Insider tricks: How to write copywriting proposals that explode your client list!

I recently shared some tips on how to put together the figures for a copywriting quote. But what if I told you the price of your copywriting service plays just a small part in whether or not a potential customer says yes?

A teeny tiny part in fact.

Surprised? I mean, surely the price is all that matters? Right?

Nope.

When I started out as a freelance copywriter, my eagerness to help prospective clients shone brightly right from our initial meeting. This eagerness and excitement spread to them and they would ask me for a quote. So I would send through a written copywriting quote. And then … nothing.

This would happen again and again, and I just didn’t get it. Finally, I realised that it wasn’t my price killing my conversion rate. It was how I presented that price.

You see, I kept it really simple: one page with a table. In that table, I included a few one-liners about the scope of the work and the total price in red.

I cringe to think about it now.

I turned all the value I offered into a number and then highlighted it in red, as if to say: WARNING WARNING WARNING!

Then everything changed

The sales process is far (far far) from over when you send through a copywriting quote, even when it seems like a sure thing. In fact, this moment is probably one of the most critical in the sales conversion process because when you put something on paper it sticks around as a reminder, long after your charming phone manner is forgotten.

So I changed my one-page quote into a six-page proposal for investment that sells me right from the opening paragraph. It went something like this:

PAGE 1: Greetings, objectives and requirements

The first page is the equivalent of an introduction. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already spoken to a prospective client, or met them even, this first page of your copywriting proposal is your chance to create a significant impression.

Be polite from your opening sentence. You will probably have some fluff in the email that goes with the sales proposal, but it pays to welcome the reader to the document as well.

Describe your understanding of the project objectives. This reminds the prospective client that you have been listening and that you understand what they want to achieve.

Provide an overview of the project’s scope. If that means asking a few more questions and repeating yourself a little, don’t worry. It will save you the awkward conversation later on when they tell you they didn’t need a direct mail series—just one letter.

All of this demonstrates that you listened when they talked and you understand what they need.

PAGE 2: Introductions and reminders

Introduce yourself and your business with a reasonably brief summary that helps to demonstrate your experience and credibility.

This could be adapted from your website’s About page, but your goal is to remind your reader why they thought to contact you in the first place. And consider that your quote might be passed around to other people who don’t know you, so this section could help sell your skills to them as well.

PAGE 3: The specifics

Your clients are itching to know the price. They’ve been bugging you about it since you started talking. And at last, you can give it to them.

Well, almost.

This is when you spell out exactly what your service entails in glorious technicolour. Even if you think it’s all standard stuff (“Oh but everyone does that”, you think), remind them! And customise it for the project and client.

I start this section with an overview of my process. Just like your bio, you want to remind your readers (especially the ones you didn’t actually talk to) that you have a rock-solid process that will deliver results.

Explain your service and your deliverables. I include a summary introduction about each particular service I offer, outlining why it is important and the value it offers a business. Then I detail each inclusion, like the copywriting brief, additional research, writing, two rounds of revisions and professional proofreading. For each inclusion, I explain the payoff/benefit.

Like,

  • A detailed copywriting brief that helps me fall in love with your business, just like I’ll get your customers to
  • Expert research to supplement the copywriting brief
  • Engaging and compelling copywriting that gets your customers excited about saying yes
  • Two rounds of revisions to make sure your copy is juuuuust right
  • Professional proofreading, cos no one likes typos

The point is that by the time your reader gets to your price, the value you offer is neon-sign clear.

After you have done all that, list the project investment.
Choose your words carefully here. You are asking them to invest in their business… not take on an expense. It’s a very different proposition.

Sure, some clients will flick to the price first, but your aim is to take them on a journey so that by the time they get to the price they actually see your service as an investment—a valuable investment.

PAGE 4: Proof of success

This could be in the form of testimonials from other clients (highly recommended) and/or samples that show off your work.

Another great way to boost credibility is to include screenshots of client exclamations about how amazing their copy is.

Don’t have those? Start collecting them!

Won an award? Include that too!

What you’re trying to do is control the moment after they see your price. They might be mildly surprised. They might be utterly shocked.

You need to fill that moment with PROOF that you’ve delivered for others.

PAGE 5: Call to action

Every piece of marketing needs a call to action and your proposal is no different [FIRST NAME].

Yes, you discussed sending them a proposal. The implication is that they will book you if they are interested. But don’t ever leave that to chance.

Ask them to take that next step!

Tell them what the next step is so there is no confusion. Do they pay a deposit or do they give you written approval for the project then pay? Do they email you or fill out a form?

PAGE 6: Terms and conditions

As a wrap-up to your proposal, it’s really important to spell out your terms and conditions. Terms and conditions not only make you look professional, but also help clarify your relationship from the get-go. Don’t make them too long though, eh?

Too long? No way.

Now, I’ve got six pages here but the document usually ends up closer to ten pages.

Possibly, more if my copywriting client needed a website and a brochure, or they were also thinking about an email marketing series.

And you know what? That’s okay.

