15 minutesBy Canva Team

Making a project proposal: How-tos, templates, and tips

Discover what a project proposal is, its main components, different types, and uses. With our guide and templates, learn how to write a proposal for a project that hooks stakeholders to hop on board.
Project Proposal
Project Proposal

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What is a project proposal?

A project proposal is a written document that describes a project you intend to execute. It usually includes your project’s goals, methods, timeline, budget, deliverables, and resource requirements. Depending on the type and the scope of your project, you can choose what to include and what not to include in your proposal.

Example of a project proposal with a monochromatic design

Example of a project proposal with a monochromatic design.

Since the purpose of a project proposal is to get your project approved or supported by your clients or stakeholders, it should persuade them of what makes your project worth pursuing. This means that apart from outlining the what and how of your project, it should also make a case for why. It helps to think of your proposal as answering the following questions:

  • What is the end goal it tries to achieve?
  • How do you intend to achieve it?
  • Why is it important to achieve it?

What to include in a project proposal?

What you include in your proposal depends on the details of your project, but the following are the components you should account for in order to create a solid proposal.

Write your table of contents according to the parts of your proposal

Write your table of contents according to the parts of your proposal.

This introductory section serves as the brief overview of your project proposal, where the contents of your project are summarized down to its highlights. Here, you should introduce the problem, solution, and the potential benefits of your project. As you see fit, you can also preview other information like your budget, success criteria, and a return on investment(opens in a new tab or window) (ROI). This is your opportunity to reel in your audience with your main proposition.

In this section, the problem you’re trying to solve is explained in detail — what’s known about it from existing research, how previous attempts on solving it fell short, and how you plan to do better. By relating this issue to your client’s business or organization goals, you can show that you understand what they need, helping your case for why they should invest in your project.

Here you should also include your goals and objectives, as well as the scope of your project. This part of your proposal will help orient your client to what your project is all about and what it can and cannot do.

After you’ve presented your problem, it’s now time to offer your solution. Establish what it is you’re planning to do to meet your objectives. Lay out your project approach, ranging from but not limited to your vision statement, the methods you’ll use, the distribution of roles and responsibilities, your criteria to measure project success, and your method of reporting these results.

In this section, you can showcase why your proposal is worth supporting — by demonstrating strategic expertise, you boost your credibility and increase the stakeholders’ confidence in the success of your project.

This is where you let your clients and stakeholders know what your project’s output would be. Whether that’s a new product, improved software, or an increase in sales, how you deliver your output should be plotted in a timeline of milestones and main tasks. Your deliverables are your chance to paint a clear and concrete picture of your proposal, so your audience can more easily envision the project you’re offering them.

In this section, all information about your resources are listed down, such as needed materials, supplies, tools, budget, costs, allocation, and salaries. This is your chance to show that you have reasonable, cost-efficient requirements that won’t burn a hole in your stakeholders’ pockets.

Your conclusion is where you cap off your project proposal with a summary of your document, emphasizing all the important points you’ve discussed. Like your executive summary, this is also where you can pitch your proposal for a final attempt to convince your clients and stakeholders to support your project.

What are the types of project proposals?

A project proposal varies depending on what it’s proposing and the nature of how it was requested by the client. Know the different kinds of project proposals you can make depending on their purpose.

Example of a minimal project proposal for website redesign

Example of a minimal project proposal for website redesign.

Solicited project proposals are submitted when a client sends out a request for proposal(opens in a new tab or window) (RFP). This usually happens when the client requires products or services that fall outside their capacity. The RFP then asks for proposal bids from vendors or contractors who are able to offer them. From there, the best proposal is chosen. Most organizations and government agencies use this method when launching projects.

Unsolicited project proposals are submitted to prospective clients even if they didn’t request one. Proposals of this type can be more challenging because, without an RFP, you don’t have a full context of what problems or needs your clients have that should be addressed.

Sometimes, you can submit an informal project proposal when a client sends an unofficial request. In these requests, the rules and terms are not as established as they are in an RFP. Similar to how you make an unsolicited proposal, there’s also some uncertainty as to what the client’s specific needs are.

When you intend to restart a project that was previously concluded, you can send a renewal project proposal to a client you’ve previously worked with. The research you conduct for this type of proposal focuses on the success and highlights of your previous project. A big part of your selling point is persuading them that you can produce more good results and achieve new goals in the future.

Continuation project proposals are usually sent out to your clients or stakeholders to update them on your project’s progress. For example, is it moving onto a new stage in the process? Are there tasks that still need to be accomplished or added? This is your way to keep important stakeholders in the loop and involved in the project they have an investment in.

A supplemental project proposal is sent to request additional support from the client. This is useful when you need more materials or increased funding. If needed, you can also request to renegotiate your project’s terms, such as the scope of work, budget, timeline, etc.

Why use a project proposal?

