How to Write a Proposal and Get What You Want (Free Templates)

how to write a proposal

A proposal has a lot of different purposes, but there’s only one good way to write one: the way that pulls together all of the information in a concise and persuasive way and helps you get what you want … whether that’s a whole new software system, or just a tweak to your marketing strategy.

This Process Street article isn’t about a business proposal — also known as a quote — but instead about the document required when formally pitching an idea for action and execution by managers or department heads.

To explain how to write a proposal document and get what you want, we’ll go through the following:

Let’s get started.

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Free proposal writing template

If you fancy taking a quick look at a free interactive template, that will help you write your proposals right away, feel free to dive straight into this!

Writing a Proposal: Step-by-Step Guide

There are more templates, like this one, further down in this post, so stick around.

When are proposals necessary?

Any project you don’t have the clearance or authority to start without a higher-up’s approval, you need to submit a proposal for.

According to SSWM, a proposal is “a detailed description of a series of activities aimed at solving a certain problem”.

That problem  could be anything, from:

  • Process improvement
  • Cost reduction
  • A new marketing strategy

If it’s an idea you need to ask permission to execute, or to get action on, it needs a proposal.

Why are proposals important?

A proposal is a way to pitch an idea and state your requirements, so it’s important for supervisors because they can get information in writing (not casually in the elevator), and be able to act knowing the full implications of their decision. They’re also a chance for you to make a structured, logical argument and lay down everything in favor of your idea. A well-written proposal shows your manager you care about the cause, and it’s not just a mid-meeting whim you blurted out.

Examples of proposals

It’s a broad topic, but it’s best explained with examples.

Below is a simple proposal example with some basic sections.

Now let’s take a look at how to write a proposal — whether it’s as simple as the one above, or more complex.

How to write a proposal: step-by-step

Here’s the general structure of a proposal:

As you can see, a proposal generally consists of:

  • Introduction: A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits.
  • Issue: The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.
  • Solution: The main definition of the solution, including your step-by-step plan, the benefits, and how potential obstacles will be overcame.
  • Qualifications: Overview of the personnel required, experience.
  • Conclusion of the costs and benefits, and wrap-up: Balance the cost against the benefit, reinforce your point one last time.

1. Identify and define your reader

Just like with any kind of persuasion, it helps if you understand how to appeal to your audience. Who will be reading your proposal and deciding if it’s accepted or rejected? What do they care about? What kind of language and benefits would resonate with them? This is the first step because it’s an important thing to keep in mind as you go along and as information that informs the way you write from here on.

2. Define the problem your proposal will solve

Who: Who will the proposal affect?

What: What’s the reason for you to write the proposal in the first place? Explain the current situation and the problems that come with it.

3. Define the solution

How: How are you going to solve the problem? Explain step-by-step in detail.

Who: Identify the personnel you need, along with their prior experience to add persuasion to the proposal

4. Conclusion: costs, benefits and wrap-up

Reiterate: The purpose and main argument

Costs: Break down the projected costs involved for different elements of the project

Benefits: Break down the benefits to the organization, monetary and non-monetary, to persuade the reader there’ll be a return on investment

Thanks: Thank the reader for their time.

Contact information: Where can the reader get in touch with you? Make sure to be crystal clear to make the details easily discoverable.

Last steps before submitting the proposal

Clear writing is your best friend when you’re trying to write persuasively. For that reason, there are a few checks to run before you submit your proposal.

Remember, what’s clear to you might not always be clear to other people.

1 .Check for jargon (then destroy it)

Although jargon is popular in the business world, not everyone shares the equal love for it. It’s terms like right-size, blue sky (verb), turn-key, and synergize. They might mean something to you, or make you feel intelligent, but there are simpler alternatives that will help people understand what you mean!

2. Change the passive voice to the active voice

The passive voice is defined as:

“The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (e.g. The enemy was defeated by our troops).”.

It’s a long-winded way of expressing something that could be expressed in simple terms:

passivevoice

The passive voice sounds distant and even deceptive, and, since the reader might even just be skimming your proposal, you don’t want to add extra words to cloud your point.

3. Proofread the proposal

Install a tool like Grammarly and check the proposal in an online text editor. Grammarly will manage to pick up on anything that is grammatically incorrect and sometimes even flags up stylistically poor phrases. Poor spelling and grammar will only discredit the value of what you’re saying and could be a problem that leads to your proposal being rejected.

More free proposal writing checklists

As promised, check out the below five templates that have each been designed, by the team at Process Street, to help you write winning proposals.

Proposal Template Checklist Process

This proposal template is a checklist that should be used alongside the proposal document you are planning to submit. Use it to make sure that all the elements have been considered, that the proposal contains everything it needs to and that it meets all set requirements.

Click here to access the Proposal Template Checklist Process!

Business Proposal Template Checklist

Whether your business proposal is solicited or unsolicited, use this business proposal template checklist to ensure you include all the required information in your proposal and cover key areas such as these the problem the organization is facing, the proposed solution, the budget, and a key CTA.

Click here to access the Business Proposal Template Checklist!

How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist

Use this template to make sure your grant proposal includes all the relevant information, that it contains everything it needs to, and that it meets all stated RFP requirements.

Click here to access the How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist!

Research Proposal Example Checklist

Use this template to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it.

Click here to access the Research Proposal Example Checklist!

