Look around the web for information on what to include in your graphic design proposal, and you'll come across things such as “executive summary,” “current situation,” “competition,” etc. Hogwash.
A proposal is just that — a proposal and not a contract. With so many prospective clients “playing the field,” it does not behoove you to spend a ridiculous amount of time preparing proposals. This is what you need in your proposals — and this is ALL you need. If your proposal requester needs you to research specifics, then they should pay a down payment and formally hire you. Proposal-seekers are one thing; clients are another thing entirely. Here's the scoop:
- Contact information
- Client's contact information
- Goals to be achieved
- Summary of work to be performed
- List of deliverables
- Fees estimate (Note: this is an estimate, and not a set-in-stone flat price. Charge hourly)
- Payment terms — when payments are due, and how they are to be submitted
- Legal terms — A quick summary of copyright retentions/transfers, NDAs, dispute resolutions, and other legal agreements that will be required in the contract. Again, this is a summary; the contract will spell these out specifically
- Mini-portfolio, including past work, clients and testimonials
What else could you really need? Sounding formal sounds stuffy. It's a new age of enterprise, where being cool and concise is a business. There's no reason why a proposal has to extend beyond two pages for most projects.
For smaller projects, include your legal information and turn your proposal into a work order, actionable as a contract upon signing. This streamlines the process even more.
This one's open for debate: How do you write your proposals?