Your project depends on it

A project proposal is your project’s ticket to getting the approval or support it requires to be executed. Since it’s both informative and persuasive, you can present the details of your project clearly while also packaging them as selling points. With a project proposal, you can:

  • Convince clients to do business with you
  • Form new partnerships
  • Secure needed funding or resources

It’s versatile and flexible

There is no one-size-fits-all project proposal format. Regardless of your field and the type of project you’re campaigning for, you can modify the content of your proposal to fit what you and your client need. The following are some of the many areas where you can use a project proposal:

  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Web design
  • Non-profits
  • Government agencies

You can keep your team on the same page

Because your project proposal contains important information about your project, you can use it as a source of clarity on goals and objectives to align your team as you go along in managing your project.

With Canva for Teams(opens in a new tab or window), you can store your project proposals and other documents in organized folders, which you and your team can open on any device, anytime. This gives quick and easy access to source-of-truth documents, helping keep your team in the loop.

How to write a project proposal effectively

Find out how to write a project proposal that’s not only thorough but also increases your chances of getting your project endorsed by your stakeholders.

How to write a project proposal effectively

Conduct research for your proposal. It’s helpful to have a plan and identify the objectives of your project first. You can do this by studying your prospective client’s business or organization. What are their goals? You can then formulate research objectives as something that directly addresses these.

Once you figure out the objectives and your clients’ specific needs, you can use them as your guiding principle to streamline the rest of your info gathering. What questions does your research aim to answer? What kind of research do you need to do, and how do you plan to do it? Take note of your findings and make sure to use reliable sources.

Double-check your sources
Reliable sources help increase your credibility. Make sure to check for up-to-date sources with a reputable author, accurate information, and relevant coverage.

After gathering all the information you need, start building your proposal. Brainstorm possible solutions with your team and workshop them until you come up with a viable project approach. Once established, you can then identify your deliverables and resource requirements. Organize all of these into a project proposal outline to guide you as you finally begin writing.

Begin with your project background. It’s important to write a strong project background to ensure your audience is aligned on your goals, objectives, and scope as you present the rest of your proposal. When you write about your project’s problem, back your claims with the information you gathered from your research, like figures, statistics, and citations from authoritative, peer-reviewed sources. This can help establish your command of the topic and increase your credibility.

Don’t forget to relate all of this back to your client’s business or organization. You can talk about specific scenarios where the problem has affected them, the opportunities they could have taken, and how your project could have benefitted them. This will help them see why they should care about your proposal.

Your project background leads up to your solution. Discuss the breakdown of your project approach without sparing the important details. But apart from just describing it, you should also explain why it’s effective and the best possible solution to the problem. Personalize your explanations to your client’s context to show them that you made this proposal with them in mind.

When you’ve laid everything out, it’s good practice to call out the possible assumptions your client may have about the details of your project, then clarify it for them. To further demonstrate your foresight, you can also identify potential risks then discuss what your strategies would be to avoid them or minimize their impact.

It’s now time to break down your solution into outputs and timelines. When you write your timeline, your goal is to give an overview, so only include high-level information like main action items and project milestones. To keep this section as easy to understand as possible, you can use various graphs and charts, like a roadmap, Gantt chart, or a work breakdown structure to visualize your timeline.

After you’ve pitched your solution and deliverables, you can now request the resources you need to implement your project. You don’t have to present a detailed breakdown yet, because this will occur in the project planning stage after your project’s approval. However, make sure you still account for an estimate of everything, even costs like accommodation and travel expenses, if applicable.

Keep your demands reasonable and justify them to avoid any doubts. It also helps to provide a few other options to leave some room for flexibility. You can ask for legal assessment to ensure that your requests won’t become a source of any problems later on.

Conclude your proposal with a summary. If you have any other figures and graphics that you weren’t able to include in your proposal, you can discuss them here. Repeat your main proposition and let your clients know why supporting this project will be beneficial for them. Finally, show them that you are willing to keep communications open by writing down when and how they can contact you.

Despite being the first part of your project proposal, it’s best to write your executive summary(opens in a new tab or window) last. You’ll want to capture your entire proposal in this section, which you can do once you’ve finished writing it. This is your hook, so keep it short and snappy. Make sure you mention your selling points and why your project is ideal for solving your client’s problem.

Get inspired with project proposal templates

Earn your clients and stakeholders’ approval with a structured business project proposal. Canva’s collection of project proposal templates can be customized to fit any project you’re writing for. Select any layout, whether that’s a research proposal template, a marketing proposal template, stakeholder maps(opens in a new tab or window), or a project management proposal. Easily edit with our free proposal maker on Canva Docs.

All you need in a project proposal maker

Write an effective project proposal online without the trouble of a difficult word processor. Canva’s free online proposal creator has the tools and features you need to craft a proposal for your project. With our drag-and-drop editor, easily edit, collaborate on, and share your project proposal online. Our content library and visualization tools allow you to create stunning documents to captivate your clients.

  • Great on any device

    Great on any device

    With responsive Docs, create, view, and edit your doc on any device. Perfect for when you're on the go.

  • Visual library for visual Docs

    Visual library for visual Docs

    Seamlessly add visuals like graphs, tables, images, videos, graphics, and more, all available within your doc.

