A project proposal outline can be dynamic, interesting, and — dare we say it — exciting! As long as you learn what to include, how to get the most out of each section, and the secret sauce most people forget to layer in, your next project proposal outline can surpass the average example in every possible way.
What is a project proposal, really?
A project proposal is a document that includes the who, what, when, where, why, and how much of any given plan. If you’ve ever wanted to win over a new client, offer up your services to an organization, or share your ingenious idea with a fellow collaborator, then chances are you’ve had to make a project proposal (and an outline for it) at least once in your life.
Why are project proposals important?
Not only is this type of documentation incredibly persuasive, it’s often a pre-project requirement for work across all industries. The structure provided in a project proposal is what sets a new goal up for success.
Are there different kinds of project proposals?
Yes, there are different types. And although your approach to writing a business project proposal outline might vary slightly from your strategy for writing a research project proposal outline, the basics are still the same. In the following sections, we’ll cover all the major elements (along with one that’s usually forgotten) you need in order to conquer any kind of project proposal.
Ready to dive right in? These tips and tricks will help you create a solid foundation for your project proposal and stand out from the competition.
How to create a winning project proposal
Apply one or more of these tips to your next draft, and you’ll start to see a real difference in reader response.
- Understand that a proposal is the first step of any project. Use project management software like Wrike to draft your project concepts and present more-detailed, visual tools along with your written document to make a bigger impact.
- Brainstorm questions you think the person or team you’re going to pitch will ask. This includes questions about possible obstacles down the line. If you’re using Wrike to help with your proposal, you can reassure them with details on how you plan to respond to anticipated challenges and build trust with features like real-time work visibility.
- Find your unique hook and boil it down to its essence. Even if the solution or methods aren’t new, offering a higher-quality service (like breaking complex projects down into bite-size phases in your proposal) can make all the difference.
- Provide relevant big-picture context to the problem you’re going to solve. Defining project scope and dependencies from the outset is huge, which is why you should definitely include what resources you plan to track and how you plan to monitor them in your proposal outline. And by the way, a quality project management software makes this a whole lot easier to accomplish consistently at every stage of the project.
- Practice answering questions about your pitch — especially ones that don’t seem relevant. You never know what curveballs you’ll field during a presentation, but you can bet they’ll have something to do with the potential curveballs you’ll be thrown during the project itself. Hint: If you make use of visual project management tools, you’ll always maintain control of flow no matter what happens.
- Start by making a killer project proposal outline. Just follow the rest of this guide, and you’ll be all set.
Before we reveal the most overlooked item in a project proposal outline, we need to cover all our bases and discuss the more well-known elements first.
6 most common project proposal outline items
Need a project proposal outline template? We’ve got you covered with the essentials as well as advice on how to maximize the effectiveness of each section.
1. The introduction
What it is: Also known as the summary, overview, or abstract (and because of how difficult it is it to write, it also goes by a few other, not-so-polite pseudonyms).
How to do it well: Open with a shocking piece of data, your unique problem-solving angle, or a thoughtful hook that specifically addresses your target audience’s needs.
2. The problem
What it is: What you plan to solve, why it’s important, and any additional information that provides greater context to the conversation.
How to do it well: Focus on empathizing with your potential client or partner’s situation. If you can, do additional research on the industry or interview them ahead of time. Include things like comparisons to other solutions that haven’t worked for them in the past or identifying value that they need but might not expect from your solution at first glance.
3. The solution
What it is: A brilliant idea for how you’d like to crush the problem along with details on what your goals are, the steps you’d take to accomplish them, and what the proposal reviewer would have to do.
How to do it well: Project proposal ideas are most successful when they include things like a simple yet specific result you actively benchmark, measure, and update them on every step of the way.
4. The money
What it is: Your definitive answer to “what’s this all going to cost me?” as well as the nitty-gritty on how project finances will be budgeted.
How to do it well: Every budget line should include a clear description of what it is along with a compelling sentence or two for why it is absolutely necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
5. The management
What it is: How will you monitor progress along the way? Are there any success markers you’ll use to keep the project on the right path? How long is this whole thing going to take anyway?
How to do it well: Flowcharts and infographics make great supplementary materials (which, by the way, can be planned out in Wrike and serve as a little preview for things to come).
6. The conclusion
What it is: A summary of all the preceding sections along with an inspiring, time-sensitive call to action that provides a next step for the reader.
How to do it well: Make sure that you plan for your conclusion ahead of time by discussing an approval date before including it here.
Think you’ve got everything you need to start writing a stunning proposal outline? You’re close but not quite there.
The most-overlooked item in a project proposal outline
The content of your project proposal outline is the most important aspect of your entire pitch. Which is why it’s so surprising that the most overlooked item is often substance. Substance, in this case, means any supplementary tool or information that turns a vague, conceptual document into a highly actionable, results-oriented project.
Substance can exist in many different forms. Here are just a few examples:
- Stunning photos or videos that illustrate your process are 32% more likely to lead to a “yes” from your reader.
- Detailed payment terms and a clear representation of the financial investment (created with help from Wrike or any other trusted project management platform) makes your brand more trustworthy.
- A transparent plan for project flow (including all the ways you’ll streamline collaboration and keep track of tasks using dashboards like the ones Wrike can provide) helps give you an edge over your competition.
Really, the best project proposal outline examples are the ones that wow readers with simple and in-depth extras that make every section of the pitch easier to understand. While other project proposal outlines rely on fluffy language and filler claims to appear impressive, you can provide real substance with the help of project management tools like Wrike.
There really is no limit to what you can include, so get as creative as you want with the many tools and features offered by our platform. As long as you can back up each and every single sentence in your outline with data or illustrations, your pitch will avoid most of the common pitfalls others fail to overcome.
Main takeaways: Your best project proposal outline ever
No matter who you’re trying to impress, help out, or persuade, a solid project proposal outline is the first (and most important) step to accomplishing your goal. In addition to being detailed, succinct, and organized, make sure you keep these key ideas in mind when writing your next one:
- Know the difference between an average proposal and a successful one. Most proposals are ambiguous and use inflated language to sound impressive. Instead, try to cut to the chase, provide highly valuable information, and find an angle that will actually interest your audience.
- Maximize every section of your project proposal outline. You can do it but can you do it well? Just like your actual project, a proposal outline can be made even more efficient if you review the main objective of each part and make the most out of the space you have available.
- Comb through your proposal for fluff. Most proposals sound good but will they really pass an executive’s sniff test? It’s easy to describe a great idea. However, if you want to prove that great idea is actually going to work, you’ll need a little help from project management tools like Wrike to seal the deal.
Ready to get started? Start drafting your project proposal outline in Wrike today.