Freelance Proposals: The Last Guide You’ll Ever Need

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  • 10 mins read

Are you looking for a simple and easy to understand proposal for a freelance client project? 

Fantastic, you’re in the right place. 

Here’s a completely free freelancing gig proposal template for instant download without having to put in any personal information, sign up for anything, or pay any money. 

Whether you’re just starting out or just looking for ideas to improve on your existing proposal format. This should have you covered. 

Enjoy.

The best free freelance proposal template for instant download:

To use this, simply click on the link below, scroll over to “File” in the upper left corner, and then select “Make a copy”.

Get the proposal right here.

*Note, I am not a lawyer and this should not be taken as direct legal advice. This template is what i’ve used in the past, but you should always consult with a lawyer or legal counsel of your own prior to engaging with a client in any capacity.

Proposal vs contract

Now that you’ve got a template in hand, you’ll probably want to understand more about exactly what a proposal is. 

Not to be confused with a contract. 

Simply put, a proposal is a document that you send to a prospective freelance client that gives them an overview of what you can provide to them, that solves one or more needs that they have, alongside the specifics of how you will solve their need. 

Once they have reviewed the freelance proposal and gotten the chance to ask you questions, discuss terms, and sign, then it becomes a contract. 

Despite being similar, it’s an important distinction to make and it’s crucial that without specific terms of the engagement, your proposal won’t be a proper contract. 

Why proposals matter

You might be asking yourself “why the heck would I take time out of my busy schedule and billable hours to create some words in a document rather than just send a quote”? 

It’s an excellent question, and completely reasonable to ask. 

You see, for some businesses with products or services that are transactional and not very sophisticated, it is possible for someone to request a scope of work, or pay you directly for an air tight deliverable without a proposal. 

Some examples of this would be:

  • Setting up  a wordpress plugin
  • Moving data manually from one sheet into a database
  • Transcribing a podcast episode

The key to this kind of offering is that it’s done the exact same way every time, for the exact same price, and for every customer. 

If that’s your offer, then skip this section. 

But for those of you who do project based work, work with a variety of clientele, or offer different services depending on the needs of your client, a proposal is critical. 

It allows you to simultaneously accomplish 3 things:

  1. You get to dive into the client’s problems and potential solutions and determine if they are a good fit for you
  2. The client gets to see exactly what you offer and why you offer it which will help them orient themselves to your hopefully competitive pricing
  3. You get to align on the specifics of the offer prior to starting, and can discuss any potential roadblocks or friction points that might have arised after you both signed on the dotted line. 

A well thought out and streamlined proposal process can spare you of many forms of headache during your campaign or project with your clients. 

Before you create the proposal…

One of the most important aspects of a proposal actually happens before you ever create a document or type anything out within the proposal itself. 

It’s called client discovery. 

Now, in recent years the discovery call has gotten a bad reputation in some circles because salespeople have used it as a bait and switch to hard sell their products and services. 

That’s not what I mean by discovery. In my mind, a discovery call gives you a clear picture of the following crucial insights:

  1. What is the ideal outcome of working with you in the eyes of your client?
  2. What is your client’s existing experience with a provider like you?
  3. What kind of support will you need to give them relative to what you’re used to?
  4. What are their expectations of timing?
  5. What is their budget?
  6. Can you actually help them with the products or services you provide?
  7. Do you actually WANT to do business with them in the first place?

See what this initial discovery is so important? A mismatch in any one of those areas could completely derail a freelance project, or at the very least, make it drawn out and miserable for you. 

It doesn’t matter if you prefer to jump on a quick 15 minute call, send the client a discovery intake form, or sell a 60 minute audit prior to your full services as the discovery process. 

The point is to have a process, and stick to it. Do that and you’ll be golden. 

The must haves of a winning proposal 

1. Paint a picture of their unique problems & give them a glimpse into the future

This is the most crucial step and one that poor performing proposals will miss. 

