A consulting proposal is a document sent from a consultant to a prospective client describing a job they wish to take on and the conditions under which they will do so. Consulting proposals are usually written only after the consultant and prospective client have discussed the job at length. Knowing how to write a clear, effective proposal can help land new clients for your practice, so it’s an essential skill for all independent consultants.
Part One of Three:
Before Writing the Proposal Edit
Learn as much as you can about the job under consideration. A consulting proposal isn’t like a resume — it’s not a good idea to just send yours out to as many recipients as possible to drum up business. Each proposal should be tailored specifically to the client you’re trying to get. The more knowledgeable you are about the client and his or her needs, the better you can write your proposal, so your first step should always be to educate yourself.  There are many ways you might do this:
- The best and most direct is simply to meet with the client and discuss the proposed job. Take careful notes and ask lots of specific questions so you understand precisely what the work entails.
- After this, you can follow up with phone calls and emails to clarify any lingering questions.
- As you write the proposal (see below), it may be useful to do a little independent research as. For example, if you’re trying to prove why your services will help your client succeed, finding business surveys that support your point is a good idea.
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Come to an agreement on what your exact role will be. You don’t want to sign on to work as a consultant only to have your client pressure into doing work you didn’t agree to.Having a very clear picture of what the client expects from you is important — this way, you can word your proposal so that your work will be limited only to what has been agreed upon. Things to note include:
- Your precise duties and the result the client hopes to achieve
- The time frame for your work
- Specific milestones that need to be reached by certain dates
- Sometimes, you may need to speak to multiple people. For example, if you are hoping to consult about a dispute between management and employees, it would be wise to speak to representatives of both parties as well as the hiring client.
Find the client’s financial commitment. This is perhaps the most important piece of information of all. If the client isn’t willing to pay you what you think the work is worth, you don’t even need to bother writing the proposal. Have an agreement with the client about how much (as well as how often) you will be paid before you start writing. This way, you can refer to the agreed-upon payment in your proposal, which the client will need to sign and agree to to hire you.
- In addition to the fee for your services, you also want to come to an agreement with the client about secondary costs that you may have while working (e.g. gasoline, supplies, travel, etc.). It’s in your best interest to get the client to agree to compensate you for these things.
- Do not write a consulting proposal if the client seems uncertain about how much you will be paid (or when ).
If possible, get the work without a proposal. Lots of consultant resources will offer advice along the lines of,”It’s easier to write a confirmation of services than a proposal of services.”  Keep in mind that a consulting proposal is just that: a proposal that doesn’t guarantee you any work. It’s perfectly possible for a client to solicit proposals from many different consultants and pick just one, so if you can, try to get the client to agree to hire you before you even write the proposal. This way, when you send it, the client will just be confirming that you can start working — not deciding whether or not you can.