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Business Proposal: What to Include and How to Write One

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What is a Business Proposal?

A written business proposal is a legal document that a business owner or salesperson sends to a prospective client to win a job. Customers often request business proposals from companies to get an idea of what work is needed, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what qualifications the company has to complete the job.

What's Included in a Business Proposal?

Successful business proposals are all-inclusive of all the information a customer needs to decide whether to do business with a particular company. Business contract lawyers specialize in ensuring that each detail of a business proposal is accurate and reflects all the information needed for such a decision.

Here is a rundown of what a business proposal includes:

  • Cover letter
  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Statement of issue
  • Approach and methodology
  • Qualifications
  • Schedule and milestones
  • Cost
  • Payment schedules
  • Legal measures

Check out this article to learn more about what's included in a business proposal.

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How to Write a Business Proposal – Step by Step

Writing a business proposal might sound intimidating, but it's not as difficult as you might expect. Business contract lawyers typically complete the work in nine simple steps.

Here's a description of each step in the process:

Step One: Decide How to Format Your Proposal

The way you format your proposal significantly impacts how well it will convince the requestor to hire you. You must make sure the document is easy to read, broken up into the right sections and is not overwhelming to look at.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is by using a contract template to guide you. This takes the format work out of it and leaves you to focus on the meat of your proposal.

Step Two: Create a Cover Letter

The cover letter includes high-level information about the job, how the issue will be solved, and what qualifications the bidder possesses that makes them suited to complete the work. It can also include a summary of pricing, schedules, and legal matters regarding the job.

Step Three: Craft Your Title Page

The title page identifies the parties to the business agreement. It contains this information:

  • Name of the bidder and the bidder's company
  • Name of the person requesting the proposal
  • Date

Step Four: Write a Table of Contents

The table of contents helps define words used throughout the proposal to ensure that anyone that reads it thoroughly comprehends what the document says. This portion of the proposal should always be placed after the title page and before the body of the proposal.

Step Five: Draft a Statement of Issue

This section of a proposal is intended to identify the needs of the requestor. It gives the bidder a platform where they can demonstrate that they understand the issue.

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Step Six: Describe Your Approach and Methodology

The approach section of a business proposal describes how the bidder plans to solve the problem or complete the job. While each of the previous areas of a business proposal are high-level overviews, this is the first portion of the document that should be very detailed. It should contain an in-depth look at how the bidder intends to fix the problem.

While this section is designed to be as detailed as possible, everything should be explained in layman's terms. This ensures that the requestor doesn't get lost in confusing jargon, discouraging them from choosing the bidder to complete the work.

Step Seven: Describe Your Qualifications

The qualifications section of a business proposal is where businesses describe the skills and qualifications they have to complete the job. This section is significant because it sets bidders apart from the competition, making it easier for requestors to choose the right bidder.

Step Eight: Outline Project Schedule and Milestones

The schedule and milestones section of a business proposal describes how long the job will take and what actions will be taken in which timeframes to get to the finish line. Many bidders find it helpful to break jobs down into sections, also called milestones, to best communicate how they plan to tackle the job.

Step Nine: Quote Cost, Payment Schedules, and Legal Measures

Business proposals exist to allow businesses to win jobs to make money. The last section of a business proposal outlines how much the job will cost and the payments. It should also describe what actions can be taken if payments are late or missed altogether.

This portion also includes details about legal measures that govern the business proposal and relationship. If any special licensing, permits, or other formal documents are needed, they will be outlined here.

This section might also include details about these:

Here is an article about how to create a winning business proposal.

Types of Business Proposals

There are two different types of business proposals: unsolicited and solicited .

Unsolicited business proposals are sent out to potential customers even despite not being requested. These proposals are helpful for companies that see an opportunity to provide a service to a client who may not know how to benefit from the services.

Unsolicited business proposals are especially valuable to companies who are new to their platform. It allows them to market their services to gain their first clients and build their reputation as an authority in their field.

On the other hand, solicited business proposals are requested by an entity searching for someone to complete a job or project. Requestors can send requests for proposals directly to specific clients or place the project as "out for bid," which alerts qualified business owners about the opportunity to decide if they want to place a bid.

Solicited business proposals are significant for clients who want to make sure they hire the perfect person for the job. Since the submission contains all the information they need to make a hiring decision, requesting a proposal is the best way to organize a pool of applicants.

Learn more about the types of business proposals by checking out this article .

Business Proposal Examples

Business proposals are legal documents that exist to tell potential clients about services a business has to offer. Here are some examples of the types of business proposals out there:

Solicited Business Proposal Example

Teyana decides that she wants to hire a website designer to recreate her company's website. She asks around and gets referrals to three separate web design companies. She requests a proposal from each of them and compares the terms of each to help her decide which person to choose. In the end, she decided to hire a company that combined the most experience with the most competitive rate.

Unsolicited Business Proposal Example

When Kareem checked his morning emails, he came across a business proposal from a local landscaping company, which described the company's services to make his home office have better curb appeal. Even though he didn't request the proposal, he found that he was interested in the company's services. He contacted the company and decided to move forward with the proposed work.

Learn more about business proposals by reading this article .

Get Help with a Business Proposal

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ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.


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Asked on Jun 29, 2024

Can I include non-disclosure agreements in my business proposal to protect my intellectual property?

I am currently in the process of developing a business proposal for a potential partnership with another company. This partnership involves sharing sensitive information and intellectual property. I want to ensure that my ideas and intellectual property are protected, so I am considering including non-disclosure agreements in the business proposal. However, I am unsure if this is a common practice or if there are any legal considerations I should be aware of. I would like to seek professional advice on whether including non-disclosure agreements in my business proposal is recommended and if there are any specific clauses or language that should be included for maximum protection.

Darryl S.

Answered Jun 30, 2024

Yes - NDAs are a very common agreement during the business proposal and discussion phase of working together.

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