When you send your next prospective client your work proposal, here are 10 tips to make sure that you get the most out of it:

1. Project outline

The project outline is just that – a general overview of the entire project, explaining what the client has in mind (according to your mutual discussions), and that you are professionally capable of delivering the desired results. The outline concludes on the premise that both parties are authorised to undertake this mutual project, and that both are committed to its success.

2. What you are going to do

This section goes into more details about the specific actions that you are going to take to complete the project. What webpages you are going to design, how many blog posts a month you are going to write, or what software modules you are going to develop. This is an excellent opportunity to ensure that the actions support the project outline and the desired outcome.

Divide the actions, or tasks, into manageable sections, and make sure that each section can and will be completed from start to finish (providing you follow the actions, of course), and that together they will complete the project.

3. What will be the result

Is the result going to be a new webpage? A complete CRM module? A new corporate logo? This section will probably be the one that the prospective client focuses on. Make sure that you are (a) delivering what you promised, (b) delivering what the client wants and (c) being realistic. If your promised result is ‘A new search engine better than Google’, then I would start thinking about that result again, as this is what you are expected to deliver when the project is complete.

The best sort of result is a quantifiable one – one complete CRM with X features, a designed newsletter template with 5 columns, and so on. This way, you’ll be able to know exactly when the project is complete.

4. How long is it going to take

Is the project going to take 10 days? 3 months? Business days or days in general? What if there’s an emergency? Have you factored that in?

If you already have experience with the sort of project you are giving a proposal for, you’ve probably got a good idea of how long it will take you. If not, then try to estimate, based on how many hours it will take you to complete each task, how long the entire project will take you.

Don’t underestimate the time it will take you, as you will find yourself short on time, but don’t play it safe either, as your prospective client probably won’t wait 6 months while you design a landing page for him. Also, make sure that it is understood that deadlines are mutual. If you ship over software to be tested, you cannot make progress without feedback from the client. If the project can be delayed if the client doesn’t fulfill their part, you need to make that clear.

5. What are you going to need from the client

Whatever the project, you’ll need something from the client. It could be access to his Google Analytics account, a complete set of his icons and colour design, or even a username and password to his social media accounts. Make sure that (a) you have to have these things to be able to do your job, and (b) you can’t start without them. If you sign a contract to design a client’s webpage based on his current logo, and he only sends it to you a month later – that’s a whole month wasted, as you can’t work based off something that you don’t have.

You can provide a detailed list here, or simply state that you will require X to get started, and that you can only start once you get X.

6. How much will this cost

Bottom line. How much are you charging for this project? It’s up to you if you want to break it down into details (I charge this and this amount for this specific action), or if you lump everything together (this is how much the project will cost the client).

Make sure that you include what the client is getting, and what isn’t included in the payment – advertising costs, shipping costs, hosting costs, VAT, etc.

7. How will the payment be done

Don’t be surprised, and don’t surprise your prospective clients. Be up front. Do you want to get paid as soon as the project is complete? 50% before, 50% after? 30 days after the invoice is sent? Via credit card, or PayPal transfer?

Make sure you are explicit here, to avoid potential confusion.