Project Proposal Template Checklist

Use this template, alongside the proposal document you are planning to submit, to set the project vision, define the project requirements, describe the deliverables, and specify the deadlines.

Click here to access the Project Proposal Template Checklist!

Even more free proposal writing checklists

If you’re looking for more inspiration, give these alternative proposal writing templates a go too.

Customize your proposal checklists with Process Street

If the above templates don’t quite fit your company, industry, or the proposal document you are writing, don’t worry!

Process Street to the rescue!

Process Street is super-powered checklists. We are a super-charged, state of the art BPM SaaS platform which allows you to create templates and run individual checklists from these. You can check tasks off as you work through them, set deadlines, request approvals, assign various tasks, and work through your proposal workflows with ease.

Watch this to get an idea about who we are and what we do:

To help you customize your proposal writing template, and make your proposal wriitng easier, you can use all these different types of Process Street features:

You can also connect your templates to thousands of apps through Zapier, webhooks, or API access to automate your proposal processes and workflows.

If you’re unfamiliar with process automation, what it means, and the benefits it can bring to your business, watch this Process Street webinar on automation:

Remember, if you want to get access to any of our proposal writing checklists, just click the links above and they will be added to your Process Street account where you can use them over and over again. Or, if you haven’t yet signed up for a Process Street account, click here and start your free trial.

Has this guide helped you out? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Benjamin Brandall

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, and runs Secret Cave on the side. Find him on Twitter here.


78 Comments

I really loved your paper on how to write a proposal. I looked up others and found total satisfaction when I came across yours! Thanks again
Tanya Palacios

Very nice and excellent advice and coaching on proposals writing. I will always keep in touch for more information.

After reading your post,it now became crystal clear that proposals are not easy…But thanks alot. You’re a good teacher

i want to write proposal for study PhD but i dont know how to write it
can you send to me example
thank you very much
best regards

Hi Mays, There’s some good advice here in regards to writing a PhD proposal: https://www.findaphd.com/advice/finding/writing-phd-research-proposal.aspx

My personal advice would be to really demonstrate strength when outlining your methodology. This section is a great opportunity to display deep knowledge of methodological approaches and their academic grounding. Make sure to cite the foundational texts for the approach you want to take and to reference current academic discussions pertinent to your particular application of that approach. If you can find a recently published PhD thesis which takes a similar methodological approach to you own then you can read through their methodology section to give yourself both inspiration and a great starting point for building a methodology reading list for yourself.

Best of luck!

Además, asimismo desarrolla otros proyectos de formación en línea sobre marketing digital y nuevas tecnologías
con la finalidad de instruir a emprendedores de qué
forma crear un proyecto digital para vender sus conocimientos.

I’m really happy to learn from this paper.I’ve increased my knowledge in proposal writing.Thanks

Wow!
You’re really doing a nice work, really haven’t got it detailed and simplified before.

Nice job. I am a professional proposal writer in lagos Nigeria and I must confess that you have done a good job on this article. I learnt a few new things. Keep up the god work

the explanation is very complete I am happy to be able to find articles on various types of letters and I can learn here thanks for all the articles

Thank you for the little experience I have achieved on proposal writing. Can you give me a broad idea on a proposal I wan to write, I want to do a Clean City proposal…

Very informative, really appreciated your expertise. I learned quite a bit. Thank you, I’m all set, also number two (2.) Change the passive voice to the active voice is something for me to remember when I’m writing.

I sincerely appreciate you for this brilliant presentation. I still need to know more about the solicited proposals.
Thanks!

I have an idea of how to write the proposal but would am unsure and would rather see what the experts have to say about it. Thanks!

This piece has given me a clearer understanding on how to and what to look out for in writing a proposal.
But I will be more grateful if u can give me a template and points on how to write a proposal to a state government to train their young people on drug abuse and how to minimize the current menace it is causing to our society.
Thanks, it was a nice experience.

Glad to hear you liked it. We don’t have any templates specific to that use case, but we will look to create some more soon. Cheers, Adam

I never knew on how to write a proposal but now I have got something from you thank you. But I would like an example of a professional proposal …… as for me am writing a proposal on the need to make clubs for youth of East Africa based science, technology and arts plz I need it very soon even today

Hi Naomi,

We don’t currently have any examples for you, but we are working on a set of processes to follow to help people write proposals like these. It should be published in a few weeks.

For the time being, perhaps look at what different organizations say they want. Here are a few examples from the UK:

– Warwickshire Community And Voluntary Action (CAVA) have this document where they ask people to send them proposals to start youth programmes. They explain what they are looking for and how they will judge the proposal.

– Here is another example but this time from an organization in Manchester, UK. This has instructions and requirements, and you can use its specifications as inspiration for how to create your proposal.

I hope some of this makes the proposal writing process clearer.

Best of luck,
Adam

i thank you for that and now i am requesting for help, i am a student first year and my ambition is to help the orphans i would like you to help me how to write a proposal of that kind. thank you.

Living in a rural setting in Uganda- am writing a proposal to ask for financial donations to buy agricultural inputs, medical assistance etc for my community- this website has helped to put ideas together and to hopefully come out with a winner! Thank you!.

am very greatful to receive such an skillful knowledge from you,but may i pls receive a sample of how to write a proposal for starting a small scale printing firm just in kenya.

thank you in advance


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