I always assume my prospective client would make their decision without talking to me again. That means I made sure they had all the information I thought they needed to make a decision in my favour.

Is it a lot of work to create this kind of copywriting proposal? It can be.

Is it worth it? Definitely.

But here’s a pro tip… once you create a template of your proposal document and templates of your services blurbs, it’s actually very easy (and quick) to put together.

Want a checklist that makes it easy?

Yes, please!

The sales process doesn’t finish here, either. Make sure you follow up!

So, over to you. Will you change your quote into a proposal for investment? An offer that can’t be refused?

Belinda

43 Responses

  1. Some awesome tips Belinda and, although I incorporate many of the elements you’ve outlined, I’ll be reviewing my own proposal document with a more critical eye. You’ve shown I’ve definitely got some room for improvement , despite my doc already being 9 pages.

    One of the pages I DO include, however, is a Project Authorisation form. This includes the client’s details, anticipated project dates, various quote options (I include “upsell” items), the deposit required, and a section for the client to sign saying they’ve read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions.

    That way if the client is happy to go ahead, they simply return the form and we’re good to go.

    But I seem to remember my first quotes were also pretty short and sharp too..! How far we have come 🙂

  2. Thanks Anna – and thanks for stopping by!

    I’m often questioning, does it really need to be THIS long? But I think it does. It shows that we take the work seriously enough to help clients make the right decision.

    Listing a price and that’s is just isn’t enough information to do that!

    Yes… how far we’ve come. Thank heavens for templates!

  3. Yes -some helpful hints for people. I use much the same structure when I write tenders and proposals.
    I particuarly try and encourage clients to write their tenders from the client’s point of view, and the problem they are trying to solve. So many think they have to start by writing about themselves – a ME ME proposal.

    1. That’s a great point Adam. It’s a bit like your About me page, you have to write how the customers benefit from your experience!

      Thanks for stopping in and leaving your thoughts.

  4. Thanks for this great article, Belinda! I’m curious…you said “then everything changed” but didn’t say how many of your proposals came back as projects once you changed your method…do you have a ballpark success rate now compared to previously?

    1. Excellent pick up Sharon!

      I’d say it went from 30-40% with a one-page quote to about 80-90%. Now there were other factors involved such as creating a more sophisticated sales process and honing my marketing messages. By the time I created my proposal templates I also had a new, great looking website and I had a lot more experience under my belt.

      So all those things would have influenced my conversion rates as well but it seemed to all come together when I changed my price quote into a proposal document.

  5. Thanks Belinda! This is really useful – I will review my quotation process with your tips in mind. I already have terms and a bit of a spiel but my quotes could do with more credentials so I’ll be beefing it up! Cheers

  6. Thanks Belinda.

    Great article I have been thinking my proposal document needs a review as my conversion rate is not as high as I would like. You have now given me the nudge and some great tips to finally get on and do it.

    I shall be moving it to the top of my to do list!

    Thank you.

  7. Hi Belinda.
    Firstly, I think your site is beautiful. I was browsing around and was thinking about how nice the design is.
    Secondly, this is a great post that details the proposal process. I used to work with large agencies and we had to develop proposals all of the time, but I liked the way you provided a template that is succinct enough to pitch the benefits to make the prospect make the decision. I was able to get some good take-aways from this. Thanks for the brilliant post!

    1. Gidday Dave. Thank YOU for your kind words! I have to admit that I love my site pretty hard so that’s wonderful to hear.

      And I’m so glad you found the post useful. Go forth and help your customers see how awesome you are! 😉

  8. Thank you for this amazing summary! I’m not so good at including proof in my estimates- it’s always somehow seemed like bragging or something (even though it’s exactly what I’d advise a client to do) – anyway – I’m going to start doing it because it makes perfect sense! Thanks a million for all your fantastic tips.
    Lou

    1. One thing that always helps me get over that shyness is my enormous ego haha Jokes. I feel much cooler about including a stack of testimonials (than saying I rock more directly) as they from other people. It’s their words, not mine. That removal seems to help.

      And yes, you should! A little reminder and social proof, well you know why it works 🙂

      Thanks for stopping in Lou and leaving your thoughts!

  9. We are creating a proposal for our seo business and these tips will be helpful to generate more leads as i also believe that direct selling can be hurt my business so giving proper information and then pitching price would be better idea.

  10. Valuable information. Fortunate me I found your web site by accident, and I
    am stunned why this twist of fate didn’t happened
    earlier! I bookmarked it.

  11. Belinda, this post really helped me. I’ve been pondering your post for the last couple of days while I write my proposal. I was offered a position as a copywriter for a design agency and they asked me to create a proposal. I only have 4 pages so far and I’m coming to the end. Although, I haven’t created the terms and conditions yet. You may or may not be an editor. My question is, can you look over my proposal? How much would that cost? You can email me if you’re interested.

    Thanks!

  12. I am very grateful to you for sharing your experience and knowledge with your readers! You have amazing content. I am sure that it is really useful not only for novice copywriters, but also for experienced ones.

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