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How to Write a Winning Web Developer Proposal and Contract

Updated on April 12, 2013

Selling your services and landing more clients

Learn the basics of what goes into a winning web developer business proposal. Anyone can slap a price quote together and send out mass emails, but that isn't a winning strategy.

You need to show your potential client that you can be trusted to deliver on the services they need and provide a detailed contract to protect all parties. This article will show you just how to do that using my unique trust based approach.

Web site developer proposal and contract writing
Web site developer proposal and contract writing

My tips for writing any kind of web design proposal

Small business freelance projects to full service

Back in 1997 there was nothing available online for a web site developer or graphic designer who needed to put together a services proposal and development contract for a client.

I was the first to work with a law firm to develop a web site developer contract and proposal and then package it as a product for other web site developers. For well over a decade that first package has been expanded dramatically every year into the range of Proposal Pack products that all types of businesses make use of.

Writing a business proposal to sell your web site development services and creating a legal contract to seal the deal might seem like a formidable task, but it doesn't have to be. Proposal Kit will show you how to introduce yourself, highlight your services, outline your costs and help your clients understand you are the right person for the web design job. Here's the key: you don't have to start from scratch, staring a blank proposal page on your computer. Using pre-designed templates, legal contracts and sample proposals can help you write your documents quickly and efficiently.

Writing a business proposal for web site development (including specialties such as SEO services, graphic design, social media integration, email marketing campaigns, multimedia creation and so on) is actually a pretty straightforward process.

Here's how to think about it: All these situations are examples of businesses selling a service; so all these proposals will fall under the general category of technical business proposals offering services.

Most proposals that offer technical services, regardless of the business type, follow a similar structure: first comes the introduction, then a summary of the client's needs, followed by descriptions of the services offered, as well as project details and costs. Then the proposal should be wrapped up with information about the service provider, including relevant credentials and capabilities.

New proposal writers sometimes make the mistake of sending out only a cover letter and a price list. A price list is not a substitute for a persuasive proposal. A proposal is a document intended to persuade your potential clients to give you their business. To be successful, you must gain the clients' trust and make them believe that you can deliver the services they need. A price quote is not enough to do that.

As a general rule for any kind of proposal, your first step should be to gather enough information about the client to present a proposal that is tailored to that client's specific needs. It's never a good idea to send every client an identical sales letter. A client is much more likely to accept a tailored proposal.

If you find yourself spending too much time courting companies who will not commit to a project or who string you along with only the prospect of getting future work from them, consider having them sign an engagement letter. If they won't sign a simple engagement letter, then it's a good bet they won't sign a contract either, so you should probably drop them from your list of potential clients.

So, back to the general order of proposal pages described above. You should start out by introducing yourself and your proposal with a Cover Letter and a Title Page. The Cover Letter should be brief, provide your company contact information and deliver a personal introduction. The Title Page should introduce your tailored proposal and give a clear message about the project you are pitching.

From personal experience running a company, I will tell you that if someone sends me a boilerplate sales letter after I asked for a specific proposal, that boilerplate letter goes straight into the trash. If I ask for a proposal and I outline my needs and concerns, and then the proposal I receive does not specifically address my points, I won't trust the vendor to listen to me down the road. Naturally, your proposal will include boilerplate material that stays the same from one proposal to the next, but if you want to actually win the clients over, you need to show them you are listening to their specific needs. At the very least, custom tailor the client-centered portions of the proposal to each individual client. This might sound like a lot of work, but keep in mind that your objective is to land more clients, not be rejected by all of them.

After the Cover Letter and the Title Page, add some topics that show that you understand the needs of your client. Depending on how large the proposed development project is, you may or may not need to include a detailed summary. For a complex project that needs a summary, this proposal section is normally called an Executive Summary for corporate clients, or a Client Summary for a less formal project. This summary is where you talk about your specific prospective clients and demonstrate your understanding of their requirements as well as their goals and desires. Be sure to mention any restrictions or limitations you are aware of. This is not yet the place where you talk about yourself. Put your client first.

My Proposal Kits on Amazon

Or shop direct and download Proposal Packs from I have hundreds of design themes available, these are just a few of the most popular packages.

Web Freelancer Contract Pack - Legal Contract Software and Templates V17.0
Web Freelancer Contract Pack - Legal Contract Software and Templates V17.0

Designed specifically for small scale web site developers and graphic designers. Includes contracts for small web site and design projects.