It’s not enough to simply bullet point out a few services, slap a price on them, and put a line at the bottom for the client to sign. Especially if you’re a new freelancer and have yet to nail down your offer, establish yourself in the market, or if you’re working with an established business. 

Right from the beginning, you’ve got to paint a picture for them. A picture that shows that you vividly understand their unique situation (even if it’s mostly similar to your other clients) and how you were put on this earth to help them through that situation and otu to the other side. 

This can be in the form of an executive summary, listing out their desired outcomes, or a quick note at the beginning with your signature on it. 

The most important point is to take what you learned from your research or discovery process, and lead with the best takeaways. 

2. Clearly spell out why you’re the most qualified person to help them

In addition to letting your your prospective clients know that you understand them and their needs, it’s equally as important to show them why you’re the perfect  person to lead them to victory. 

That includes connecting the dots between your service, their needs, and your expertise. 

Here’s a rundown of some ways that you can accomplish this within the proposal:

  • Your personal history. You can include a picture of yourself, a video explainer, or simply a brief description of your origin story and your why. 
  • Existing or previous customer testimonials. A great place to start is by thinking of some of your favorite engagements where you and your client were overjoyed. You should ask these folks if you can quote them in your proposals and marketing materials. This shows potential future clients a glimpse of what working with you will feel like.
  • Example deliverables. Regardless of if you’re a graphic designer, virtual assistant, or even a hand model, you should have good work that you’re proud of to show off. This is a place to show a few examples of that work either as a screenshot or in the form of a mini case study. 

This section is a change for you to stand out and distinguish yourself from the rest of the market in their minds, use it wisely. 

3. Describe your offer in a compelling way

This might come as a surprise to you, but not everyone understands what you do. Particularly if you offer something highly technical like coding or SEO strategy. 

Adding a section that gives a quick and concise high level overview of each deliverable you offer is a great way to get buy-in from the client. 

Sometimes when prospects are confused, their first reaction is to put on the brakes or flat out reject things due to the uncertainty. But when there’s absolute clarity and they are bought in, they are much more likely to move forward and understand what they are paying for. 

A great way to frame these descriptions is “what is unique about my process with this offer?” and “what is the end solution and desired outcome this will provide them?”

That’s your sweet spot. 

4. List out the exact scope of work

Hopefully this one is obvious, but for the least amount of scope creep and the most legal protection on your end, it’s best if you list out every single deliverable you will be providing them. 

So instead of “content marketing program” you would be providing:

  • Monthly 30 minute analytics and strategy calls
  • One blog post per week
  • Monthly content calendar updates
  • Initial keyword research 
  • Monthly competitive analysis report from Moz

See how much more clear that is? 

It saves you and the client from the headache of having to constantly decide (and argue) about what is in scope, and what isn’t.

You’ll also be able to consistently start to provide and perfect your offer, while analyzing which services and engagements are providing you the best return on your efforts. 

5. Add in a delivery timeline

Timeline should establish what you are going to deliver, and when. If you are breaking the project up into phases, outline what each phase includes, and how long it will last in the worst case scenario. 

The key here is to plan for the worst case scenario (projects never take as long as you hope for) and give yourself a hard upper limit that you and the client agree to, so that they don’t drag the project along. 

It also benefits them because it holds you accountable to a set deadline so you aren’t tempted to procrastinate or put their work off if you get busy. 

6. Include clear and transparent pricing

Last but not least, comes down to the pricing section. 

Your proposal pricing should directly align with the scope of work that you outline and should include how you expect payment as well. 

It’s best practice to list out your hourly rate and expected amount of hours for each deliverable that you outlined, or if it’s project or value based pricing, list out what each deliverable costs them so they can evaluate the scope based on their needs. 

More proposal templates for freelancers by type

Even though the template listed at the top of this article is solid, it might help you even further to see some specific proposal examples based on the type of work that you do. 

If that sounds good, check these out:

Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the Founder of Best Freelancer Tools as well as a husband, former freelancer, recovering foodie, mini Australian shepherd puppy dad, and serial entrepreneur (mostly failures, lots of lessons). He is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential.