How to Write a Freelance Writing Proposal

You’ve spent countless hours honing your writing craft…

But are you giving your freelance writing proposals the attention they deserve?

Great proposals open doors and launch lucrative new businesses relationships. Mediocre ones don’t just waste of time and energy; they put off the best clients.

Many writers don’t understand how crucial their proposals are. Others recognize they’re important, but they don’t know what to do to make them great.

Tired of blending in with your competitors and missing out on dream clients?

There’s another way.

Keep reading to save time, avoid where most freelance writers go wrong, and start submitting proposals that land clients.

Poor Proposals Make Clients Think You’re an Incompetent Writer

A lot of talented writers gloss over this important part of client acquisition. They submit proposals only because they have to; clients expect to see them before hiring anyone. But they don’t put much time or thought into the process.

These writers are making a costly mistake. They think their portfolios or low prices will save the day, but they don’t realize their proposals are ending conversations with potential clients before they even begin.

Bottom line: poor proposals give clients the wrong idea about your potential as a writer.

Freelance writers are expected to produce compelling content no matter their niche. Clients won’t trust you to create it for them if you can’t even hold their interest in your proposals.

Why Proposals Are Even More Important for Freelance Writers

Technology has made today an exciting time for budding writers across the globe. But it’s also made competition for the best freelance writing work intense.

The barrier to entry is incredibly low. You don’t need a degree or start-up capital. All it takes to get started—besides writing chops— is a little patience and a computer with an Internet connection.

That means the number of freelance writers vying for projects will always outnumber the available opportunities. The best clients have their pick from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of quality writers for every project they offer.

These clients – the people you really want to work with – get bombarded with boring, generic proposals all the time. There isn’t enough time in the day to get through them; anything that loses their interest for even a second gets thrown away or ignored

Landing good clients doesn’t have to be a struggle for you, though. Put your best foot forward in your proposals, and you’ll stand out from the slush pile filling clients’ inboxes.

Here’s how…

The Anatomy of a Persuasive Freelance Writing Proposal

You can submit freelance writing proposals packed with persuasive language and all the right content…

But those proposals won’t land as many clients as they should if you don’t organize that content in a way that grabs attention and persuades clients to hire you.

It doesn’t matter if you write sales copy, blog posts, white papers, or anything else. Adopting the basic structure below will increase your chances of getting attention and landing clients.

Persuasive freelance writing proposals contain three important elements:

  1. Problem statement
  2. Proposed solution
  3. Pricing information

Including these elements in your proposals gives you a solid foundation to build on. You’ll save time because you won’t have to start from scratch. And it’s easy to tailor your proposals to suit specific clients and projects.

Problem Statement

You can’t help clients solve their problems if you don’t have a clear idea what those problems are.

That’s why the problem statement is one of the most important elements in any freelance writing proposal. Forgetting to include one (or including one anywhere besides the beginning of your proposals) makes your proposal look like all the other boring ones flooding your clients’ inboxes. Your proposal loses its edge.

Why? Because clients won’t hire you unless they’re confident you understand their needs. The better you can identify the needs beneath a client’s writing project and convey that knowledge in your proposal, the better your chances of getting hired.

The best way to illustrate the difference between a bad problem statement and a good one is through an example. Let’s say a client wants to hire someone to write weekly blog posts on their company blog.

A poor problem statement might look like this:

XYZ Company is looking to meet the demands of an ambitious editorial calendar for their company blog. This will be accomplished by weekly blog articles of around 1,500 words, covering topics related to XYZ Company’s software products.

This problem statement is weak because all it does is reiterate the client’s project requirements. It doesn’t delve deeper and get to the heart of the issue: why the client wants weekly blog posts in the first place.

A better problem statement could go like this:

XYZ Company needs to focus on content marketing in order to fill its lead pipeline and reclaim market share lost to ABC Company over the past year.

Weekly blog posts on software-related topics will help XYZ Company establish itself as a thought leader online, build credibility among potential customers, and drive additional search engine traffic to XYZ Company’s website.

See the difference? This problem statement shows the client the writer understands the deeper issues (getting more leads and gaining on competitors) that drove the client to offer the blogging gig. Conveying that understanding separates you from the masses instantly.

Some clients won’t even know what their underlying problems are. Others won’t be able to express them. All they know is they need to improve one way or another… and they think writing is the best way to do it.

Do some homework before submitting proposals. You don’t need an MBA. But a little digging about your client’s business, competitors, and their niche—and sharing any insights in your proposal—sends a clear message: you understand them better than any other writer.

Proposed Solution

After you pinpoint the client’s underlying problems, it’s time to offer your solution.

Your proposed solution section is where you offer a specific combination of writing services designed to address the client’s underlying problems.

You might think you’re offering freelance writing services, but you’re actually offering business solutions. Solutions are the only things clients are interested in paying for anyway.

Unfortunately, a lot of freelance writers just list their recommended services without tying them to client benefits. Their proposed solution sections end up looking like laundry lists… and they’re about that boring to clients.

Here’s how a mediocre proposed solution could look:

We recommend weekly posts on Company XYZ’s blog of around 1,500 words per post. These posts would focus on Company XYZ’s software. The content would consist of company news, case studies featuring happy customers, and opinion pieces relevant to the interests of Company XYZ’s target audience.

See the issue? The writer doesn’t spell out why those specific writing services are the best choices to help the client. That puts the burden on the client to figure it out on their own. Most of them won’t do that; it’s easier to move on to another proposal.

A better proposed solution might look like this:

We recommend weekly posts on Company XYZ’s blog of around 1,500 words per post. We’ve found this to be the ideal length when it comes to ranking well on various search engines—which drives free traffic to Company XYZ’s website—and generating reader engagement.