IT, Software and Hardware Contract Pack - Legal Contract Software and Templates V17.0
IT, Software and Hardware Contract Pack - Legal Contract Software and Templates V17.0

Designed specifically for IT professionals. Includes contracts for IT, software, hardware, networking, website development, hosting and much more.

Proposal Pack Web #1 - Business Proposals, Plans, Templates, Samples and Software V17.0
Proposal Pack Web #1 - Business Proposals, Plans, Templates, Samples and Software V17.0

This design uses gleaming circles, like interactive buttons on a web page, to illuminate your proposal headings.

Proposal Kit Technical Design Theme
Proposal Kit Technical Design Theme

Say what you have to say

Outline all of the details of your proposal

Follow the introductions and client information with your Services Provided, Benefits, Services Cost Summary pages and any other topics you need to discuss. Your goal is to describe exactly what you are providing and how much your services will cost.

Some types of web development proposals may also require specialized topics. This is the proposal section where you would add pages with pertinent details, such as descriptions of the Project Deliverables, Timeline, Technical Approach, Hardware and Software, Production Schedule, Training Plan, Security Plan, Specifications, System Requirements, Product Visuals, Storyboard, and so on. You may also want to provide information about your staff members or about other organizations you will coordinate with to develop the project. This could help your clients to appreciate your team's skills and experience, and help them trust in your ability to successfully accomplish the project.

Proposals should reflect the complexity of the project and the diversity of services needed. A full service provider may have to deal with many different topics in one proposal, such as graphic design, copywriting, software development, web site hosting, search engine optimization (SEO), voiceover media, video product, photography, social media integration, branding, email marketing and pay per click advertising.

A small scale web site developer may just need to deal with a basic site design using some purchased templates and a 3rd party web hosting company, and so on.

An internal company project proposal may need additional sections to describe needs such as coordinating between departments, resource allocation, internal company support from supervisors, internal corporate security and data center issues, and so on.

The final information sections you should provide in your proposal are your company details. This is where you would put your About Us / Company History, Capabilities, Our Clients, Testimonials or References pages. This information comes last in the proposal, and your goal is to convince your client (or boss) that you can be trusted to deliver the services needed.

Proposal Pack Design Theme
Proposal Pack Design Theme

Make it perfect

Put a professional polish on the final proposal and proof before delivery

After you have all the information written for your proposal outline and chapters, it's time to focus on making your proposal visually appealing. Add some color and graphics by incorporating your company logo. Consider using colored borders and selecting custom bullet points and fonts that match your business's style.

Once you feel your proposal is complete, carefully proofread and spell-check all the pages. You should have someone who is unfamiliar with your proposal proof it as well, because it's very common to miss mistakes in your own work.

Finally, save your proposal as a PDF file or print it and then deliver it to your potential client. Your delivery method will depend on your business and your relationship with your potential client. Emailing PDF files to clients is very common; however, there are times when a printed, signed and hand-delivered proposal can carry more weight, because it shows you value that client enough to put in the extra personal effort.

When your client has accepted the proposal, both parties should sign a contract to protect yourself and your client in the event of problems. If something goes wrong without a contract in place, it's too late to protect yourself if you didn't get the terms spelled out in writing up front. Make sure you protect your intellectual property and everyone knows who owns what, when things are due, what to do when the contract needs to be altered, and specifically what recourse there is if something does go wrong.

As you can see, a "web site development" proposal can mean something different to everyone who needs to write one, and everyone's needs for what to include will vary between organizations and projects.

The good news is that all web site development proposals follow a similar format and structure, and you can find all the pre-written templates and contracts you need in Proposal Kit. And you will also find many sample web, software and IT proposals already written that can help you get started right away.

My Proposal Writing Tools for Web Developers - Getting a leg up with your proposal writing already started

Most web developers don't have the time or experience to start writing a detailed business proposal from scratch. Leveraging tools I've built that provide pre-written material and samples can save days of work and help prevent costly mistakes commonly made by beginners.

One of over 500 Proposal Kit testimonials

"Thanks for making an incredible product - I bought the Proposal Kit over a year ago & it's been a lifesaver in preparing proposals." - Laura Woodruff, BellaRosa Design Group

Are you a web developer? Did my help provide some guidance?

Developers Feedback

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    • pd6914 profile image

      pd6914 6 years ago

      I'm looking into doing web design to pay off student loans. I found the links that you included very helpful. Appreciate it!

    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I am not a web developer but this article will be very helpful when designing my micro website...I have a guideline and a glossary of terms to help me make my decision on choosing a web developer for my consulting business.