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:
- Free proposal writing template
- When are proposals necessary?
- Why are proposals important?
- Examples of proposals
- How to write a proposal: step-by-step
- Last steps before submitting the proposal
- More free proposal writing checklists
- Even more free proposal writing checklists
- Customize your proposal checklists with Process Street
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.
To write a top proposal you need to scrutinize it before you present it.
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:
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 — makers of the finest remote work software for processes around — 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.
- Bid Proposal Template Checklist
- Budget Proposal Template
- Construction Proposal Template Checklist
- Consulting Proposal Template Checklist
- Continuation Project Proposal Template
- Contractor Proposal Template Checklist
- Event Proposal Template Checklist
- Marketing Proposal Template Checklist
- Project Proposal Template
- Renewal Project Proposal Template
- Simple Proposal Format Checklist
- Sponsorship Proposal Template Checklist
- Supplemental Project Proposal Template
- Website Proposal Template Checklist
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:
- Stop tasks
- Dynamic due dates
- Task permissions
- Conditional logic
- Approval tasks
- Embed widget
- Role assignments
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.
I am strongly looking forward to learning how to write a proposal, thanks
Thanks Honar, it’s an honor to have you here 😉
I am looking forward to learning how to write a great proposal. Thanks for posting this site.
Practice makes perfect, just keep it up and you will get there!
Looking forward for you to checklist and using it to edit my proposal…. thx a lot
Awesome, and remember you can sign up for a free account for life, no credit card required to run up to 5 checklists for proposals or anything else!. Check out more about Process Street here: https://www.process.st/product/
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
We are very pleased to hear that.
thanks a lot for helping me understand proposal writing more clearly. Am very grateful.
Of course, proposal writing can be tricky, but if you follow the templates we provide you will quickly see it’s not that difficult. Proposals follow the same structure most of the time, once you learn that structure it’s easy to create proposals quickly.
Very nice and excellent advice and coaching on proposals writing. I will always keep in touch for more information.
Excellent writing Benjamin. Definitely agree with the destroying jargons part. There’s no need for these kinds of words for project proposals. Anyway, here’s an informative step-by-step guide that I’d like to share regarding writing project proposals: https://www.freenvoices.com/how-to-write-project-proposal. I believe that this will complement your well-written article and your readers too. 🙂
Great post Evatt, thanks for sharing!
I am in the process of drafting a proposal for a multi-million deal. Looking forward to getting pointers to make my proposal a seller!
After reading your post,it now became crystal clear that proposals are not easy…But thanks alot. You’re a good teacher
Hey Vitalis, yes they take some practice but you will get there. Just keep it up!
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
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.
Your blog is very informative. Nice you tried to provide a crystal clear information on this topic!
Nice one, at least have got an idea now about proposal writing
Appreciate the guidelines on how to write an explicit formal proposal.
You are most welcome Ogoh, we’d love any feedback you may have in the future!
Appreciate for providing knowledge on proposal writing
I’m really happy to learn from this paper.I’ve increased my knowledge in proposal writing.Thanks
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
Thanks Mr Sam, always good to have the support of an expert.
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
We tried our best Zaki, thanks for the kind words
nice suggestions. thanks
Thanx for the great work U have done towards my exprienc on Proposal writing.May God bless U.
You did a great job in outlining all the nitty-gritty of writing a great proposal in this article. Kudos!
Thank for sharing this knowledge
It was a pleasure!
Write a comment…great work but I need a proposal on how to start car wash business inside school
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…
Hey Darious, check out these posts we wrote on sustainability:
so grateful for the information.
Very happy to learn how to write a proposal from you.
Very happy to help you 🙂
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.
Yes that’s a great tip!
It is really great, I would like to know more about writing a great proposal about enhancing bank customer service
Sounds like an important project, you might also enjoy this post: https://www.process.st/enterprise-risk-management/
I sincerely appreciate you for this brilliant presentation. I still need to know more about the solicited proposals.
I would like to know how to write a good proposal .
I’m looking forward to be the best in writing proposal, in the organization
Good luck with your endeavors Paul!
I want to learn how to write project proposals
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!
I want to write a proposal to get a generator for my hospital as a back up
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
Glad you enjoyed the experience 🙂
Thanks very much for the well explained presentation.
Hello. This is very good and helpful, I need help to write a proposal for freelancing and content writing. Thanks
I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but we have an article here about pitching to TechCrunch: https://www.process.st/write-for-techcrunch/
I hope it helps!
You are most welcome!
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
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,
This may also help:
Good luck with your proposal Naomi! Sounds like it’s for a great cause..
Thats great. I have learned alot thanks.
I need to know how to write a proposal writing. Can u give an example plzz…..
Hi Sapioamoa, you can find a collection of examples here: https://www.process.st/proposal-template/
I hope this helps!
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.
Hey Deo. It sounds like you’re doing great work. Check out these proposal templates. They should help you!
thank you so much sir
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!.
That’s great to hear we’ve been able to help! Best of luck Catherine!
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
Thanks for the kind comment, Elijah. You might be able to find some more useful information in our most recent article about proposals (with lots more templates) here: https://www.process.st/proposal-template/
Nice one. Thanks for this.
Glad to hear it helped, Deji!
Glad you enjoyed this, Lillian! ⭐️
This is what i was looking for so long. Thanks for summing up all these informations about how to write a proposal. I’m really glad that you add these free template 🙂
Awesome, glad you enjoyed the templates. Was there a particular one that you found most helpful?
Are you still free to give feedback? Happy New Year btw.
Sure we are here to give feedback! Just leave your question about proposal writing in the comments and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
I feel this is among the most vital information for me.
And i’m glad reading your article. But want to statement on few normal
things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is truly excellent
: D. Excellent activity, cheers
Glad to hear you enjoyed it!
Hi,have learned a lot from you,could you please help me to write a proposal how to spend on projects in a christian organization
Not sure how that would be any different, but if you have a specific question about writing proposals I’d be happy to answer it 🙂
Thanks sir for your post.
I’am very greatful to receive such an skillful knowledge from you
Any organization needs a visual identity these days. It includes a unique logo, colors, wordmark, typeface, and some visual elements like illustrations and iconography that makes a memorable first impression and sets the brand apart from the competitors.
Am glad to have gotten more ideas than I expected on how to write a proposal. All in one article.