I'm usually the first one to run away at the first sight of...Request. For. Proposal. Those three words strike fear into my heart. I'm all for competition, but the minute I start writing a proposal for a contract bid, imposter syndrome sets in. 

I'm not good enough.

My competitors are better.

I should pull out because I won't win.

Going through an RFP process is no walk in the park. Like anything you do as a business owner, it's uncomfortable, it's difficult. However, each time you go through a competitive bid process - and you likely will at least once in your business - you will learn and grow as a business owner. 

I recently went through this process not as a marketer, but as a client, and I learned a few things along the way about what clients are looking for when they open a contract bid. 

In my day job, I run a marketing department at a museum, and to better serve our visitors, we decided we needed to create a new website. But instead of us sourcing a new website developer on our own, we went to our community and issued an RFP. We received one amazing proposal, a couple good ones and one that missed the mark. In the process of issuing the RFP to vetting candidates and choosing a developer, I learned a few things about creating a proposal that wins clients. Here are my six tips.

Read the request thoroughly

This one might seem basic, but it's important. Read every single requirement listed in the request for proposal. It outlines exactly what the client is looking for, so get comfortable with it. And once you've read it a few times, move on to the next tip.

Address every aspect

We received a few proposals that didn't address every aspect of our request. Even if something is optional, address it. If a client might want to add social media advertising to a project, mention it in your proposal. Show what you've done to help other clients with their social media advertising. Submitting a proposal that addresses each aspect of the client's needs gives the impression that you are thorough in your work.

Share your process

Your proposal is a great way to share a little bit about you, your business and what sets you apart. Give the client a little insight into your process. This allows your potential client to get to know you and determine if you are a good fit to work together. 


Wow them with thoughtful recommendations

Set yourself apart by offering some thoughtful recommendations. For example, when we were looking for a website designer, one candidate went beyond the RFP to offer us some recommendations to consider including hosting and email services, security certificates and event management - none of which were included in the request. We obviously hired them. Take some time to research the client and determine if there is anything you can offer in addition to the list of requirements.

Include samples of your work

The best way to prove to a potential client that you are the right one for the job is to show them that you've done the job before and you do it well. Include links to websites you've developed, weddings you've photographed or social media campaigns you've managed. Throw in some glowing testimonials, and you'll shoot yourself to the top of the pile. 

Follow up quickly

Whether you win or lose the proposal, it's important respond gracefully and quickly. If you get the "Thank you for your proposal. We had many submissions and all were great. However, your proposal was not chosen. We wish you every success." email, first, feel the sucky feelings. Then, respond. A simple thank you will go a long way. This shows your professionalism as a business owner, and if your services are required again, you might just be top of mind. 

Creating a winning proposal takes a lot of time, energy and work. But if you put in the elbow grease, do your research and charm your potential client with your skill and personality, you might just win the business.


Brittany is the director of Bourbon & Honey, a content writing agency. She partners with her clients to create irresistible content that connects with their audiences at the right time. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bloom Co., a magazine created by women entrepreneurs, for women entrepreneurs to inspire, support and encourage one another to build businesses that matter. 

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