process consists of 4 stages:

First meeting – Our first meetup will help us understand your client’s business needs and the needs of your customers. We’ll discuss design and content strategies that communicate the correct business message to your customers with SEO in mind,

Information architecture and design – Reinforcing the existing brand or starting from a fresh we’ll create a sitemap, sketches, wireframes and mockups.

Website construction – We’ll create a full website mockup and write the HTML/CSS code thus bringing your website to life.

Product launch – We’ll teach you how to use your custom CMS so you can add content to your website. We’ll then put your website live and welcome your first customers.

Project total cost

You may want to provide a price break down at a higher level although what we have will work for the majority of smaller projects. Larger projects may need a longer pricing structure and milestone payments.

5. Fee Schedule

The fee schedule will outline different points where payment is required or for smaller projects it may be as simple as requesting 30% payment invoiced on project approval and the remaining 70% invoiced on public deployment.

6. Estimated Project Timeline

Clients will need to know how long a project is going to take. A project timeline outlines when milestones will be met and what to expect as a deliverable. Without this the project can go astray with little direction and timing.

For example:

PhaseDate Completion
Wireframes XX.XX.XX
Mockups XX.XX.XX
Website construction XX.XX.XX
Testing and review XX.XX.XX
Deployment XX.XX.XX

7. Next Steps

Sometimes overlooked but for me one of the most important sections in the website proposal is the call to action. The client is happy with the proposal and is ready to go so what do they do next?

Here’s an example:

If you are happy with our proposal please follow these steps:

  1. Call us on XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX to accept the proposal as is or to make amendments.
  2. Sign the contract and email it to us at
  3. Please send us the initial 30% upfront cost.

Once we have received payment we will organise a time to have our first meeting to discuss your requirements, timelines and website design and build.

8. Terms & Conditions

The Terms & Conditions are the legal agreements between a service provider and a person who wants to use that service. The person must agree to abide by the terms of service in order to use the offered service. These will be different for each job although they will generally follow a format. Terms & Conditions hide ambiguities and outline what the client should expect avoiding lengthy and costly disagreements should the project go wrong.

And there’s more…
Making the proposal look professional

You owe it to yourself to present your proposal in the best professional light. Work on the layout, spacing, typography and style. Add your logo and think about adding a style to the header and footer. A good first impression will make your bid memorable and help you win it!

As a finishing note and as already discussed the proposal is a tool to help you outline how you are going to solve your client’s problems. It isn’t advisable to list a bunch of services that you provide, if the client wants to do this they can visit your website.

If it doesn’t talk about the client’s problems in some way, it doesn’t belong in your proposal, so keep it out!

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