  • Collaborate in real-time

    Collaborate in real-time

    Work with teams and build on ideas with comments and emoji reactions. Keep sync sessions on track with a timer.

  • Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Beat writer's block and skip ahead to your first draft with a single text prompt on Magic Write.

  • Share your work effortlessly

    Share your work effortlessly

    Share a link to your doc and control your team’s access. Track activity, views, and comments via Insights (Pro).

  • Turn Docs to Decks

    Turn Docs to Decks

    Instantly convert your document to a fully customizable Canva presentation with Docs to Decks.

Tips for writing a proposal for a project

Creating a project proposal that’s compelling can be achieved by being mindful of what you write and how you write it. Here are some project proposal tips to consider in order to get your proposal done right.

Don’t skip on research

You’ll want to take on your proposal fully aware of what to write and who to write it for. Researching beforehand helps you identify exactly what your client needs, therefore giving your project a clear direction. With research, you also gather information like figures, reports, and studies which you need to back your proposal. Don’t forget to choose reliable sources to ensure that your data is accurate.

Avoid being overwhelmed by all your gathered info by organizing them into graphs like concept maps and synoptic tables, which you can make on our free Whiteboard tool(opens in a new tab or window). You’ll have an easier time referring to them when you finally cite them as you write. All of this ensures that you stay on top of your proposal so that when your clients raise any questions, you’ll be prepared to answer them.

Create an outline

Having detailed research is one thing to consider — another is making sure your proposal follows a sturdy structure. With a project proposal outline, you don’t have to stare at a blank page, wondering how to start or what to write next. Your outline makes sure that your writing has direction and consistency. This can also help you account for all the information you need to include, and plan around where to put them in your proposal best. If you’re stuck in a rut, you can tap into AI writing assistants like Magic Write(opens in a new tab or window) for first ideas on how to outline your proposal.

Canva’s Magic Write can be used to create outline drafts for your project proposal

Canva’s Magic Write can be used to create outline drafts for your project proposal.

Be convincing

Remember, you’re writing your proposal to win over your client’s support. The more compelling you are, the better your chances. Something you can do is add testimonials from your previous clients to boost your prospects. But more importantly, instead of making your proposal a plain presentation of your project, make it about your client — how does it relate to, affect, and help them? Write your proposal so that they feel like they need this project, and that they’re going to miss out on incredible benefits if they don't support it.

Language is key

The language you use can make or break your proposal. Keep your sentences and word choices simple — a proposal that doesn’t use overly technical jargon is easy to follow. Grammar and spelling too, when done right, help make your proposal read professional. Before submitting it to your client, make sure to proofread your output to correct any errors you might find, or have an expert take a look.

Make it visual

It helps to have a proposal that’s easy to look at. You can add a table of contents at the beginning of your document for quicker navigation. Make sure your formatting, like your headings and margins, is clear and consistent, too.

To save yourself some time, you can start with a template that already covers these for you and even gives your proposal that extra design flair to keep your clients more engaged. For this reason, it’s best to use a word editor that offers many different kinds of templates. It should also have easy customization tools so you can seamlessly add visual aids to accompany your proposal and make it more dynamic.

Canva has hundreds of professionally-designed project proposal templates ready for use. You can edit these to showcase your brand, as well as add infographics, charts, and even videos, helping you create the ultimate visual project proposal that’s sure to grip your stakeholders.

By clicking Design, create customizable Design Blocks to decorate your proposal

By clicking Design, create customizable Design Blocks to decorate your proposal.

Project proposal FAQs

With our project proposal generator, you can make a project proposal with ease. Start from scratch, or kickstart your writing process by browsing our templates library for project proposal ideas. Choose a layout that fits your needs and start writing right away on the Canva Docs editor.

Easily format your document with our drag-and-drop tools. Collaborate with your team by inviting them to your doc. Personalize your work by adding graphics from our content library and building tables and charts using our visualization tools. When you’re done, quickly download your proposal, share it to your clients via a link, or convert it to Decks as a project proposal presentation.

There are many project proposal formats you can follow. You can check a project proposal sample from our templates library to see some examples. If you don’t know where to begin, a general format you can start with has the following critical components — executive summary, project background, solution, deliverables, resource requirements, and a conclusion. From there, you can choose what details about your project you want to include or omit.

Planning is a crucial stage in creating a project proposal. Here, it’s important to do the following:

  • Gather information: Information is the foundation of your proposal. First, get to know your client. Conduct research on the needs of their business or organization. This should help you set your goals and identify what to look for when you finally conduct research on the ins and outs of the project you’re proposing.
  • Brainstorm: After you’ve compiled your research, it’s time to gather your team and apply what you’ve learned from your research. As you conceptualize your proposal, it helps to write your ideas into an outline so you have a reference when you write.

The length of your proposal will again depend on your project’s scope and level of detail. Your goal is to keep it short and sweet as much as possible. Write straightforwardly while also presenting all the information you need. Prioritize writing quality over quantity, and keep it engaging so your client feels compelled to keep reading, regardless of the length.

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