Posts would use a conversational tone to draw in readers and encourage sharing among their social media networks. Posts would also be supported by links to academic research and content from other authorities in Company XYZ’s niche. Publishing engaging, data-driven content—and doing so consistently—will help build Company XYZ’s list of email subscribers and thought leadership over time.

This variation is much more appealing to clients because there isn’t any work required on their part. It’s easy to see why the services are good choices because the writer already laid the groundwork by tying them to key benefits.

Pricing Information

The pricing information section (usually called the Fee Summary) is a critical piece in any freelance writing proposal. A lot of writers get intimidated here; they either hide their prices, or they end up making them so complicated clients can’t understand them.

You can avoid that anxiety by keeping one principle in mind: clarity. If you can make your pricing section easy for clients to read and understand, you’ll separate yourself from 99% of the other writers bidding on the projects you want.

What’s the best way to keep things simple? Displaying your pricing information section in a grid for starters. This works for every type of writing project. Check out the pricing section from our free Freelance Writing Proposal Template:

freelance writing proposal template pricing section

Another thing you can do to make your pricing information clear: keep your pricing information “high level.” Don’t list a separate price for each service you recommend. Stick to a single price for your entire service package, and your clients will thank you.

If you’re bidding on a long-term writing project, like a lengthy eBook or revamping the copy for a client’s entire online store, you can use the pricing information section to tie payments to specific project milestones. This helps set expectations of what will happen when (and when clients need to pay!)

Winning the Bid: Key Considerations for Every Freelance Writer

The structure above gives you a logical, persuasive framework to build on that fits any writing project.

One reason it’s so effective is because it taps into something common among every client: human psychology. You can use this structure as a writer with great success, but you could also use it if you were a web developers or graphic designer.

With that being said, there are several important considerations freelance writers should think about more than anyone else. Most of your competitors won’t touch them. But if you do, it can make the difference between consistently winning bids and missing out.

Here are special things every freelance writer should address in their proposals…

Your Words Are More than Just a Commodity

Global marketplaces like oDesk and Elance are double-edged swords. Employers get access to a huge labor pool of talented freelancers. But many are happy to work for third-world rates, making it tough for those coping with first-world living expenses to compete.

It’s effortless to find someone willing to churn out blog posts and stuff them with keywords for a penny per word. Clients have caught on – to the point where the whole idea of what writing should be worth has been devalued.

These platforms have also led clients to view writing as a commodity. If I pay X dollars, I get Y words thinking prevails. Writers who can’t distinguish the value of their services from content mills won’t be treated any differently.

Good news. You don’t have to compete on price if you position your writing services strategically in your proposals.

What else do clients get when they hire you besides your words? It could be:

  • Comprehensive research on the topic before you write
  • Content written in the exact tone the client wants to convey
  • Experience in the niche to give you a feel for what will resonate with the readers
  • Copywriting knowledge to engage readers and persuade them to take action
  • Flexibility to work with the client through several rounds of revisions
  • Etc.

It’s crucial to mention these things in your proposals to fight the perception that your words are just a commodity. Convince clients that words are just a small part of what you bring to the table, and it’s easier to justify higher rates.

Getting Clear about Your Involvement

This one will come back to haunt you if you don’t address it up front in your proposals.

I’ve made this mistake a few times myself.

But you don’t have to…

If you don’t define the scope of your involvement before a client hires you for a writing project, you’ll probably end up spending time—a freelance writer’s most valuable commodity—doing stuff you never wanted to do.

As a writer, you might think your involvement would be obvious. But don’t assume clients are on the same page! To one client, “writing” might mean simply fleshing out a detailed outline they’ll provide up front. Yet to another, it might include brainstorming topics for a blog post, searching for untapped keywords, and academic research.

Your proposal is the perfect place to spell out your involvement and clear up any confusion. You can even let the client choose how involved you’ll be in the project. Giving clients options in your proposals increases their likelihood of being accepted.

No One Wants to Hire a “Freelance Writer”

There are zillions of freelance writers out there…

But how many projects are looking for “freelance writers?”

Zero!

Gregory Ciotti already touched on this in one of our articles discussing why web designers tend to make more money than freelance writers.

The best clients clients—people willing to pay the rates you deserve—aren’t hiring “freelance writers.” They’re hiring someone to write their landing page, email autoresponder sequence, or special report. They’re looking for someone with specific skills to meet their needs.

Even if you’re a generalist, avoid positioning yourself as one in your proposals. The better you can articulate the value of specific types of writing you offer – the types the client needs to solve their problems – the better impression you’ll make.

Odds are, some of your writing skills go beyond what’s needed for the job you’re bidding on. Covering them doesn’t just overwhelm clients with irrelevant details; it makes them question whether you’re the best writer for their project.

Streamline your services to focus on the overlap between what you offer and what the client needs. And don’t bid on projects that fall outside your skill set!

Putting It All Together to Land the Best Writing Clients

Want to write for the clients everyone wants to work with?

It starts with winning them over in your freelance writing proposals.

Instead of treating proposals like chores (what most freelance writers do), you can do things differently. You can use proposals as valuable sales tools to stand out from the pack and make a killer first impression.

Focus on the key elements above, and present them in a structure that’s designed to grab attention and sell. A little time and attention spent where most writers are careless adds up…

You’ll get fewer headaches and more time to serve your clients. And most importantly, more clients to serve for months and years to come!

What do you think is the most important element in any freelance writing proposal? Why? Leave a comment below and let me know.

About Corey Pemberton


Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.

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